A Farewell to Chester Bennington

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I grew up on Linkin Park; it was almost inevitable in the late 90s and early 2000s. For those of us born around the year 1990 who gravitated toward heavy music, Linkin Park was inescapable – and not in a bad way. My young memories, during a formative age, consist of myriad great and low moments, all coupled with my Hybrid Theory CD. Small wonder, then, I feel so gutted at the untimely death of Chester Bennington.

I was raised in a conservative Christian home; my dad was the pastor of a protestant church. Our music was strictly regulated, and while I would often sneak burned CD’s into my discman I knew I wasn’t allowed, Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory was one of the few albums I was allowed to own legitimately (they never swore). I still remember my father’s comment about the album: “It’s all depressing, but if that’s what you want to listen to, it’s fine.” In hindsight, his words carry more weight than I could have known.

My first introduction to Linkin Park came even earlier. My church’s youth leader loaned my brothers and I Hybrid Theory – he was in the habit of loaning us albums we couldn’t afford (see the above “preacher” note; we had little money). At the time, I was yearning for the heaviest music I could find (the benefit of the internet didn’t exist at that time, and we couldn’t have afforded it if it did), and bands like Linkin Park, P.O.D., and Limp Bizkit were scratching the itch. I devoured Hybrid Theory; it’s hard to say if there’s an album I know more intimately. To this day, I can sing along with every song, every lyric – most I can even jam along with on guitar.

It was the soundtrack to my grade 7; during the summers preceding and following, I remember playing certain songs on repeat while attending the high school (so cool!) basketball camp. I listened to it while at my cousin’s place, playing Super Mario Bros; I listened to it most days on the way to school during my hour long, rural bus ride. Never did I find it depressing, though the lyrical content was introspective and bleak. It inspired me – it made me feel full, complete. Heavy music spoke to me in a way that nothing else at the time did, and Linkin Park was at the top of my list.

Fast forward too few years: July 20, 2017. My post-college metal had band covered a Linkin Park song for fun. I’d written an article about the merits of Reanimation. And Chester Bennington hangs himself, seemingly out of the blue. My adult self, coupled with my young self, is surprisingly devastated. Why? I haven’t been a fan of Linkin Park for years, preferring occasional singles and a revisit to their early work to anything produced within the last ten years. Yet I’ve never lost the childhood affinity I felt for Linkin Park; if they weren’t a part of my life, doubtless I would not be the person I am now. A piece of who I am has irrevocably changed; to say nothing for the people directly affected by Bennington’s untimely death.

What can I say that hasn’t been already said a million times, and better? Suicide is one of the saddest things in the world. It would be easy to discuss Linkin Park lyrics in retrospect, analysing their obvious exploration of depression from the beginning of Linkin Park’s career to the present day; yet I am reminded of childhood me, listening to the words my father labelled “depressing” – these words were not the words of depression, but of overcoming. Exploring the dark side of modern life, coping with the existential inanity of our so-called “first-world-problems” gave me hope as a young man. I wasn’t alone; none of us were alone. My heroes experienced the same sadness, the same uncertainty, the same confusion. It’s a curious juxtaposition, to be sure. Were I able to explain the hopefulness found in bleak art and its positive impact on the individual, doubtless this article would be much deeper. As it stands, it’s simply a child shocked at the loss of a hero.

A friend of mine and I were discussing Bennington’s death, and both of us remarked how surprised we were at how deeply it affected us. The childhood impact of music lives intangibly in the adult; another testament to the importance of art during the individual’s young years. I’ve been playing Hybrid Theory on repeat for the past few days, and while the music has definitely changed in my adult mind, the inner child who lives strong in my being is transported to those early days, hoping, continuing, stronger because of this music that touched my life at the right time in the right place. And for that child, I thank Chester Bennington; I hope he has found peace.

WHAT IS A POET? AN UNHAPPY MAN WHO HIDES DEEP ANGUISH IN HIS HEART, BUT WHOSE LIPS ARE SO FORMED THAT WHEN THE SIGH AND CRY PASS THROUGH THEM, IT SOUNDS LIKE LOVELY MUSIC . . . AND PEOPLE FLOCK AROUND THE POET AND SAY: ‘SING AGAIN SOON’ – THAT IS, ‘MAY NEW SUFFERINGS TORMENT YOUR SOUL BUT YOUR LIPS BE FASHIONED AS BEFORE, FOR THE CRY WOULD ONLY FRIGHTEN US, BUT THE MUSIC, THAT IS BLISSFUL.’ — SØREN KIERKEGAARD

 


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