They say that the star that burns brightest burns shortest. This is most true in the world of music. The stars of so many rock legends and guitar gods burned ever so brightly and left an indelible mark on the world. Their brief stay on this earth was filled with struggle, turmoil, triumph and tragedy. Their memories and legacies gave hope to millions and ultimately inspired them. In our world, the world of the 12” mix; the world that begins after the rest of the world is sleeping; there are few gods and heroes. One of them was and is DJ AM.
His life story titled “As I AM” has been playing on HBO. I’ve had to watch it several times. He was born Adam Michael Goldstein in 1973 in Philadelphia. Life with an abusive father caused his mother to divorce and move to LA when Adam was fourteen. Soon after arriving in LA Adam fell in with a drug crowd. He entered rehab, got sober and became interested in mixing and disc jockey work around the age of twenty. His first paid gig was an illegal after hour’s club. He got paid $40 and free beer (haven’t we all been there?).
Perfecting his mixing skills and making a name for himself in local clubs, Adam joined the group Crazy Town in 1999 and helped create their hit “Butterfly”. He became the go to DJ for celebrity parties and was the first DJ to land a million dollar residency at a Las Vegas nightclub. His star burned even brighter with television appearances, movie roles and His Holly wood nightclub LAX and a partnership in the Atlantic City club DUSK. In the movie there is a great line, “any DJ making money today has Adam to thank”. Calvin Harris, Aviici, Steve Aoki and Tiesto have all walked through the door that DJ AM opened. His unique style of mixing has inspired many DJ’s to leave the bedroom and start a career.
Adam suffered from the same human condition that many of us can relate to. An abusive child hood, weight, struggles with addiction and sobriety, fame, heartache and a near fatal plane crash in 2008. DJ AM’s dedication to the art of mixing was only paralleled by his love of sneakers (he had over 1,000 pairs). Adam changed the face of the DJ industry and how we are perceived. He was arguably the first DJ superstar. How many DJ’s have their own video game avatar? Think DJ Hero by Activision. Have you listened to the K106 live set? Ninety minutes of live on air mixing. Imagine if radio jocks today had to actually spin live everyday?
In the world of mobile events we tend to focus more on what we say rather than what we play. Our verbal skills and presentation out weigh our mixing skills. Although the mobile and nightclub sides of the DJ world seem vastly different, we have to look around and thank those that are changing the industry at every level. Mobile DJ’s may not get the same recognition or notoriety as club jockeys do, but I can think of at least a dozen names that inspire me daily to be better at my craft. Imitation is the ultimate form of adoration. We all need heroes. We all need inspiration to be better, do better and make our industry better. Find them, talk to them and learn from them.
Ultimately Adam’s demons caught up with him. He was found dead in his NYC apartment in August of 2009. Just like Morrison, Joplin and Hendrix before him, the drugs had won. He did leave us with one final message before he died. His final poignant tweet “New York, New York Big City of dreams, but everything in New York ain’t always what it seems” speaks volumes about the constant daily battle we all face with our demons. DJ AM was focused, driven, charitable, super human on the turntables and ultimately a garden variety drug addict. His life played out like a Hollywood movie script. I do like his personal mantra, “Starve the ego and feed the soul”, which is great advice for too many of us. Watch the movie. You’ll understand.
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