Heading back to my seat at blink-182’s show last night, I could tell something was wrong. My mum sat there, clutching her phone and crying her eyes out, pain etched across her features. My heart sprang into my throat and my thoughts jumped directly to our dog, Charlie. Mum didn’t want to tell me what had happened, because she didn’t want to ruin the night for me. But I thought I knew what she was going to say; I’d already started to come to terms with it.
Then she said four words which tilted the world on its axis. Four words that can never be taken back. Four words which put the world into perspective.
“Chester Bennington’s killed himself.”
Tears are welling in my eyes as I write that, a stark contrast to my reaction last night. I could feel myself shutting down. Instantly, a nauseous feeling sprang into my gut, the blood draining from my face. “No,” I said simply. “No!” I was convinced it was a hoax. The video for ‘Talking to Myself’ had been released merely two hours before. It must be some kind of sick joke. I refused to believe it.
And then Mike Shinoda confirmed it via Twitter. The undeniable proof; the music world had changed forever. One of the most influential and inspiring frontmen of our time, gone.
“In the end, it doesn’t even matter.”
Sitting cross-legged on the sofa with my forehead resting against the back, I concentrated on the music playing behind me. “Uh… Evanescence?”
Mum laughed. “Correct!”
Flicking through the music stations and testing my knowledge was becoming a regular game for us. Sometimes I’d surprise her and know songs that she didn’t think I’d ever heard before. Nine times out of ten, I was wrong. But there was one band I’d always get right.
“Oh, this is In The End! By Linkin Park!”
I loved the way that the singer and the rapper had such distinctive voices. The way the chorus was so soaring, and then it kicked back into the verse and it had such a powerful beat. It was memorable, it was different. There was nothing else like it.
I can’t remember how old I was, but it was before I was a teenager. Before I discovered Lostprophets, My Chemical Romance and Funeral For a Friend, and dived headfirst down the rabbit hole into the rock music scene. It’s as though Linkin Park were there before time began.
“Tired of being what you want me to be.”
If you ever went through an angsty teenage phase, you related to ‘Numb’ by Linkin Park. It was the anthem of a disenfranchised and broken generation. With high expectations on your shoulders and societal pressures surrounding you, your teenage years are the hardest.
Every time I hear the opening chords to this song, shivers run down my spine. It instantly transports me back to a time when things were difficult. I’m not saying that things are easy now, but they were harder then. The endless monotony of the school day, hateful venom spat from cruel mouths: music was an escape from that. Linkin Park were one of the easiest bands to run to, because it was obvious that Chester had been through things, but he had survived.
I don’t know if I would have survived without Linkin Park. It’s something that I haven’t thought about in a long time, but today it seems glaringly obvious.
Released fourteen years ago, the lyrics to every song on ‘Meteora’ are still relevant. It’s particularly painful to note that today.
“Keep me in your memory.”
I can’t physically listen to ‘Leave Out All the Rest’ anymore.Right now, more than anything, I want to. It’s a fitting tribute to a man who was the voice of a generation and had the talent to prove it. But it has different connotations for me.
Back in 2008, my grandmother died. Growing up, my family situation wasn’t typical, so I lived with my granny and grandad. It felt as though I’d lost my mother, and the pain was wrenching. I couldn’t speak to my mother about it, because she was suffering too, so I withdrew into myself, becoming a hollow shell.
Then I heard this song. It summed up everything I was feeling, and it helped me remember Granny for who she was, rather than just the fact that she was gone. Tears are streaming down my face just thinking about it: the sadness of losing her; the tragic loss of Chester’s life.
I’m lucky, because I saw Linkin Park live twice. I experienced the roaring vitriol of ‘Faint’, the tenderness of ‘Shadow in the Day’, the unbearable catchiness of ‘The Catalyst’. THAT extended note at the end of ‘Given Up’. I saw Chester Bennington in his element, strolling the stage as if he was born there.
As if he was always going to be there.
That’s what I can’t get my head around. It’s impossible to comprehend a world without Chester Bennington in it. Linkin Park have influenced so many bands. They’ve explored more genres than I can count, refusing to make the same album twice. Yes, their new album received criticism, but you could never accuse them of resting on their laurels. They unflinchingly pushed boundaries, refusing to be trapped in the nu-metal box.
There’s never going to be another Linkin Park.
I’m angry. At Chester, for leaving his wife and his six children. I’m angry at the music industry, for not acting upon the warning signs, for not hearing Chester’s cry for help. At the world, for being so brutal towards an album which obviously meant a lot to him.
I almost went to see Linkin Park at the beginning of the month, but I dismissed them. A band who’ve shaped my existence, who’ve made me who I am today, snubbed. I couldn’t see the effect that they’d had on me until it was too late. and now I’m filled with regret. Why couldn’t I see how much they meant to me?
You really don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.
It’s going to be a while until I can listen to Linkin Park again. But I’m grateful to the band, and to Chester, for producing such wonderful music. For using his demons to create something positive, to reach out and help people across the world.
Thank you, Chester Bennington. I hope you find your peace.
If you’re struggling, talk to someone:
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Crisis text line: Text “START” to 741741
Samaritans: 116 123, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Lifeline Aotearoa: 0800 543354, or their Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828865