One day you’ll leave this world behind, so live a life you will remember.” – Avicii, “The Nights“
The past two days have been a bit surreal. After refilling my cup with coffee on a lackluster Friday, my phone rang — an unusual caller for the hour, but I paid it no mind. I picked up, my mind racing with thoughts of everything I had on my to-do list, with a pen in one hand and a computer mouse in the other. The voice on the line asked me if I was doing okay. Of course I was, why wouldn’t I be doing okay?
That’s how I found out. Tim Bergling, the man we know and love as Avicii, had passed away.
I share this story not because it’s special or unusual, but because it’s one of those moments. The kind that you remember exactly what you were doing and who you were with. The moment you found out a legend had moved on.
Before he became a pioneer, Tim Bergling was just an 18-year-old kid in Stockholm that enjoyed imitating his favorite artists. He would sit in a room with the now famous producer Otto Knows and replicate dance sounds in FL Studio, hoping one day he’d hear his own creations in a set. He’d post his demos — tracks that I personally have scavenged the internet to find to no avail — on Laidback Luke’s production forums, exchanging feedback with plenty of other talent that grew from the same place. Still, it was clear there was something special about Tim. While Swedish producers are known for their progressive melodies, there really wasn’t ever anybody — nor has there been anybody since — that crafted melodies like he did.
From there, the story practically writes itself. “My Feelings For You,” “Bromance,” “Fade Into Darkness,” “Levels,” “Silhouettes,” “I Could Be The One,” True. The Days / The Nights EP. Stories. Avici (01). Hit after hit after hit. And that’s hardly even scratching the surface.
While fans jumped and smiled in front of the decks, though, very few people knew what was happening behind those CDJs. Struggling with crippling anxiety, Bergling turned to alcohol to take the edge off before his shows. This habit put Avicii in the hospital — more than once. As his health declined, he powered through. Bergling put his own health at risk to bring color to a night so many remember — or rather, one they can never forget. That set so many loved. Those mixes that so many still listen to, with flashbacks to Governor’s Island when he played our favorite song. A backwards hat, a flannel, and some air piano was all it took — in excess of 800 times — to bring you that live experience. Pressure from his team and himself forced him to battle on.
Unfortunately, Avicii grew to dislike that experience. The ills he fought that constantly brought him in and out of hospitals were becoming worse, and his anxiety was growing more intense. Much like his productions, the tension mounted until he truly needed a release.
In 2016, Bergling finally got that release. Avicii put his foot down and released an extended letter explaining that he’d no longer be participating in the touring life. Since then, Avicii released one EP, claiming that two more were on the way. Avicii had retreated to doing what he loved — the actual making of music. The semi-frequent Instagram post or Snapchat story showed Tim living a much happier life, becoming visibly healthier, traveling for his own enjoyment, and producing in some of the world’s most interesting “studios” — if you’d even call them that. All was well.
Right now, that’s what we know of the Avicii story.
The life of a DJ is an extremely unique one. Sure, bands tour a lot. But think about it: a DJ doesn’t need to lug equipment, a full tour setup, or staff around to play gigs. A DJ doesn’t need to preserve his or her voice and avoid over-exposure or over-use. A DJ just needs four (or, more realistically, two) USB sticks and the means of transportation to play a show. In a world where private jets allow a performer to play two or more times in a single day, DJs wake up in cities that they don’t know the name of and leave before they learn how to pronounce the hotel they’re in. It’s the dark side of the DJ lifestyle that no one wants to mention or complain about simply because of the amount of money coming in for the artist and everyone that surrounds the artist.
While we don’t know exactly what happened to Avicii, we can learn a few things from his story — and as fans, we ask that our favorite artists address these things, and that their respective teams also be more aware of these things:
Please be mindful of mental health and the struggles that may come with it. Let us move on from a world that treats mental health as a taboo subject to where we can address the issue head-on, protecting those that are troubled from meeting a sad fate.
Please take care of yourselves. When you need to cancel a show, cancel it. Your livelihood is more important than the hate tweets you may get from bitter fans.
Please take time away from the stage or from the studio if you feel you need it. There are more important things in life than producing the next hit.
Please speak up if you are having substance abuse problems. You have a full network of people around you ready to help you.
And finally, please remember that we appreciate all that you have done for us. You owe us nothing. We support your art, but we also support you.
During his 28 years, Avicii wrestled with his own demons, but he also helped so many people battle their own. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone that hasn’t enjoyed listening to a tune that was conceived on Tim Bergling’s laptop. I can also confidently say that if it were not for Avicii and his music, I, along with so many other people I know, would never have pursued a career in music. Electronic music today, with its newfound artistry and willingness to crossover into new genres, would not be the same had it not been for Avicii. Music in general would not be the same had it not been for Avicii. The world would not be the same had it not been for Avicii.
To Tim’s family and friends — we are incredibly sorry for your loss. We mourn with you. Please take all the time you need.
To Tim’s fans and fellow producers — let Avicii’s legacy live on through the music. Never let the world forget what Tim Bergling brought to it.
RIP Tim. We’ll miss you.
Avicii Fans at EDM All Day
“Looking up there’s always sky. Rest your head, I’ll take you high. We won’t fade into darkness” – Avicii, “Fade Into Darkness“