Hugely influential DJ and producer Avicii was found dead last month aged just 28. Michael Cragg looks back on an artist who shaped the landscape of dance and pop music.
We look back at the life of the superstar DJ, who tragically passed away last month.
On Saturday, 21 April, tens of thousands of young Swedes crowded into Stockholm city centre to listen to their countryman Avicii’s uplifting brand of sweetly melodic EDM. His 2011 breakout hit Levels – which fuses buoyant house riffs with a sample of Etta James’s Something’s Got A Hold On Me – played back to back with 2013’ s equally massive, genre-splicing Wake Me Up. This, however, wasn’t a DJ set, but rather an impromptu memorial, coming a day after the hugely successful producer/DJ, born Tim Bergling, was found dead in Oman, aged just 28. On 26 April his family released a statement which included the line: “He could not go on any longer. He wanted to find peace.” Inspired by the likes of Daft Punk and Swedish House Mafia, Bergling first started making music at 16, quickly knocking out slick, pop-focused dance hits that would go on to soundtrack the burgeoning EDM scene in America. House anthems such as Levels and I Could Be The One became escapist balm for millennials now flocking to gargantuan dance festivals such as Miami’s Ultra to experience a sense of catharsis at odds with the global struggles their generation were born into. One recent obituary referred to Bergling’s music as “a sonic antidepressant for listeners around the world”. While Levels’ stop-start dynamic and delicate riff was copied ad infinitum, the creatively restless Bergling switched styles, perplexing the crowd at Ultra in 2013 when he brought out soul singer Aloe Blacc, as well as a live band complete with banjo and kazoo, to debut country and bluegrass-inspired banger, Wake Me Up. Following the negative reaction, the mild-mannered Bergling posted a statement on Facebook: “My music is open to anyone who wants to listen to it… Love you all who listen with open hearts and open minds.” Wake Me Up went on to sell over 11 million copies, its hybrid sound influencing everyone from fellow EDM DJ Zedd to Kylie Minogue’s recent country-dance makeover. Collaborations with the likes of Madonna, Coldplay and even ABBA’s Benny and Björn followed, but in 2016 Bergling retired from performing live, citing health concerns. His social media shifted from pictures of clubs to idyllic holiday snaps, but he soon returned to his first love of music with last summer’s Avīci ( 01) EP. It was billed as the first part of a three-EP series culminating in an album, but now acts as a tragic swansong for a pioneer who helped shape the sound of both dance and pop music.
“My music is open to anyone who wants to listen to it… Love you all who listen with open hearts and open minds.” Avicii
“A sonic antidepressant for listeners around the world”: Avicii, the man who soundtracked a generation.