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Further Phoenix
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John Phoenix

Samantha Mathis



Kurt Cobain

Bruce Springsteen


Frank Zappa

Kurt Cobain

Christopher Sandford

Mick Jagger

Douglas Coupland

Fred Gwynne

Herman Munster

Dixie Lee Ray

Mike Collier

David Bowie

Eric Clapton
Rio's Attic: Celebrating the Life and Times of a Dearly Missed River Phoenix
American EnglishEn Français

Kurt Cobain

by Christopher Sandford
First published in 1995

ISBN 0-75284-456-3 (Paperback, 407 Pages)

First published in 1995 and enjoying regular reprinting runs ever since, this book, by music journalist, novelist and biographer Christopher Sandford, contains a couple of throw-away references to River. Sandford has written numerous biographies about the music industry's most successful icons including Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger and one of River's own personal music idols, Sting. For this book, the author examines the life and death of the front-man of rock band Nirvana, Kurt Cobain. Cobain is generally regarded as the founder of one of music's most enigmatic outlets of expression and one that River found himself more and more interested in - the grunge movement.

When the last wave of modern punk broke in 1980 it was followed by a 'hardcore' movement in which groups played wildly distorted electric guitars over lyrics that tried to be meaningful.

It's disciples would be Generation X, also dubbed twenty-somethings or later slackers, and stigmatized by Douglas Coupland as '42 million gripers' so dismayed with life and the prospects for self-improvement that they grew angry and disaffected. According to Coupland, 'their anthem was dark rock from Seattle' and their uniform a dismal costume of plaid flannel shirts and ripped jeans. Thousands of slackers pierced their bodies as a destructive symbol of disaffection: belligerently anti-social and anti-society. Their heroes were Cobain and River Phoenix, both of who died tragically young, unable, apparently, to cope.

Most surprisingly, despite having very similar musical interests and sharing many aspects of their lives in common, including many of the same friends, River never actually met his musical contemporary. Nevertheless, Cobain took the news of River's death extremely hard.

At a party that night Cobain spoke about death. Not his own, but those of four just-departed role models: Frank Zappa, the actors River Phoenix and Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster of The Munsters), and the radical, seventies governor of Washington, Dixie Lee Ray. 'There was nothing morbid about it,' says Mike Collier. 'Kurt was rueful they'd gone, not aiming to join them.'

Just six months after River's passing, Kurt Cobain's death would create an almost identical media frenzy. Kurt Cobain's father had described his son as someone who "desperately needed saving from himself", a statement that hauntingly echoed the concerns of John Phoenix. The similarities between the two icons continued to become more apparent than ever with Samantha Mathis taking the news of Cobain's death particularly hard, reminding her as it did, of a previous tragedy only a few months before. Two members of so-called Generation X were now gone, two young men in their twenties with their lives cut short. These were, without doubt, two people who had more in common than even the two of them ever knew.

Among the elder generation, David Bowie calls 'Kurt's death one of [the] really crushing blows in my life'. 'He was quoted as saying things that I totally identify with,' said Eric Clapton. 'Like being backstage and hearing the crowd out there, and thinking, "I'm not worth it. I'm a piece of garbage. And they're fools, if they knew what the truth was about me, they wouldn't like me." I've identified with that a million times.'

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