After spending the first half of his 20s performing live and partying his way around the world, Swedish DJ Avicii, real name Tim Bergling, decided to come off the road.
At the end of March 2016, Bergling took to his website to tell his millions of fans, writing, “Two weeks ago, I took the time to drive across the U.S. with my friends and team, to just look and see and think about things in a new way,” he wrote. “It really helped me realize that I needed to make the change that I’d been struggling with for a while.”
Bergling — who was found dead Friday (April 20) at age 28 — had been nonstop touring since 2010, and his 2011 hit “Levels” launched him into the mainstream and helped secure himself as a major festival performer with big sets at countless global festivals, including Lollapalooza, Coachella and Electric Daisy Carnival. Promoter Eddie Dean with RPM Presents and Pacha New York remembers staging a 2011 New Year’s Eve show for Avicii at the Pier 94 near Manhattan’s West Side Highway that helped the performer transcend the way the industry looked at electronic music.
“He and his manager were looking to make a statement and showcase his music in a way that would thrust him onto the world stage,” Dean tells Billboard. “When we put the show on sale, it crashed two separate ticketing sites. No one had seen anything like that, we weren’t sure what was happening, but it paved the way for Avicii to become a global superstar. I still watch the video of the performance and get goosebumps.”
In September 2012, Bergling made history as the first DJ to headline Radio City Music Hall in New York with two performances. He also headlined one of the “first all-arena North American tours by an electronic artist,” according to promoter Paul Tollett with Goldenvoice, who booked the 2012 Le7els tour that included iconic buildings like Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami and Boston’s TD Garden.
“I had the pleasure of working with Tim on an arena tour in 2012,” Goldenvoice’s Rick Mueller tells Billboard in a statement about the tour. “He was an incredibly talented young man who is gone from this world way too soon. My condolences to his family and loved ones who are dealing with this sudden loss.”
The Le7els tour eventually expanded into Canada and helped propel Avicii’s rise as an in-demand touring artist with a global following capable of headlining Belgium’s Tomorrowland 2012 and hold multiple residencies at the biggest clubs in the world, including XS nightclub at the Wynn. He toured Australia, Asia and the Middle East extensively, performed at Miami’s Ultra Music Festival and in 2013 started a second residency at the Encore Beach Club, also at the Wynn, helping to popularize one of the most in-demand pool parties in the world.
Pasquale Rotella, founder of Insomniac and Electric Daisy Carnival said he was “deeply saddened” by Avicii’s death and described him as “a humble, kind and beautiful soul.”
“As a dance music icon, he touched the lives of millions around the world, and broke down barriers between genres like dance music and country,” Rotella tells Billboard. “He helped our culture make an impact on the mainstream that will never be forgotten. I send my sincere condolences to his family, friends, fans and loved ones, and we will forever keep his memory and his music alive and in our hearts. Tim, have an amazing journey. We’ll see you on the other side. We love you.”
LiveStyle CEO Randy Phillips tells Billboard that Bergling’s death was a “tragic loss for Tim’s friends and family and electronic music fans worldwide” and besides promoting his arena tour while at AEG, Phillips said Avicii was “a staple on our Beatport platform which exposed his genius as a young DJ. It is impossible to replace such great and unique talent.”
In the hours after his death, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino tweeted he was “saddened by the news @Avicii passed away,” adding, “We want to wish all of his loved ones strength in this incredibly difficult time.”
— Michael Rapino (@rapino99) April 20, 2018
“I’m extremely saddened to hear the news of Avicii’s passing,” Donnie Estopinal with Disco Donnie Presents tells Billboard. “He was a hardworking and gentle person — one of a kind. He showed so much promise from the start and inspired a generation of electronic musicians and fans. He’s left a tremendous impact on dance music, and for that, we thank him. The Disco family and I offer our condolences to Avicii’s family, his friends, and everyone who found their voice through his music.”
While Bergling was known for having a prolific work ethic on the road, he also suffered from serious health problems. He was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis, in part due to heavy drinking, and cancelled a series of shows in 2014 to recover from the removal of his gallbladder and appendix.
“To me, it was something I had to do for my health,” he said in a 2016 interview with The Hollywood Reporter explaining his decision to quit touring. “The scene was not for me. It was not the shows and not the music. It was always the other stuff surrounding it that never came naturally to me. All the other parts of being an artist. I’m more of an introverted person in general. It was always very hard for me. I took on board too much negative energy, I think.”
He described being “nervous” to announce his retirement, saying he was worried “I would look ungrateful. But I’ve gotten so many supportive texts from friends in the industry, other DJs, other artists. The fan response has been incredible.”
Quitting touring was “something I had to do for my health,” he said, expressing a desire to get back into the studio. After announcing his retirement, Bergling wrote on his site “for me it’s creating music. That is what I live for, what I feel I was born to do.”
“Last year I quit performing live,” he wrote in the 2017 message. “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.”
His last show was months prior to his posting, performing a final time at the mega-club Ushuaia on Ibiza, where he had been a staple for five years. KSHMR, Seeb, Albin Myers and the Mambo Brothers joined him for his final performance, with Avicii closing his set telling fans, “One part of me can never say never, I could be back … but I won’t be right back.”