Superstar musician Avicii (Tim Bergling) has died at the age of 28.
You will see him identified as a DJ and producer, which is true as far as it goes. Actually, he was simply a musician—an extraordinarily talented one. So if someone asks “what did he play?” you can just reply “music.”
Producers have always been important for recording music, and became more important in the modern pop era. Beatle’s producer George Martin was appropriately called “the Fifth Beatle”; without him, the epic music would never have sounded the same.
Hip-hop and dance music introduced performers who “played” turntables and mixed bits of recorded music, which collaboration evolved into full-scale production and creation. The role is a combination of composition and conducting. Avicii came along with a new generation of young DJs and producers, and in the ears of many, was top of the class.
Bergling started out releasing music on Laidback Luke Forum in the late ’00s, where DJs and producers would post music and seek feedback from budding peers. In 2011, he broke through to an international audience with the progressive house track “Levels,” which hit No. 1 in his native Sweden and on the U.S. Billboard Dance Club Songs chart — and earned him a Grammy nod. His 2012 David Guetta collab “Sunshine” earned him a Grammy nomination as well, and that same year, he became the first electronic artist to headline New York City’s storied Radio City Music Hall.
In 2013, Avicii released his debut studio album, True, which featured the game-changing, massive international hit “Wake Me Up!” ft. Aloe Blacc. Combining EDM, folk and country music, the song became a No. 1 hit in many countries and peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. His second album, Stories, dropped in 2015 and featured vocals from Chris Martin, Wyclef Jean, Robbie Williams, Matisyahu, Brandon Flowers, Gavin DeGraw and more. The EP Avīci (01) came out in Aug. 2017 and featured his Rita Ora collaboration “Lonely Together.”
The place to start, if you don’t know Avicii, is with his debut album True. When I first heard it, my joy was mixed with a sense that this was some new kind of music that he had created. Losing artists of that talent and achievement is difficult and sad.