I’m still trying to unpack Grammy-nominated EDM DJ/producer Avicii’s suicide on April 20 in Muscat, Oman. Only 28, Tim Bergling scored massive global success with “Wake Me Up” and “Levels,” remixed the biggest acts in the world, and played every major festival. In 2014, when he was 24, he bought a 7,000-square-foot mansion in the Hollywood Hills for an estimated $15.5 million. Before he retired from the road in 2016, he was the world’s sixth-highest-paid DJ, earning an estimated $19 million a year.
Bergling’s ascent from bedroom producer to superstar was nothing short of miraculous. But it came at a cost. His health struggles — his gallbladder and appendix required surgeries in 2014, and he learned at age 21 that he had acute pancreatitis caused by excessive drinking —had been widely documented. After taking himself off the road and getting treatment, he was reportedly in good spirits and working on his next album. But all was not as it seemed.
At the suggestion of a friend Bob I watched True Stories, a documentary directed by Levan Tsikurishvili. The movie gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse into Bergling’s meteoric rise. It portrays a wunderkind trying to cope with persistent anxiety of fame and fortune, and how a relentless work schedule wore him down to a nub. Some of the scenes with hard-charging former manager Ash Pournori pushing Bergling to perform while his physical and mental health were clearly failing are difficult to watch. I wonder how Pournori, a self-described Svengali, can live with himself.
Bergling’s suicide has been weighing on Luciano‘s mind too. The Swiss DJ/producer/Cadenza Records boss recently took to Facebook to reveal how he was deeply troubled by Bergling’s death. Last year, he revealed, he entered a rehab facility in Thailand to kick a long-standing addiction. Doctors had told him that he’d be dead if he didn’t enter treatment and change his out-of-control lifestyle.
Luciano wrote: “There is such an enormous sadness to see the story of Tim Avicii a young hard-working person and talented in his genre of music dying from pushing it over the limit, I wanted to make a point about it because somehow so many times I felt so close to what happened to Tim , that loneliness, isolation and specially the feeling of not being understood was generating high level of anxiety, depression and driving me confused cause nobody ever spoke about the illness that touring and pushing generates , and the only way to survive to those extremes demanding lifestyle is self medication .. so like lot s of other artist i found a cure to an unexplainable disease thru any type of drugs medicine and alcohol….”
He added, “I kept this in my secret box for almost 22 years, with lots of shame and it is still today one of the hardest battle, but i have chosen to speak about it, almost a miraculous case sharing an experience of life, and making sure I can help as much as I can.”
Luciano revealed that May 4 was the one-year anniversary of his sobriety. He concluded, “There’s no greater freedom than the freedom to be yourself. Give yourself that gift, and choose to surround yourself with those who appreciate you exactly as you truly are.”
In a new book about actor/comedian Robin Williams, Robin, writer New York Times reporter Dave Itzkoff chronicles the beloved star’s heartbreaking decline. Williams committed suicide in August 2014 after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s. A post-mortem revealed he was suffering from Lewy body dementia. The excerpt I read in Vanity Fair is utterly tragic.
Hopefully someone will piece together the narrative of Bergling’s final days, one that will go deeper than True Stories and reveal how this talent eventually succumbed to his demons.
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