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- Posted on Aug 27th 2010 6:30PM by Benjy Eisen
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While he obviously meant something different to each of his friends and family members, to the world at large DJ AM was a talented disc jockey, an artist, a businessman, a television actor, an infamous sneaker collector/designer and -- in spite of his addictions -- a good role model. He was dealt a few bad hands, including a rough childhood in some regards, and knowing that, you couldn't help but root for him to win; to overcome.
True, DJ AM (born Adam Michael Goldstein) was addicted to crack cocaine during his early 20s -- and reportedly survived a suicide attempt during that period, as well -- but he kicked the habit, attended AA meetings and used sobriety as fuel to ignite his career as a DJ. He was clean and sober for more than a decade, during which time his accomplishments just kept piling up and his successes were many.
Born in Philadelphia and residing in L.A., DJ AM played in the rap-rock group Crazy Town in the late '90s, during a period when DJs were just beginning to integrate themselves as members of live rock bands. In 2001, the group charted a US No. 1/Canada and UK No. 3 hit ('Butterfly'), thereby achieving platinum status for the album 'The Gift of Game' -- their debut. But DJ AM wasn't satisfied just working the turntables as a member of a collective. His entrepreneurial spirit led him to a mixed bag of business ventures, investments and commitments -- many of which were met with great success.
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His private life was often publicized as he had a thing for famous women: Following a post-engagement breakup with Nicole Richie in 2006, AM dated singer Mandy Moore, followed by American Apparel model Hayley Wood.
His collaboration with Travis Barker, drummer for punk rockers Blink-182, under the moniker TRV$DJAM, was beginning to really take off when a plane they boarded in Columbia, S.C. just after a gig on Sept. 19, 2008, crashed. Two crew members and two passengers died, but, miraculously, AM and Barker both survived. AM was released from the hospital -- where he and Barker were initially admitted in critical condition -- just one week after the crash. AM was a survivor, but the implications of the crash are haunting: He was treated with prescription medication for both pain and post-traumatic stress -- medication which, it is believed, led to a relapse into AM's former drug addictions and habits.
On Aug. 28, 2009, AM was discovered dead in his apartment, his body not far from a stash of crack cocaine. An autopsy revealed that AM had a significant amount of oxycodone -- a strong prescription painkiller -- along with cocaine, hydrocodone, lorazepam, clonazepam, alprazolam and diphenhydramine in his body at the time of death. The official cause of death was from an "acute intoxication," which is believed to have been accidental.
Perhaps more poignant than anyone imagined at the time, AM had recently completed work on a reality TV series called 'Gone Too Far' for MTV. The premise was a series of interventions for drug abusers, which he staged with concerned family members. The show began airing in October 2009, just over a month after his death.
It may be easy to, like Eminem, use AM's life as an unfortunate example of drug addiction, but the truth is that his life is really such an example of triumph more than tragedy, for the accomplishments that he was able to achieve during his decade of sobriety. His immense success should be looked at as a victory from someone who -- successfully -- beat addiction even if, in the end, addiction beat him. And then, of course, we still have his music. He is gone but certainly not forgotten, as long as someone is still putting the needle to the vinyl.