Goldstein was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to a Jewish family. As a child, he was verbally abused by his father, whom Goldstein called “unbelievably cruel.” His father abused drugs and alcohol and was sent to jail for committing bank fraud and later died due to complications from AIDS. Goldstein attended the elite Quaker school Friends’ Central. Goldstein began taking drugs, so his mother placed him in a tough love treatment center. When Goldstein was 20 years old, he started deejaying, which he had been obsessed with since seeing Herbie Hancock do the song “Rockit” at the 1983 Grammy Awards. During his early 20s, Goldstein also battled a drug addiction, specifically to crack cocaine. At one point, he attempted suicide but was unsuccessful when the gun did not go off. Shortly thereafter, he became sober, began attending AA meetings and dedicated himself to working as a DJ. “By then, I was booking jobs at every major club and had started to gain a following,” he told Glamour magazine. He lost more than 60 pounds with Laparoscopic surgery, and began Deejaying for celebrity parties and night clubs. Goldstein began dating actress Nicole Richie in 2003 and announced their engagement in February 2005. However, the couple broke up in late 2006. “The one thing that stands out about Adam is that I can be myself,” Richie said after the breakup. He was good friends with Jesse F. Keeler, Steve Aoki, Cory Kennedy, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Skillz, Samantha Ronson, John Mayer, Scott Caan, and Travis Barker.
DJ AM was an avid “sneakerhead” posting on sneaker enthusiast message board Niketalk.com and also one-third member of notorious world renowned sneaker crew “AMC” Air Mack’$ Crew with other sneakerhead members DJ Homicide & DJ Ben Baller who collected athletic shoes, primarily Nikes. His collection of over 900 shoes included a pair of Nike Dunk SB shoes that were created specifically for him, with his DJ AM logo appearing on the shoe itself. In a commercial, he starred alongside Mike Epps and Kobe Bryant sporting the Nike Air Yeezy, the signature shoe for Kanye West. Goldstein’s stage name, “DJ AM” stands for his first and middle names, Adam Michael. He was a member of the rap/rock group Crazy Town (but not on 2001’s No. 1 hit “Butterfly”, the group’s only Hot 100 entry). He had also scratched on albums for Papa Roach, Madonna, Will Smith and Shifty, and played concerts with Jay-Z. He had played private events for celebrities like Jim Carrey, Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Lopez, Ben Stiller, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christina Aguilera, Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore and Kate Hudson. He had a one-year contract with Las Vegas’s Pure Nightclub inside Caesar’s Palace to play at the venue every Friday.
He collaborated with Travis Barker of Blink-182 and +44 in several performances, including the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards. On December 1, 2008, TV Guide reported that DJ AM would make his first appearance with Travis Barker since the two survived a plane crash. The duo performed at New Year’s Nation’s Los Angeles 2008 New Year’s Eve Party at The Wiltern. Their performance was streamed live on the Internet via New Year’s Nation’s official site, and was broadcast at other New Year’s Nation parties across the U.S. Before the gig Barker told press, “I’m ready to get back onstage with AM and continue to rock the house. I’m very excited to bring in the New Year in my hometown of L.A.”
His reality television appearances include Punk’d, where his former fiancée, Nicole Richie, was the subject of a practical joke, and the third season of The Simple Life. Goldstein appears as himself in the “What About Bob?” episode of Entourage’s third season; he gets the last pair of an exclusive line of shoes, right before Vince (Adrian Grenier) and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) arrive. He also appeared as a guest DJ on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. He finished filming a reality show for MTV which aired in 2009, called Gone Too Far, in which he and concerned families staged interventions for drug abusers. Eight episodes of Gone Too Far had been shot before his body was discovered on August 28. The show’s original premiere date was October 5, 2009. Before he died, Goldstein reportedly told his addiction-program sponsor that he would return to rehab. MTV decided to air his show after much controversy. “It is our hope through airing this show that people will get to see the side of Adam that we knew and loved. The decision to air the show has been difficult, but we do this with the profound belief that it will inspire others to seek help,” his family said in a statement posted on MTV.com. Trailer was released in early October and the show premiered on October 12, 2009.
He also appeared in a documentary, Downtown Calling narrated by Debbie Harry. He was also a co-owner of the popular club LAX. In 2009, DJ AM became Rain Nightclub’s regular Friday night DJ at the Rain Nightclub in the Palms Casino Resort, Las Vegas. He had a record deal with Interscope and had partnered with Travis Barker (Blink 182) to perform a live DJing/drumming set. TRVSDJAM performed about once a month at sponsored events, clubs and concerts. Their act involved mixing live drum beats to scratched records, as they performed side by side. DJ AM had evolved into a prominent brand. He co-owned a management company called Deckstar with Steve Aoki along with their managers and Paul Rosenberg. He was the music director for the website doppelganger.com. T-Mobile/sidekick also created a limited edition sidekick featuring him and the artwork of tattoo artist Mr. Cartoon. Soon after his death, he was the subject of a joke in South Park’s episode “Dead Celebrities”, along with other celebrities that died in the summer of 2009. Earlier in 2009 Goldstein was involved with Activision’s DJ Hero game. Activision’s vice president of music affairs Tim Riley said in a statement: “We hope that his work on the game will be a fitting tribute to his creative spirit and musical talent.” He won “DJ of the Year” award at the 2009 BET Hip Hop Awards. Goldstein filmed a cameo for the 2010 film Iron Man 2 two months before his death, appearing as himself DJing Tony Stark’s birthday party. The film is dedicated in his memory.
On September 19, 2008, after having performed at a college event with frequent collaborator Travis Barker, Goldstein was seriously injured when a Learjet in which he was traveling crashed on takeoff in Columbia, South Carolina. The crash killed both crew members and two other passengers, and critically injured Goldstein and Barker. They were both transported to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, Georgia, and were both listed in critical condition. According to reports, Goldstein suffered burns on his hands and parts of his head. His ex-girlfriend, singer Mandy Moore, with whom he was still close, flew to be by his side at the Georgia hospital where he was staying. Goldstein was released from the hospital on September 26, 2008, a spokeswoman told AP. In December 2008, Goldstein filed a civil lawsuit against the plane’s charter company, Learjet and Goodyear tires; the suit claims negligence on the part of the pilots and a manufacturing defect on the part of the plane. Goldstein was asking for damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement and loss of earnings. Goldstein was the last passenger to file a civil suit; the estates of deceased passengers Chris Baker and Charles Still had already filed suits, as had crash survivor Travis Barker.
Goldstein was found dead in his New York City apartment on August 28, 2009, from an apparent drug overdose. Drug paraphernalia, including a crack pipe and a bag of crack cocaine, were found in the apartment. The New York medical examiner subsequently determined that Goldstein’s death was an accident caused by an “acute intoxication” from a combination of cocaine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, lorazepam, clonazepam, alprazolam, diphenhydramine and levamisole (a drug used to cut cocaine). After a memorial service, Goldstein was interred at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery in Los Angeles on September 2, 2009. The following day, a memorial was held at the Hollywood Palladium. Eminem paid tribute to Goldstein on the 2010 song “Talkin’ 2 Myself”, rapping “Rest in peace to DJ AM/’cause I know what it’s like/I struggle with this shit every single day.” Eminem also battled an addiction to prescription medication and nearly died from an overdose in late 2007. In August 2011, several DJs paid tribute to DJ AM at the Vanity Nightclub in the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas. On the cover of the Blink-182 album, “Neighborhoods,” “DJ AM” can be seen written on one of the buildings, as a memorial. A documentary film about Goldstein’s life and work, largely featuring documentary materials from his own expansive archives, as well as interviews with key figures in his life, was announced at the Electric Daisy Carnival Week’s EDMbiz Conference on June 20, 2013.
- March, 30, 1973
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- August, 28, 2009
- New York, New York
Cause of Death
- drug overdose
- Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery
- Los Angeles, California