Obituary: Avicii was one of the best
Tim Bergling, the Swedish DJ and producer who, performing as Avicii, helped kick start the electronic dance music explosion of the 2010s.
Bergling throughout his career wrote and collaborated with artists across various genres, from pop and rock acts like Madonna and Coldplay to folk-leaning artists like Zac Brown and Kacey Musgraves, earning high praise for his production and melodic skills.
“This guy is one of the best melody writers, naturally from his soul, I’ve ever met in my life,” Chic guitarist and founding member Nile Rodgers said before last month’s South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.
Rodgers partnered with Bergling on the Avicii single Lay Me Down and is scheduled to appear at this weekend’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California.
“You sit down with Avicii, and he’s on Fruity Loops [a production software program] making the coolest [stuff] you’ve ever heard. I love him, I adore him, I respect his talent. I’m so bold as to say that if you put Avicii and I in a room together for two weeks, we’ll write every top-10 song on the charts,” Rodgers said.
On Friday night, his representatives announced his sudden death.
“It is with profound sorrow that we announce the loss of Tim Bergling, also known as Avicii,” a representative said in statement. “The family is devastated, and we ask everyone to please respect their need for privacy in this difficult time. No further statements will be given.”
The statement added he died in Muscat, Oman. He was 28. No cause of death was immediately provided.
Sony/ATV Music Publishing confirmed the artist’s death in a statement, adding, “We are mourning the incredibly sad loss of an exceptionally creative talent who we have been honoured and proud to represent as one of our songwriters for a number of years.”
Bergling was one of EDM’s first crossover pop successes in the US, pairing big-room European house music with vocal samples from vintage soul and an unexpected element of stomping folk music.
After rising to European stardom with the 2010 single Seek Bromance, he found global fame with his Grammy-nominated single Le7els, which sampled Etta James’ Something’s Got a Hold on Me. He became a regular festival headliner at major dance music events like Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, and soon became one of the highest-paid DJs in the world.
“There’s so much inspiration to be found from older music — I’m always trying to write in Motown’s style, but updated,” he said in 2012. “Soul and bluesy styles and samples work so well in house music. I want to combine the styles of today with the best of what’s been done.”
He released his debut LP True in 2013, and that record’s country-EDM single with Aloe Blacc, Wake Me Up, peaked at No 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in 2013. Hey Brother hit No 16 the following year.
In 2012, Bergling was hospitalised with acute pancreatitis exacerbated by heavy drinking, and after gall bladder and appendix surgeries, he cancelled a run of tour dates.
“You are travelling around, you live in a suitcase, you get to this place, there’s free alcohol everywhere — it’s sort of weird if you don’t drink,” he told GQ magazine in 2013. “I just got into a habit, because you rely on that encouragement and self-confidence you get from alcohol, and then you get dependent on it.”
He last performed at Miami’s Ultra Music Festival in 2016 and days later announced that he was retiring from touring, citing longstanding health issues around the fast-paced DJ road schedule and lifestyle.
“We all reach a point in our lives and careers where we understand what matters the most to us,” he said in a statement at the time.
“For me, it’s creating music. That is what I live for, what I feel I was born to do,” he continued. “Last year I quit performing live, and many of you thought that was it. But the end of live never meant the end of Avicii or my music. Instead, I went back to the place where it all made sense — the studio. The next stage will be all about my love of making music to you guys. It is the beginning of something new. Hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.”
Last year, Bergling released a new EP, AVICI, and a documentary, True Stories, about his retirement from touring and new focus on studio work.
All over the dance and pop music worlds, his friends and collaborators were shocked by the news.
“Devastating news about Avicii, a beautiful soul, passionate and extremely talented with so much more to do. My heart goes out to his family. God bless you Tim,” wrote Calvin Harris, the superstar DJ and producer.
“[M]y sincerest and most heartfelt condolences to the friends, fans and families of Avicii,” wrote the producer Deadmau5. “[N]obody can deny what he has accomplished and done for modern dance music, and I’m very proud of him.”
Bergling is survived by his parents, two brothers and a sister.