DJ Avicii’s father’s struggle to get over his death: ‘Sometimes I get mad at him. Why did he leave us?’

DJ Avicii’s father’s struggle to get over his death: ‘Sometimes I get mad at him.  Why did he leave us?’

Alex Taylor

After years behind several worldwide hits and at just 28 years old, Swedish DJ Avicii decided to take his own life on April 20, 2018, while on vacation in Oman.

“I miss him every minute”, says Klas Bergling, the DJ’s father, during a sincere and deeply personal video call.

“Of course I talk to him every day. But…” he pauses, “I admit that sometimes I get mad at him. Why did you do that? Why did you leave us?”

Avicii, whose given name was Tim, achieved fame as explosive as the buzzing synths on his hit “Levels.”

The 2011 hit, which features a light-hearted sample of an Etta James song, catapulted the then 22-year-old Swede to fame.

Over the next five years, as dance music evolved into the ubiquitous, chart-topping genre known as EDM, with “Levels” as its anthem, Avicii became its poster boy, blond and high-cheekboned – according to some reports, earning US$250,000 (about R$1.3 million) per night on his tours.

But at the age of 26, he retired from performing. In a message to fans, he mentioned his physical and mental health – without detailing the full extent of his problems, which involved anxiety, pancreatitis, alcohol and painkiller dependence.

Despite a period of recovery, producing music away from the spotlight, Tim continued to struggle with inner demons in his search for existential answers.

Klas speaking at a concert honoring Avicii in 2021, seeking to raise awareness about mental health – Getty Images

Now, his family wants people to get to know Tim away from the spotlight, releasing a book of photos to honor his legacy.

It is part of the family’s efforts through the Tim Bergling Foundation, created in his memory in 2019, to open debate about the mental health crisis among young people.

Klas, who carefully curated Tim’s photos from childhood to success, explains, “We want to help people see beyond Avicii’s fame. That’s also why we named his posthumous album Tim.”

Reflecting on the deep connection fans still feel with the DJ, demonstrated by the thousands of letters and messages paying tribute to the young man on his website, Klas says: “Tim meant a lot to young people – his music, his lyrics and his person.”

“At first I didn’t understand why, but a fan said, ‘Tim was authentic’. I understood. A lot of young people identify with that authenticity, his honesty and his struggles.”


Tim achieved fame in a very “millennial” way, for his generation: by posting songs online.

He adopted the name Avicii in 2008, a reference to the layers of hell in Buddhism, after discovering that someone was already using his name on the MySpace platform.

He was briefly signed to BBC Radio 1 DJ Pete Tong after winning a talent contest.

But Tim struggled with anxiety from an early age, often having catastrophic thoughts and fearing he had cancer. The use of marijuana aroused in him the fear of going crazy and dissociation.

Klas recalls that Tim had intense “identity issues” during his teenage years. After a few meetings with a psychologist, Tim felt better. However, touring exacerbated his anxiety.

A text message reproduced in Tim’s 2021 biography reveals his father’s concerns: “Hi Tim, I hope your inspiration is enough for this big tour, with shows every day. From your old man.”

The hectic schedule took its toll. As “Levels” had nearly 20 million views on YouTube before its official release, Tim’s tour included performances in the US, New Zealand, Australia and Asia, often playing multiple shows in different cities on the same day.

Woman and man with raised arms entertain audience at presentation

Madonna and Avicii together in performance – Getty Images

Trying to calm down, Tim turned to alcohol. “I found the magic cure of just having a few drinks before moving on,” he said in the documentary “Avicii: True Stories.”

This dependence grew as he traveled. In 2013, he told GQ magazine: “You’re traveling, you’re living out of a suitcase… You get to a place, and there’s free alcohol everywhere.”

In 2012, he embarked on a 26-day trip across the USA, which caused stomach pains due to alcohol consumption.

He was hospitalized and prescribed opioids to treat his worsening pancreatitis — beginning a cycle of health problems and addiction.

The following year in Australia, his pancreatitis returned, but he refused to have his gallbladder removed to avoid canceling further appointments. He was prescribed opioids again. His appendix eventually ruptured, forcing surgery.

Klas emphasizes the need for systemic change in the music industry, but is careful to avoid pointing to individual blame.

“I still think that record labels, people on tour, agents and managers should really prove that they are in good shape. That’s how artists should be treated,” says the father.

While acknowledging some positive changes since Tim’s death, noting that “these days, Swedish managers at major record companies are more aware”, Klas stresses that more comprehensive measures are needed to ensure artists’ well-being.


Tim’s health problems coincided with his commercial success. His debut album, “True”, which introduced country sounds, brought hits such as “Wake Me Up” and “Hey Brother”.

In 2015, his mental state deteriorated further with medication abuse, angry outbursts and erratic behavior.

Despite promising that her second album, “Stories”, would be her best, her problems led to delays, nihilistic on-stage rants and confrontations with paparazzi. That summer, Klas and the DJ management group knew something needed to be done.

With a therapist, they planned an intervention in Ibiza. In an interview with the Times newspaper, Klas said he felt he had betrayed his son.

I ask what he meant at the time. “You confront your son, who has no idea what’s going to happen,” says the father. Tim’s distressed reaction was evident.

“You see he realizes something is being planned behind his back.” But it was a necessary intervention, says Klas. “There was no doubt about doing this, but getting to this point is not easy.”

Tim, always stubborn, seemed confused, thinking he was being criticized despite working non-stop.

After hours of resistance, he agreed to go to rehab, telling Klas, “I had decided hours ago, but I just wanted to test you.”

Klas smiles, proud of his son’s “bravery.” After rehab, Tim struggled to escape what he described as the “machine that was Avicii” and stopped working with his manager.

Man in beanie and sweatshirt looks forward in black and white image

DJ Avicii – Getty Images

The documentary “Avicii: True Stories”, completed before his death, shows Tim on a beach, seemingly peaceful and away from touring. The news of the suicide had to be included as a shocking post-script addition.

Klas admits that the sadness is compounded by the fact that “my wife and his brothers were happy that he was improving in many ways.”

“It may seem contradictory, but that was it. He was getting better.”

Klas explains that guilt is “a very big burden” for suicide survivors (mourning the death of someone who killed themselves), who often ask themselves, “What did I do wrong?”

But he recognizes, as therapists have told him, that “often you can’t do anything.”


The Tim Bergling Foundation funds a national suicide prevention hotline in Sweden, while the government works on legislation to improve suicide research.

It’s all part of Klas’s 50-year plan to cement his son’s legacy. At a concert in honor of the DJ, Klas promised to put suicide at the top of the political agenda.

“We try to bring in as many young people as possible, as well as politicians,” says Klas. “One of the most impactful moments was a large group of parents who had lost their children to suicide taking the stage. It was a very powerful moment.”

“The most important thing is to break the stigma that young people face. [Com] an unstable, war-torn world like the next generation will face, that’s where I think we can be useful,” says the father.

Since Tim’s death, the Stockholm arena has been renamed the Avicii Arena, and “Together for a Better Day” concerts continue in his memory.

Reflecting on Tim’s lasting influence, Klas says, “Even though he’s no longer with us, he’s still very much with us.”

This text was originally published here.

Source: Folha

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