Gustavo Cerati Biography Recounts Rock Icon's Last Hours Before Coma in Heartbreaking Detail

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Gustavo Cerati performs in Chicago, Illinois, July 29, 2003.

Out the same week in which Gustavo Cerati would have turned 56, Cerati: La Biografía (Cerati: The Biography) by journalist Juan Morris takes an in-depth look at the Argentine rock god’s extraordinary life and legacy.

Consisting of in-depth research and interviews with those closest to Cerati conducted over the past four years, the biography aims to depict “what he felt, if he believed in God, what were his obsessions, fears, passions, weaknesses, and how all of those things in some way defined his life,” the author, who works for Rolling Stone Argentina, tells music site enremolinos.com.

An exclusive excerpt of the book published in El Clarín recounts Cerati’s last heartbreaking hours of consciousness after a 2010 concert in Caracas, where he suffered a stroke and later fell into a coma, a state in which he would remain until his eventual death on Sept. 4, 2014.

The lengthy passage describes how, a half-hour after that show at the Universidad Simón Bolivar in Caracas, the last stop of Cerati’s Fuerza Natural tour throughout Latin America and the U.S., the Soda Stereo frontman seemed “content and tired, starting to relax after a month and a half of airplanes, hotels, parties and concerts.”

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The show went off without a hitch, and after a post-concert meal at the venue, the band gathered for a group photo, “as they routinely did after a show.” That’s when sound engineer Gustavo Taverna noticed Cerati “seemed pale,” with an “unfocused gaze.” Taverna asked him if he felt OK, but “it was as if the muscles in his jaw couldn’t find the words.” After taking the photo with the band, Cerati “walked back to his dressing room, confused,” and Taverna, along with the band’s visual artist Nicolas Bernaudo, followed him to check up on him. They found the Soda Stereo frontman “laying on a couch, with his shirt unbuttoned and his mouth semi-open.”

The excerpt continues, describing how “two young” and “frazzled” paramedics came to Cerati’s dressing room and how he was eventually transported in an ambulance to the Centro Médico Docente La Trinidad for urgent care around midnight. In the ambulance, the author writes, “Gustavo still seemed to be experiencing how the software of his consciousness was changing; he was lying down on the stretcher with his eyes open but with a lost look.”

And this is where the book starts to narrate a series of inefficiencies in the country’s medical system -- such as the lack of electricity in the emergency wing of that first hospital -- that may or may not have contributed to the deterioration of his state.

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According to the excerpt, Cerati was transported to another medical center in the Venezuelan capital for tests and was then brought back to La Trinidad hospital, where he was placed in the presidential suite. But the diagnosis took longer than expected, the author notes. “At four in the morning they got a hold of a cardiologist who told them he would only be able to come at 10 [a.m.].”

According to the excerpt, Cerati slept a little and woke up that morning “conscious but confused;” he could not speak and the entire right side of his body seemed paralyzed. Taverna assisted his friend in making his way to the restroom, where Cerati “looked at himself in the mirror.” Taverna later also fed Cerati a small meal, and turned on the television at his request. Cerati was apparently able to operate the remote control on his own and settled on the sci-fi film Dark City, which, ironically, is about a man whose own brain betrays him. The protagonist is accused of a crime but who suffers from amnesia and doesn’t remember what happened.

Things took a turn for the worse after that second night at the hospital, the author writes. Nurses found Cerati shaking that next morning, eyes squinting, with his head in his left arm, “as if in uncontrollable pain.” After multiple tests the feared diagnosis was in: Cerati “had suffered a cerebrovascular accident [stroke] and his brain was so swollen that it was pressing up against his skull.”