Artist News Obituaries

Avicii 1989-2018

By | Published on Monday 23 April 2018


Producer and DJ Avicii – real name Tim Bergling – signed his first record deal in 2007, aged seventeen, and went on to become one of the biggest and most influential stars of the EDM boom.

The son of Swedish actor Anki Lidén, he was discovered after posting remixes on the forum section of DJ Laidback Luke’s website. The name he chose for himself was based on the Sanskrit word Avīci, the lowest level of Buddhist hell – somewhat incongruous with the big, optimistic sound for which he would become known.

“I worked a lot on getting a signature sound”, he told CMU of his production style in 2013. “That big-room melodic sound, which I think sets me apart from other producers and what they’re doing. I don’t really know when it became recognisable but eventually everything started clicking”.

He signed deals with artist manager Ash Pournouri and the Dejfitts Plays label. Pournourni then laid out a business plan which plotted a rapid rise to the top of the EDM scene, something Bergling very much delivered on.

Although already successful by then, his breakthrough single arguably came in the form of ‘Levels’ in 2011. First aired a year earlier, the combination of big synths and a vocal sample from Etta James’ 1962 song ‘Something’s Got A Hold On Me’ brought Bergling his first worldwide hit. His biggest track, however, was 2013’s ‘Wake Me Up’, which saw him make the unlikely move of bringing folk influences into his sound.

When he first played the song out at the Ultra festival in Miami in 2013, it was booed. Avicii later said that he had expected the track to be controversial, but was confident that audiences would eventually be won over by it. And they were, the track went to number one in more than 40 countries.

As his chart success grew, so did demand for live performances, particularly at festivals around the world. His fee for a single performance reportedly came in at more than a quarter of a million dollars, and he was regularly named one of the world’s wealthiest DJs by Forbes – particularly as at one time he was playing around 250 shows a year.

However, the constant travel and partying that came with this success led to a dependency on alcohol and a number of health issues. In 2012 he was hospitalised due to acute pancreatitis, and in 2014 he had his gallbladder and appendix removed.

In 2016, he announced his retirement from performing live. In a statement at the time, he said: “My choices and career have never been driven by material things, although I’m grateful for all the opportunities and comforts my success has availed me. 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”.

Last year he released an EP, titled ‘Avīci (01)’, which he said was the first of three releases that would make up his third album. He was also the subject of a documentary, ‘Avicii: True Stories’, which chronicled his retirement from touring and featured interviews with collaborators such as Chris Martin, David Guetta, Nile Rodgers, and others.

At the time of his death, while on holiday in Oman, he was still working on music for that album. Speaking to Variety, Geffen President Neil Jacobson said that he had “no idea” what would now happen to that music.