Tim Bergling, more well-known as Avicii, was found dead in Muscat, Oman on April 20, 2018. Six days later, his family heavily alluded that his cause of death was suicide. His family released a statement saying "our beloved Tim was a seeker, a fragile artistic soul searching for answers to existential questions. An over-achieving perfectionist who travelled and worked hard at a pace that led to extreme stress...When he stopped touring, he wanted to find a balance in life to be happy and be able to do what he loved most — music."
Bergling came up with his name Avicii from Avīci, which, in the Buddhist faith, is believed to be the lowest level of the Naraka ("hell" realm). That name that he initially created for MySpace would soon become his brand name. After years of releasing his remixes in online forums for electronic music, he got his breakthrough in 2011 with his song "Levels." Since then, his career skyrocketed.
However, things quickly took a turn.
In 2014, excessive partying and alcohol consumption led to him developing pancreatitis, causing him to have both his pancreas and gallbladder removed. In his Netflix documentary True Stories, he shared that "I won't be able to play anymore. I have said, like, 'I'm going to die.' I have said it so many times. And so I don't want to hear that I should entertain the thought of doing another gig." His deteriorating health ultimately forced him to announce, on a now-deleted Facebook post, an end to his touring career in 2016. "I know I am blessed to be able to travel all around the world and perform, but I have too little left for the life of a real person behind the artist," he announced. Although he still had a passion for creating music, he needed to be separated from the business machine he found himself trapped in.
"One part of me can never say never. I could be back...but I won't be right back," he concluded.
The response to his retirement was anything but positive. "When I decided to stop, I expected something completely different. I expected support, particularly considering everything I have been through. Everyone knows that I've had anxiety and that I have tried. I did not expect that people would try to pressure me into doing more gigs." Already, his decision to quit was difficult enough; his management team had pushed him to the core to continue his career.
Perhaps he'll be forever known as the DJ who made hits like "Levels" and "Wake Me Up". However, there was far more to him and his art than just hit songs. He revolutionized electronic dance music (EDM). He was a compassionate man who cared for others. He was a young man who, like many others, wanted meaning and purpose in life.
Bergling showed strong support for the LGBTQ+ community. Although he "never had any friends being homophobic or never heard any parents being homophobic," he saw that there was still miles to go. "[LGBTQ+ rights are] really not that much of an issue in Sweden the same way it is for gay marriage in America," he pointed out. However, he expressed his support through his music. In 2012, he released a music video for his song "Silhouettes". The song celebrated a new generation, the "newborn." Bergling saw this as an opportunity for LGBTQ+ representation and portrayed the journey of a transgender woman who went through transitioning and found acceptance from others and herself.
On Valentine's Day in 2014, he made room for LGBTQ+ visibility in his music video for "Addicted to You" by featuring a lesbian Bonnie and Clyde couple. However, the fact that the protagonists were a same-sex couple had no bearing on the storyline. Bergling successfully made an enticing music video to complement the sexy beat, but he did so in a way that did not objectify the women or hypersexualize them. The girls were simply a couple madly in love with each other and the adrenaline rush from crime sprees, just as any other Bonnie and Clyde couple would.
His impact extends to the realm of EDM and music in general. In 2013, Bergling was one of the artists who teamed up with Ralph Lauren Denim & Supply Mix. Previously, Ralph Lauren tried to keep a more classy and preppy brand image; pairing with Avicii gave it a fun and modern twist. Ralph Lauren wanted to "merge fashion and art," and Avicii provided fresh beats and a more carefree take on Ralph Lauren's classic style.
Most importantly, Bergling was a man who was struggling and needed help. Even before his career launched, Bergling suffered from anxiety. Touring only made matters worse; to cope with his anxiety and panic attacks, he resorted to alcohol. His management did not see a man who needed to make his physical and mental wellbeing a priority; they saw a cash cow whom they could continue to churn until he gave out. When Bergling tried to push back on a tour schedule, his team put emphasis on how much money he would lose. Ash Pournouri, now former manager, scorned Bergling's inability to "understand the value of money" when he decided to retire his touring career. True Stories really did tell the true story of Bergling: a man who fell victim to a toxic culture that values a person's monetary gain over the person.
Comparisons have been drawn between Bergling and Kurt Cobain, the late singer of Nirvana. Although most of the comparisons are based on how they revolutionized their respective genre of music, the similarities between the two musicians run far deeper. Nirvana represents the ultimate spiritual goal in Buddhism. Both men suffered greatly from anxiety and resorted to alcohol, leading them to have both their pancreases removed. Both felt a lack of purpose in their lives and unfortunately couldn't find a possibility of one in their grasp. Bergling died at the age of 28; Cobain, 27. Regardless, there is no denying that Avicii dominated the EDM scene and has left a legacy for this emerging genre.