Sunday 20 January 2019

Obituary: Tim Bergling (Avicii)

Swedish DJ was one of the biggest stars of dance music in Europe

AVICII: Tim Bergling. Photo: Yui Mok/PA
AVICII: Tim Bergling. Photo: Yui Mok/PA

Avicii, the Swedish DJ and musician Tim Bergling, who has died aged 28, was a superstar of the club world; he was the creator of such dance anthems as I Could Be the One and Wake Me Up, both of which were No. 1 hits here and in Britain in 2013 and were embraced by the millennial generation.

Unlike in Europe, where the rave culture has been established since the 1980s, mainstream America has historically been resistant to dance music since the death of disco.

That began to change a decade ago, with the creation of vast, often open-air clubs in cities such as Miami and Las Vegas, mimicking those beloved of Europeans in Ibiza and playing what is now known as EDM (electronic dance music).

As in the Balearics, DJs who could keep crowds of tens of thousands in a state of escapist euphoria for hours, became as in-demand as pop stars. Soon, the likes of David Guetta began to release music of their own. But while Guetta is 50, the elfin-looking Bergling was the same age as many of those consuming the music.

A prolific tunesmith - Nile Rodgers of Chic called him "one of the greatest natural melody writers" - Bergling married compulsive beats to simple lyrics, addressing the concerns of his age group.

The videos for Levels, his breakthrough hit in 2011, and I Could Be the One showed office workers shedding the shackles of corporate life. The video for Addicted to You (2013) depicted an LGBT Bonnie and Clyde as Bonnie and Bonnie.

Another influence was folk music. Wake Me Up, which came from his first album True (2013) with vocals by Aloe Blacc, was among the first dance tracks to have a bluegrass tinge and there was euphoric chaos when Bergling played it as an encore at Earl's Court in 2014 accompanied by fireworks, lasers and confetti cannons. Hey Brother, a No.2 hit in 2013, also had a country feel.

His take on Feeling Good (2015), a cover of Nina Simone's classic, was used for a Volvo car advert. However, the original video to that number made clear Avicii's discontent with his fame.

At 25, he collaborated with Madonna (Girl Gone Wild) and Coldplay (A Sky Full of Stars), and last year worked with Rita Ora (Lonely Together). He was twice nominated for a Grammy and played at the World Cup closing ceremony in 2014 and at the Swedish royal wedding in 2015.

Blond, blue-eyed and usually seen wearing a baseball cap backwards, Bergling was paid $250,000 per night to DJ - he tried to retract a revelation that his sets were recorded, not spontaneous - and Forbes estimated his earnings in 2015 at $19m. His music has been streamed 11bn times on Spotify alone.

He was born Tim Bergling on September 8, 1989 in Stockholm, the son of Klas-Otto Bergling and Anki Liden, an actress who was the mother in the film My Life as a Dog (1985). He had three older half-siblings, two of whom are also musicians. Tim discovered house music as a teenager. Although happier at his computer than on stage, he won a talent competition run by the DJ Pete Tong and began recording as Avicii, the word for the lowest level of hell in Buddhism (he added an extra i). However, in 2016 he was taken to hospital with acute pancreatitis, thought to be caused by excessive drinking on tour. He played his last gig in Ibiza that year.

On hearing of his death on April 20, thousands of young people gathered in Stockholm to celebrate his music.

© Telegraph

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