The shy ‘beautiful soul’ who died too soon

Superstar: When touring, Avicii’s shows reportedly earned him $250,000 per night.

Is fame a curse? Swedish superstar DJ Avicii has died aged 28. Millions around the world adored his unique brand of dance music, but he struggled to cope with the celebrity spotlight.

“One day you’ll leave this world behind, so live a life you will remember!”

The chorus from Avicii’s hit “The Nights” encapsulates all that made his songs so popular — a catchy melody fused with uplifting lyrics to create a rousing euphoric anthem.

But after the superstar DJ’s death was announced last week, his fans are only just coming to terms with the sadness that lurked behind his life of festivals, fun and fame.

Tim Bergling (Avicii’s real name) was just 28 when he died, but had already achieved levels of stardom many merely dream of. Producing smash hits of his own and collaborations with music’s biggest stars, his songs earned billions of streams and he earned millions of dollars.

But while he was a genius in the recording studio, he was not a natural celebrity. “I love what I do, but I’ve never liked being recognised or being in the spotlight,” he once said.

Intense touring also caused him serious mental and physical health problems, including acute pancreatitis reportedly due to heavy drinking. By 2016 he had retired from performing altogether: “It was something I had to do for my health,” he explained.

While the precise cause of Bergling’s death remains unexplained, it is clear that the few years he spent in the spotlight took a disastrous toll. Some have already compared him to Kurt Cobain, the legendary front man of rock band Nirvana.

Like Bergling, Cobain was also a reluctant star, once quipping that if he were sent to jail: “At least I wouldn’t have to sign autographs.” And like Bergling, he also died young: Committing suicide aged 27.

One researcher has even noted higher rates of suicide among celebrities compared to the general population.

In spite of all this, fame is often seen as extremely desirable, particularly among young people. For example, when a 2010 survey asked 16-year-olds what they wanted to do as a career, 54 percent answered “become a celebrity.”

Is fame a curse?

Poisoned Chalice

Of course, some people argue. As Whitney Houston said, fame turns you into a “personality instead of a person.” People don’t consider celebrities human beings, but brands they can exploit. What’s more, an invasive press makes maintaining a private life impossible — the shallow adoration of fans is scant replacement for real friendships lost along the way. We should all value fame far less.

There are more good sides, others respond. Being known lets you make a difference. Bergling himself donated millions to charity — something he would have struggled to achieve without his celebrity credentials. Furthermore, for people pursuing creative careers, fame comes with the sweet knowledge that millions are loving your art.

You Decide

  1. Is fame a curse?
  2. Does society value celebrities too highly?

Activities

  1. Draw a table listing three reasons why it would be good to be famous, and three reasons why it would be bad. Based on those reasons, would you like to be a celebrity? Why/why not?
  2. Song lyrics can be analysed just like a poem. Research the lyrics of “The Nights” — you can listen to it by following the top link under Become An Expert. What is the overall message of the song? Is this message positive or negative? Do song lyrics count as literature?

Some People Say...

“Fame doesn’t fulfil you. It warms you a bit, but that warmth is temporary.”

Marilyn Monroe

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
We know that Avicii was one of the most successful and influential dance music producers of his generation. He was nominated for two Grammy Awards, and his music currently has over 11 billion streams on Spotify. He was due to release his third album this year and discussions are ongoing to determine what to do with his unreleased material.
What do we not know?
We do not know the specific cause of his death. He previously suffered from acute pancreatitis caused by excessive alcohol consumption, however we do not know if this was a factor. The only police statement so far confirms that there is “no criminal suspicion” surrounding his death.

Word Watch

The Nights
Listen to the song for yourself by following the link under Become An Expert.
Died
He was found dead in a hotel in Muscat, Oman, last Friday. The police have stated that there is “no criminal suspicion” surrounding the case.
Hits
His biggest single was the song “Wake Me Up.” Released in 2013, it topped the charts in multiple countries across Europe, and reached as high as number 4 in the U.S.
Collaborations
Including with Coldplay, Rita Ora and Nile Rodgers.
Noted
In the paper “Suicide in Eminent Persons,” psychology professor David Lester found that among well-known people the suicide rate was 2.9% — higher than the average in the general population. For more, see the HuffPost link under Become An Expert.
Survey
A survey of 1,000 British teenagers.
Millions
For example, Bergling’s 2012 “House for Hunger” tour raised $1 million to fight hunger in the U.S. He once said: “When you have such an excess of money you don’t need, the most sensible, most human and completely obvious thing is to give to people in need.”

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