Avicii was a well-known musician, DJ and record producer, who sadly departed this world in April 2018, aged just 28.
Avicii’s real name was Tim Bergling, and his death came as the culmination of years of both physical and mental illness. On the surface, Bergling had it all – a fortune, millions of fans worldwide and endless travel.
His death comes as a reminder that mental illness does not discriminate, and that it is important to look beyond the surface of everyone.
Early music career
Bergling made profound contributions to the electronic music genre. At the age of just 16, Bergling attracted interest from record companies after posting remixes on various internet forums.
By the tender age of 21, Avicii became a household name. Songs such as ‘Wake Me Up’ and ‘Levels’ went into electronic dance music (EDM) folklore.
As the following years passed by, Bergling released several albums, numerous hit singles, and conducted various tours. In this time, performances were never ending – and would continue right up until a rather unexpected retirement.
Sometimes, Bergling would perform in two cities on the same night, several nights a week. Bergling was achieving considerable success, and taking the music scene by storm.
But a common caveat of success is that for any triumph, multiple predators appear – seeing the person as more of an asset that can be exploited, rather than a human being.
Bergling was seemingly unaware of the harm that his excessive touring was doing to him – yet no one around him mentioned anything, after all, it was in no one’s interest to make him stop. Bergling was still so young, and didn’t have protection from the harsh world of touring.
Tim Bergling’s health deteriorates
Away from the public view, Bergling was battling with anxiety. Given the gruelling nature of his schedule, Bergling found the only way to cope with his anxiety was to drink alcohol excessively – in the process concerning both friends and family.
As anyone with knowledge or experience of mental health problems knows – alcohol is often turned to in a bid to cope with problems.
This led to trouble for Bergling. In January 2012, Bergling was admitted to a Hospital in New York with agonising abdominal pain. This was later diagnosed as Acute Pancreatitis – brought on by heavy drinking.
As a result, Bergling was ordered to cut back on his alcohol consumption. This was the first time that Bergling’s issues became public knowledge.
At this point, where it was clear that Bergling’s lifestyle was taking its toll, most would assume his management team would step in and change his touring commitments.
But unfortunately, his relentless touring continued, and by the end of 2012, Bergling had completed more than 200 shows in that calendar year alone – despite spending some of the first month of said year in hospital.
A mere few months later – in March 2013 – Bergling found himself back in hospital – this time in Australia. This hospitilisation was again linked to his pancreatitis.
He was advised by Doctors to undergo surgery to remove his gallbladder. Bergling opted against this, instead returning to the studio. But Bergling did however make efforts to give up alcohol.
Exposure to painkillers
But one year later, his gallbladder and appendix ruptured – leading to emergency surgery to remove both.
In an effort to aid his recovery in the aftermath of the operations, Bergling was prescribed the addictive painkiller Percocet – a mixture of the highly-powerful opioid Oxycodone, as well as paracetamol.
Bergling was erroneously told that the opioid wasn’t addictive. In actual fact, Oxycodone is renowned for causing addiction .
Bergling was touring again less than two weeks after his emergency procedure. But he found that the Percocet didn’t have the desired effect of pain relief – instead making him more anxious. It is easy to forget that Bergling was just 23 at this point. Yet his team reportedly pressured him to continue his schedule.
Bergling – like so many others prescribed opioids – became addicted. In instances like this, normally a patient should commit to a plan of detoxification, which should coincide with time off from work to commit to recovery.
But Bergling was still encouraged to continue touring. He was given the medication Suboxone – a medication used to treat opioid dependence, only for Bergling to also become addicted to that.
Continuation of problems and retirement
As far as the wider public was aware, Bergling was on top form – with his music being widely celebrated. But this was far from the truth.
By 2015, Bergling was still riddled with both physical and mental problems, causing grave concern to his friends and family.
Despite this, Bergling embarked on a six-month world tour. During this tour, many noticed his deteriorating health – including an alarming weight loss.
Between 2011 and 2015, Bergling had performed on more than 800 occasions. Touring so often for so long would’ve inevitably led to exhaustion.
In 2016, Bergling announced he was retiring from touring. Given that he was 26 at the time, the wider public – still unaware of Bergling’s ailing health – were surprised by the announcement. This decision again hinted to the public that Bergling wasn’t okay.
In his announcement, Avicii thanked all those that had helped him ‘fulfil so many’ of his dreams. Bergling didn’t give an exact reason for his retirement, though he noted a drive across the US helped him ‘see things in a new way’. The drive also made him realise that he needed to ‘make the change that he’d been struggling with for a while’.
This decision was the right one – albeit later than it should have been. The decision appeared to cause tension in the Bergling camp – leading to a split between the superstar DJ and his management team. But Bergling appeared to finally be on the road to recovery.
Release of 2017 documentary
As mentioned, throughout Bergling’s career – much of his plight had been unbeknownst to the public.
However, this changed in 2017, after a documentary – named ‘Avicii: True Stories’ – was released. The documentary featured behind the scenes footage of Avicii, but was only given a limited release at first.
After Bergling’s eventual death, the documentary was released to the wider public, and attracted significant interest, with the 90-minute documentary finally bringing to light the struggle that Bergling went through.
The documentary featured Bergling expressing his feelings – such as his battle with anxiety, and the stress caused by endless touring. He also mentioned that he was ‘introverted’ – and not used to the spotlight.
For any introvert, the idea of having to perform to thousands of people night after night, while receiving significant media attention, is near unthinkable.
Throughout the documentary Bergling is repeatedly shown telling those around him how fatigued, exhausted, anxious and ill he was. He also bemoaned the impact painkillers had on his health problems. When taking all of this into account, the root cause of Bergling’s alcohol problems (and subsequent poor health) is clear.
In the aftermath of the release of the documentary, his management team were lambasted for their treatment of the star – namely their failure to act on Bergling’s excessive touring and subsequent health problems.
Ultimately, they were seemingly taking advantage of Bergling – trying to make as much money as possible from him – seemingly without consideration for his wellbeing.
It is very important to state that there are always two sides to each story – and Bergling’s ex-manager – Arash Pournouri – has protested his innocence, suggesting that the documentary was edited to make him look bad, and that he had himself took measures to help Bergling, ultimately to little avail.
Bergling clearly had a profound passion for music, and despite retiring from touring, he returned to the studio to record new songs.
In 2017, ‘Without You’ was released – a song about needing to live life while coping with the loss of someone meaningful that have gone from their life.
This would prove to be poignant just a few months later. He didn’t tour, and kept a low profile. His final release came in August 2017, with the release of an extended play. In early 2018, Avicii helped write two songs. These would turn out to be his final songs.
Bergling left Los Angeles for a trip to Oman on 8th April 2018. He stayed at a luxury hotel in the capital Muscat – and engaged in several activities, and happily posed for pictures with fans.
It appeared that Bergling was in good spirits, and planning for the future – he was speaking to his new management team regarding future music.
Death of Tim Bergling
But, on 20th April 2018, while still in Oman, Bergling passed away. Bergling’s cause of death was blood loss as a result of self-inflicted injuries from a broken wine bottle. Bergling therefore took his own life.
His death shocked the world, making global headlines. Millions of tributes flooded in for Bergling, both from fellow music artists and the wider public – many of which had followed him around the world.
His family stated that the musician ‘wanted to find peace’, and struggled with his life in the spotlight. They rightfully stated his music will ensure his memory is kept alive.
Posthumous release of songs
Between the release of his final extended play and his death, Bergling had continued to create new material. These partially-completed songs were picked up by friends, who collaborated with artists such as ARIZONA and Aloe Blacc to release a final, posthumous album – simply named ‘Tim’.
One of the singles from the album – titled ‘SOS’ – featured tributes from fans in the music video, with many giving thanks to Bergling for creating so many special moments.
Another song, ‘Hold the Line’, is based around the idea of life being challenging, and difficult to navigate.
But in an uplifting message, despite going through a tough time, the singer suggests that the listener shouldn’t give up, instead they should soldier on, which can lead to much better things.
Specific lyrics included “we don’t get to die young, we just have to push on,” and seeing the “dawn” that comes “at the end of the night”.
The songwriters Arizona, who used Avicii’s backing track, stated that in compiling the lyrics, that they wanted people struggling with mental health conditions to know that they aren’t alone.”
Music has a unique effect on people. Without doubt, Bergling’s music created some incredible and memorable moments for his legions of fans. Thanks to his music, as well as considerable charity work, Bergling will forever be remembered.
Bergling was buried in his native Sweden, in a cemetery in the capital Stockholm.
The Bergling family have since launched the Tim Bergling Foundation – a charity dedicated to suicide prevention and combating mental illness.
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