A DJ is an artist. They may not sing or rhyme, or play riffs on a guitar, or conduct an orchestra. But they control the pulse of an audience just the same as any maestro, literally with their fingertips. I’ve always had an affinity towards DJs. Granted I’m partial since I grew up in a household of DJs, where music was a constant fixture. While my uncle spun records, I’d sit next to him cueing up on my Fischer Price record player. I’m a huge fan of mashups, and DJ AM, inspired by Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit,” based his art on the fusion of unlikely genres. AM could get a crowd to nod in unison to the hybrid sounds he created with turntables and a Mac.
I thought the news reports and Tweets about DJ AM’s death were somehow old pieces resurfacing since the anniversary of the plane crash is approaching. On Saturday night at the Q-Tip and Mark Ronson tribute concert for Michael Jackson, they praised DJ AM as one of the “best who ever did it.” Grandmaster Flash, whom AM quoted in his last Twitter update, was on hand as well.
Addiction has claimed the lives of many much too soon. And for AM, who struggled with addictions ranging from food to cocaine and a verbally abusive father, almost every moment of his life was clouded with a longing need to escape. That’s a lifetime of pain no one should ever endure, only exacerbated by a traumatic accident in which only one other survived, Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker.
For a person who tasted the barrel of a gun while attempting to take his own life, the pain of survivor guilt must have been excruciating. So AM shifted his focus on helping others heal. He worked with MTV on a show to help young people overcome their addictions. But no one can read the game face that masks your pain unless you are willing to lift it.
We’ll miss you AM. Rest in the sweet peace that eluded you in life.