Tom Bergling, better known by his stage name, Avicii, was a Swedish musician, songwriter, DJ, and producer who achieved major mainstream success across the globe at a young age. While he began pursuing his career goals at the age of 16 around 2005, he was signed to a record label by 18 years old, while he was still in high school.
Avicii became known to the world on a broader scale with the release of his single, Levels, in 2011. Fame came into his life at a speedy pace, which came along with extended periods of partying and binge drinking, even though he was already abusing alcohol and dealing with mental health problems prior to stepping into the limelight.
“…it’s very easy to become too attached to partying. You become lonely and get anxieties. It becomes toxic.” – Avicii to Rolling Stone Magazine
At the same time, he was starting charities and donating millions of dollars to provide hunger relief in the United States and in Africa. His family and friends all described him as being a nice guy who was constantly seeking happiness, as well as thinking about life and meaning.
Wrong Place, Right Time
Avicii, or Tim, simply wanted to make music. He wasn’t mentally prepared for the everyday stressors of being one of the most famous people in the world. In 2012, he was officially diagnosed with pancreatitis, which was caused by his alcoholism. He was working non-stop from the time he was in high school, and had severe anxiety when it came to performing. According to an interview with GQ, he coped with anxiety by self-medicating with alcohol.
He subsequently also had to have his gallbladder and appendix removed in the following couple of years. All of this happened very quickly for Avicii, but he has stated that despite all of his health concerns, those surrounding him kept pushing for more and more — leading to over 300 shows a year. Avicii told his team repeatedly that if he kept being pushed and pushed beyond his physical limits, it would kill him.
He kept on. Many of his EDM tracks began topping the Billboard House Music Charts, including the hit single Wake Me Up from the fall of 2013, which spent 54 weeks on the Top 100 Chart, peaking at #4 and staying on the chart for over an entire year.
All this time he was finding himself, yet he knew he was lost. Over the next couple of years, he appeared to be living the good life from an outsider’s perspective. However, behind the scenes, this time period was filled with multiple hospitalizations and an overall lack of happiness in the performer himself, all topped with disrespect and borderline exploitation from very motivated and aggressive promoters and people who only cared about this money machine that they were taking advantage of.
Taking Back Control
By 2016, he had had enough. He officially announced he was retiring from touring so he could take care of his health. He was very happy about this decision and it gave him the time he needed to have the artistic freedom he was craving to just create new music.
Although he was getting frustrated with EDM culture in general in recent years, it was still his passion and he was determined to get new music out there that would not only change the scene but make him and his fans happy. This theme was continued through the Netflix documentary, Avicii: True Stories, which is no longer available to stream on the television and movie platform.
He released an EP, was working on two more and was even working (by choice this time) on vacation in Oman in the Middle East. Those around him didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. In fact, most of his team, family, and friends said that he was doing better since the decision to stop touring to deal with his physical health, mental health, and substance abuse issues.
The Death of Tim “Avicii” Bergling
Avicii was found dead in an estate belonging to friends in Muscat, Oman on April 20th, 2018. His death was ultimately ruled as a suicide, with reliable sources close to Avicii stating that he passed from self-inflicted wounds performed with a broken wine bottle. No one saw it coming, as he was in the middle of working on multiple projects and seemed to be happier than he’d been in a long while.
Anxiety, depression, and substance abuse issues are all conditions that do not discriminate; as has become more evident in a plethora of celebrities, mostly involving stars who became famous at an age where they were too young to understand the world they were living in.
With multiple high-profile celebrity suicides in recent years, awareness is coming to light connecting stars and suicide, but then the subject typically fades away over a few months or a couple years. We must do better as a society to increase mental illness awareness, as well as destigmatizing the issue altogether.
“Our beloved Tim was a seeker, a fragile artistic soul searching for answers to existential questions. An over-achieving perfectionist who traveled and worked hard at a pace that led to extreme stress… When he stopped touring, he wanted to find a balance in life to be happy and be able to do what he loved most – music. He really struggled with thoughts about Meaning, Life, Happiness. He could not go on any longer. He wanted to find peace.” – Tim Bergling’s family’s official statement to the press.
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