During Avicii's incredible career saw him sell tens of millions of records, sell-out arenas and won him fans across the globe. But for the Swedish DJ, the pressure of being an international star was too much to handle and at the peak of his fame, he walked away from live tours. Just over two years after retreating from the spotlight, and aged just 28, Tim Bergling took his own life. Avicii's rise to become one of the biggest names in dance music started in 2011 when he released his first EP, Levels.
A huge hit around the world, it propelled the young star into the stratosphere and soon he was in demand to work with some of the biggest names in the business. However, the constant touring, promotion and life on the road quickly started to take its toll on Tim, who suffered from excruciating health problems that left him in agony and hospitalised. Harrowing footage lays bare the superstar DJ's devastating battle with pain and illness that plagued him as he flew around the globe.
Avicii: True Stories reveals what life was like for the shy DJ as it opens the doors on what happened backstage on his relentless round-the-world tours. Initially playing small shows, it was after playing the then-unreleased Levels at Governor's Island in New York that word started to spread about the young prodigy from Sweden. The impact of the song was huge and catapulted Avicii straight to the A-list. From playing small club nights in his native Stockholm he was now headlining the Ultra festival with Madonna.
He told the documentary: "For the first time I could afford a tour manager and didn't have to fly coach everywhere by myself. I was a young, single guy and everything was one big party. We realised we could tour the whole year round so that's what we did."
And soon the shows starting racking up at an alarming rate - hundreds in just one year but for shy Avicii, it was starting to take its toll.
He said: "In the beginning, I was too afraid to drink before shows because I was afraid I'd screw it up but I realised I was too stiff so I started having a couple of drinks before going on. I saw other DJs drinking, who had been doing that for 10 years for every show."
It was during his Australian tour that the first serious signs something was badly wrong became apparent. Avicii was on a flight when he started suffering from agonising stomach pains and was rushed to hospital when he landed. He was diagnosed with pancreatitis and told he was not well enough to perform. In chilling footage, the DJ, clearly in a huge amount of pain, is seen asking if he can be discharged so he can continue with his tour. Doctors strongly advise against him performing. Unable to eat or drink without pain, an exhausted-looking Avicii is clearly struggling.
He said: "The hospital visit was a terrible experience but what was much worse was the pain afterwards. I would wake up every day and be in pain. It was constant and everything was in a haze and I didn't know how long I could keep going like that."
But things were not slowing down for the world's most in-demand DJ. In 2013 his single Wake Me Up launched him into the stratosphere and the touring became relentless. Avicii, who admits he "hates being the centre of attention", was struggling to cope. He said: "I was in so much pain but all I was given was medicine and told 'take this and you'll feel better'. It was like heroin but it also wasn't helping the pain but I just assumed the doctors knew what they were doing. Having the pancreatitis wasn't the problem, it was the pain that stays with you afterwards. At first, it was for a month and then it was for four months. I was taking 20 pills a day but they kept telling me it wasn't addictive. I was still anxious and then I started touring again."
While flying around the globe on private jets and playing in front of huge crowds of adoring fans sounds amazing, in reality, it was having a devastating impact on Tim.
In 2014 he had an operation to remove his gall bladder and appendix - but his problems were far from over. By 2015, Tim was battling anxiety while he constantly toured and tried to work on his second album, the hugely successful Stories. He said: "There was never an end to the shows, even when I gave myself a few months off I couldn't relax because my mind was always focused on when I was going to start touring again."
Desperate, he cancelled all his shows for the next eight months and gave himself some time away from the live scene to work on his album. Renting a villa in Ibiza and undergoing therapy for his anxiety, Tim started to feel better but his friends admitted his return to touring and performing live was a "ticking time bomb".
Eventually, Tim snaps. He said: "I've been away for six months and I've done everything I can and straight away I'm stressed and I still don't like performing. I don't know how to explain to people that my life is all about stress."
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Just two years later, on April 20, 2018, he had taken his own life. Following his tragically early death, Tim's family released a moving open letter to his fans. It said: "Our beloved Tim was a seeker, a fragile artistic soul searching for answers to existential questions. An over-achieving perfectionist who travelled and worked hard at a pace that led to extreme stress. When he stopped touring, he wanted to find a balance in life to be able to be happy and to do what he loved most – music.
"He struggled with thoughts about Meaning, Life, and Happiness. He could now not go on any longer. He wanted to find peace. Tim was not made for the business machine he found himself in; he was a sensitive guy who loved his fans but shunned the spotlight. Tim, you will forever be loved and sadly missed. The person you were and your music will keep your memory alive."