The late River Phoenix‘s mother and sister are paying tribute to the Stand by Me actor, who died of a drug overdose at 23 years old on October 31, 1993.
The actor and musician died outside of Los Angeles’ Viper Room nightclub, which at the time was co-owned by his friend Johnny Depp.
Arlyn “Heart” Phoenix posted a photo of her son to social media Tuesday, noting in part, “He was a voice for the voiceless and had the courage to use his celebrity to make a difference.”
Heart included the lyrics to a song River penned when he was 5; she says he wrote it after witnessing a child being bullied.
“Whether it was for human rights, animal rights, women’s rights, racial justice, environmentalism or any wrong that needed to be righted, he was there,” she continued.
Quoting River’s sister Rain, Heart continued, “‘River was not about telling people how to live their lives, he was about doing his part and encouraging others through his example, through his art. It’s just who he was as a person, his generosity, his spirit, his compassion.'”
Rain posted her own video message, showing photos of the star along with artwork people have made of him over the years. In a voice-over, the 50-year-old introduced herself and noted, “He cared so deeply about the planet, the animals and all people.”
She continued, “He really believed that one person could make a difference,” before showing a video clip of River saying, “It’s the smaller things that make the bigger things all the more rewarding. We’re all in this together.”
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