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.

Q (UK) - - Contents -

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.

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