The River Phoenix Pages

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On this page are listed works dedicated to River Phoenix :
Songs - Books - Movies - Graphic Arts

If you know of others, please let me know at . Special thanks to Melanie, who supplied a lot of the information on this page. Special thanks also to Barry, who did a great job gathering most songs written by and for River, and providing a copy of these.
2016 - Since streaming sites have made it a lot easier to listen to even rare songs from the other side of the world, I'm removing audio excerpts of songs that can be found on legal sites.
I created a Playlist of songs dedicated to River Phoenix, on Deezer.

Songs about River

"River" by Versus, on their album "Stars are insane".

"River Phoenix" by Nada Surf, on their album "North 6th Street" (a special demo album).

"Chris Chambers" by Welsh band The Stereophonics, B-side of their single "Traffic", radio edit (there are 2 editions of this single, only one features the song "Chris Chambers"), released on October 28, 1997.
Thanks Roxie

"Ode to River Phoenix" by Calliope, on their album "Calliope". It was released in 1995.

Thanks Melanie for this song and the 2 below

"River Phoenix" by Hannah Marcus, on her album "Faith Burns".

wav-audioMP3 excerpt.

"Song For River Phoenix (If I Had Known)" by Dana Lyons.
Features on the album "Cows With Guns", released on November 17, 1998.
The single "Oh River" by Liberty 37, on their album "Greatest Gift" released in 1999.
Probably about River though not expressly dedicated to him.
"Matinee Idol" by Rufus Wainwright,
on his debut album released in 1998.
From interview by Lisa Wilton, for the Calgary Sun :
"Yes, it's based on River Phoenix," he says with a tone of someone who has obviously been asked the question 20,000 times before.
"I remember the day he died. It was such a shock because I was so obsessed with him."

"Surfin" by David Munyon, on his album "Acrylic Teepees" released in 1996. David Munyon and fellow musician Dixie appeared in "The Thing Called Love". Thanks Barry

"River" by Ellis Paul, on his album "Stories" released in 1995. Thanks Barry
wav-audio River 26 seconds excerpt.
"The legacy of Oz" by Lou Sweigman.
A song about River, Marilyn Monroe & others. Thanks Barry

wav-audio [613K WAV] "Legacy of Oz" 25 second excerpt.

"River, Run" by the band 'Suddenly, Tammy!'.
It was apparently written between events outside the Viper Room and River being pronounced dead at the hospital but that is unconfirmed. The song features on the album "We Get There When We Do" ©1995. Thanks Tim

"California" by Belinda Carlisle.
A song about River from her 1996 album "A Woman and a Man". Thanks Lena

"River" by Natalie Merchant. Fan-video
This song features on her first solo album entitled "Tiger Lily", released in 1995. It remains one of my favorite tribute songs to River.

In 2015, a re-recording of Tigerlily was released to celebrate the 20 years of the original release of Natalie Merchant's multi-platinum solo debut. Along with the CD is a film with live performances, archival footage, and interviews with musicians, friends and fans. One of them is a live recording of "River", the song dedicated to River Phoenix, who Natalie Merchant had met through her friendship with Michael Stipe. (Added March 7, 2016)
You can see an excerpt of the live version and of the interview in the video below :

"River Phoenix" by Jux County.
From the album "Simon's Eyes" which came out in February 1995.

au-audio [165K AU] "River Phoenix".

"Transcending" by The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Is on their album "One Hot Minute". The album came out in 1995.

"Cry me a River Phoenix" by the Creeping Charlies, written in 1994 from their album "Shot with a Chaser".

wav-audio [810K WAV] "Cry me a River Phoenix" 38 second excerpt.

"Sacred Life" by The Cult.
From the album "The Cult", released in 1994.

"Early nighters (for River Phoenix)", written by Chris Connelly. (lyrics added)
On the album "Shipwreck" which was released in 1994.

Monster, the album by R.E.M. is dedicated to River.
The album came out in 1994. The song "Let me in" was written about both Kurt Cobain and River Phoenix. In addition, Rain Phoenix sings on the track "Bang and Blame". River and R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe were good friends and wrote some songs together, but none had been recorded at the time of River's death.
* "Phoenix Blues" by The Weird.
Was recorded on December 23rd, 1993, only weeks after River's death and released a 7-inch single on Earth Day, 1994. Later, they filmed a music video and released that on Earth Day, 1995.
lyrics and cover scans added

au-audio [120K AU] "Phoenix Blues".

"River Phoenix : Letter to a Young Actor" written by Milton Nascimento.
This song is in Portuguese, sung and written by the Brazilian singer after he had seen River in "The Mosquito Coast". The song is on Milton's 1989 release entitled "Miltons". It's after this song that Milton and River met, and River recorded the spoken piece "Curi Curi" for his next album Txaj. Thanks to Adriana Demjen for the English translation on this page.
au-audio [1053K WAV] "Letter to a young actor" 48 sec. excerpt.

* "E-Bow the Letter" by R.E.M.
The words "For River" can be seen on the sleeve of this single from R.E.M. (the words are in the driving mirror of the car and a little blurry, quite difficult to read but definitely here). The song is believed to be about River. Thanks Katie

"Martinis and Bikinis" by Sam Phillips.
This album released in February 1994 is dedicated to River, who was a friend of Sam's and a fan of her work. Thanks Adriana

"Halloween", by Grant Lee Buffalo.
The song only appears on the double-CD "Storm Hymnal : Gems from the Vault of Grant Lee Buffalo", released in 2001 after the band split, and compiling their most famous songs on one CD, and rarities and unreleased tracks on the other. This tribute to River features on the second. Deezer link to Halloween

"River (My own private Idaho)", by Omar Pedrini.
On the album "Beatnik" released in 1996 by Polygram Italia.
Fan-video on Youtube

Songs mentioning River

The following are not dedicated to River neither tributes but they do mention him so...
* "(He'll Never Be An) Ol' Man River" by T.I.S.M.
On the album "Machiavelli and The Four Seasons", released May 1995. This one isn't really a tribute, but still I thought I should include it.

Also on this T.I.S.M. album, the song "Jung Talent Time" enumerates famous names including River's.

"Hollywood", by Jay-Z.
On the album "Kingdom Come.The song reflects on stardom, addiction to fame and its cost.
(Added August 23, 2007)

"River Phoenix", by Morten Abel.
Norwegian singer Morten Abel Knutsen, known by his stage name Morten Abel, wrote a song called "River Phoenix" in his solo album Some Of Us Will Make It (2006).
(Added March 31, 2011)

Books mentioning River

Projections (a forum for film-makers) - Volume 1. The interview of Gus Van Sant by River Phoenix, originally published in Interview Magazine (March 1991), also features in "Projections (a forum for film-makers)", first volume (in 1992) of an annual study on film-making edited by John Boorman and Walter Donohue, published by Faber.
ISBN 0-571-16729-2

The screenplays of My Own Private Idaho and Even Cowgirls get the Blues by Gus Van Sant are together available as a book, published by Faber in December 1993, and including some pictures of River. The screenplays are as originally written by Gus and make an interesting comparison with the films. There's also an interview with Gus. ISBN 0-57116-920-1

The screenplay of My Own Private Idaho by Gus Van Sant has been released once more, as a pocket book this time, still by Faber, February 2001. Same material as above (Gus' interview, etc), except the "Even cowgirls get the blues" screenplay. ISBN 0-571-20259-4

"Horror Hospital: Unplugged", a graphic novel by Dennis Cooper (who wrote an article in Spin about River's death, see the Magazine Articles page) and Keith Mayerson, chronicles the adventures and struggles of a young lead-singer with love, sex, the music industry and a spiritual visitation from the ghost of River Phoenix.
ISBN: 0965104214 Published in 1996 by Juno Books. Thanks Penelope

Poussières d'anges, a collection of short stories in French by Ann Scott. All of these stories are about loss, each one telling how Ann lived the death of a different person or being, often at a young age, most having been parts of her life, and some others being celebrities, like Joey Ramones or River.
The story about River is rather unusual : Ann Scott tells how she was in her parents house for holidays, and on a October night she heard a kind of howling coming from the forest. Following it, she found an intriguing scene, a pond of foaming water, above which floated the transparent body of a teenager, a boy "with fine features like a fawn or a forest creature", surrounded by a phosphorescent halo. As the air got cold and two trees bended their branches to catch him, she woke up on a cry. In her house. She quietened, went back to sleep. The day after, she turned on TV, and heard in the news the death of Federico Fellini and River Phoenix, with the classical eulogy, excerpts of films, upbringing, interview bits, and a last close-up on his forest creature's face...
I've been unable to figure out if the story was indeed autobiographical, and if she knew about River prior to his death or not.
ISBN: 2-290-31859-0 Published in 2002 by Librio.
* Afterlife as Afterimage: Understanding Posthumous Fame by Steve Jones and Joli Jensen. (published July, 2005)
I only found out 10 years after its release that this book studying how fame lives on after celebrities death, features comments taken from this very website (The River Phoenix Pages). I had not been asked permission about it, never been informed about the book before... Check out on Google, your comment may be in there (and that's why it's always safer to not give your full name on a website : even if the website owner does nothing wrong with it, it doesn't mean it won't be taken by others who just read it). (Added March, 2016)
* Spook Country, by William Gibson (published December, 2007). Not an homage per se, but there has been a lot of mentions of River Phoenix in reviews about this new novel by the author of "Neuromancer". Quoting an article from the Toronto Star : At the beginning of the novel, a computer artist named Alberto Corrales is using GPS to create site-specific displays of virtual reality. Go to the precise spot on the Los Angeles sidewalk where movie star River Phoenix dropped dead of a drug overdose in 1993, put on Alberto's helmet, and suddenly you're looking at poor River, lying face down on the cement. (Added August 23, 2007)
* Hunting with Barracudas: My Life with the Legendary Iris Burton, by Chris Snyder (published May 1, 2009). Chris Snyder wrote his memoirs as executive assistant of Iris Burton, who was for years one of L.A.'s most talent agencies, who worked on the careers of Drew Barrymore, Henry Thomas, the Olsens, River and Joaquin Phoenix, Tori Spelling, Kirsten Dunst, Fred Savage, Corey Feldman, Hilary Duff and more... A subsequent part of the book tells about Burton and Snyder's final days with River Phoenix. (Added March 31, 2011)
* James Franco wrote a poem called "River", written from the point of view of River talking to James. It's published alongsides his other poems in the book Directing Herbert White, published in March 2014. (Added March 7, 2016)
* CRUSH - Writers Reflect on Love, Longing and the Lasting Power of Their First Celebrity Crush by Cathy Alter and Dave Singleton (published April, 2016).
Ed. William Morrow. Washington writers Cathy Alter and Dave Singleton publish a collection of short essays on celebrity crushes. Among many others, James Franco speaks about his crush on River Phoenix. (Added March 7, 2016)

Movies / Videos

* River and Will Wheaton feature in the video accompanying the 1987 re-release of Ben E. King's song "Stand By Me".
*The films Interview with the Vampire and Even Cowgirls get the Blues are dedicated to River.

Graphic Arts

In his series "Shopped Tattoes" of tattooed celebrity portraits, artist Cheyenne Randall photoshopped one picture of River with added tattoes, and one of the Stand By Me young cast including River.

Javier Peréz, artist and gallerist in L.A. and Berlin, painted two series of portraits of River Phoenix that he called Rio and Too many Rivers. The paintings were shown in Berlin at the Grimm Museum in January-February 2012, in an exhibition called One of Ours, alongside James Franco's film "My own private River". (The exhibition title may be an echo to lyrics of Natalie Merchant's song dedicated to River, where the lyrics "he was one of ours" featured). An artist book, Javier Perés: ONE OF OURS, accompanies this exhibition. Designed by Harley Smart, Ryan Thompson & Matt Goerzen, and printed by Anteism at Rubiks Montreal, in a signed and numbered edition of 100 copies.
Interview and pictures in Interview Magazine

"I've learned that if you can't get it all together to accomplish this thing called peace, you do at least your part in your life, because that's where you can truly make an immediate difference." -- River Phoenix

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