I'm sitting on the couch in my living room. It's Thursday afternoon. I'm about to get up a brew a cup of coffee.
The news has broken that Chester Bennington from Linkin Park is dead. His death was caused by an apparent suicide.
I was devastated by the numerous deaths that occurred last year and this year in both the worlds of music and film. These two mediums are my lifeblood, my livelihood, and it hits me right in the heart when a person whose made a profound impact on not only myself, but millions the world over, is lost too soon. Whether its cancer, an addiction, or depression, it hurts.
Today was the first time that I had to pull over on the side of the road. I had received the news only ten minutes earlier when walking out of work. I started to bawl my eyes out. I couldn't handle it. This one hit me harder than any has hit me all year. Writing that third sentence above hit me so hard. It felt like a punch to the face, and everything around me feels numb.
How could someone feel this about a person they've never met? Because these people helped us define who we are, whether through their songs, their films, their writing, their art. They were there when we got bullied, their lyrics and their music blaring through our headphones as we walked to class, dreading the thought of encountering that person we had a crush on, or dealing with the people that pushed us down in the hall and called us names. They were there when you picked up a guitar for the first time, and you tried to emulate the noise you were hearing from a broken speaker system or a second-hand set of iPod headphones, because you thought, "fuck. I want to be just like them." They were there when you sat alone, daydreaming about getting out of whatever spot you were in, whatever obstacle you were facing in your life.
In the last days of eighth grade, a friend of mine named Joshua came up to me and we started chatting before our English class. He surprised me with a small gift, one that I can never repay him for, no matter how hard I try. It was a copy of a CD (yes, those still exist) called Minutes To Midnight. I knew who Linkin Park was, mainly because they were headlining a tour I was going to see that summer that my favorite band was going to be playing, called Projekt Revolution.
While my singing did start with other bands, Chester Bennington gave me the courage to push myself vocally. It was the first time I had ever heard screaming in music. It was the first time I had ever heard someone switch between such grittiness and cleanliness, while penning heartfelt lyrics that resonated with moments in my life. I nearly dropped my fork when I was listening to "Given Up", one day before school when I was having breakfast. I lost it when I saw him play live and hold the same scream for nearly forty seconds. I thought, "how the fuck can someone do that? There's no way that was real!" I listened to "No More Sorrow" every day before I went to work as a camp counselor, my stomach in knots as I waited to see the girl who would become my first love and first girlfriend at the time. The song calmed me down, for whatever reason. My friends and I tried to cover a number of songs from Meteora, and any time I hear that album, I'm immediately taken back to every feeling, every memory, every thought that I was going through at that time in my life. It's fucking crazy that a song can do that.
I got to see Chester perform six separate times over the course of nearly a decade: Projekt Revolution in 2007, BFD 2010 (the day before I graduated high school), once at HP Pavilion (now SAP Center) in San Jose, Live 105's Not So Silent Night at Oracle Arena in Oakland (where I was fortunate enough to photograph their show), and once at BFD in 2013 when he fronted Stone Temple Pilots. No matter how the sound system was in the venue, no matter what the condition, he was immaculate. It made me want to get up and do exactly what he was doing. He may have struggled with demons, but when he hit that stage, he was fearless, charismatic, and one of the best frontman I've ever seen.
People give Linkin Park a lot of shit for changing up their sound. Would it have been awesome to hear them do an album like Hybrid Theory or Meteora (my personal favorite) again? Absolutely. But bands progress. They change their sound, whether we want them to or not, and its our job as fans to cherish the material they put out, and try to follow along and understand their journey. The reason I bring this particular aspect of the conversation up is because today made me realize how harsh people can be. I have admittedly bashed bands for changing their sound, and stupidly so. I can not like a song. There's nothing wrong with that. But since the day that their album came out, I noticed an unreasonable amount of shit-bashing, people going out of their way to say "hey you fucking suck, go back to your old sound, you sound like pop garbage" or the numerous other comments that I saw while scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
We need to remember that, even if their job comes with the territory of receiving feedback from a fanbase that may or may not like a piece of music or a collection of music they put out, there are people on the other end of that Facebook page or Twitter handle. People exactly like you and me, who have a job, a family, and responsibilities. I can't help but wonder after this morning if this was a contributing factor to his mental health, and it's important that we are open with one another, reaching out and talking about our feelings. One simple conversation could save someone's life.
Chester, wherever you are in the universe now: from the bottom of my heart, thank you for giving me the courage to sing. I wish that I was able to tell you this in person. We never met, but it has been an honor and a privilege to watch you perform. If there is a heaven, they've gained an angel with a beautiful voice. Rest easy, my friend.
PLEASE READ: If you ever feel like you are struggling with depression, PTSD, suicidal thoughts, reach out. Speak to a friend or a family member. If you are in a situation that does not allow you to do so, please reach out to any of the following crisis hotlines:
Text service in USA: 741741
Depression Hotline: 630-482-9696*
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255
Veterans Crisis Line: 800-273-8255
Rape and Sexual Assault: 800-656-4673
Domestic Violence: 800-799-7233
Teen Dating Violence: 866-331-9474
Trevor Lifeline (The Trevor Project): 866-488-7386
LGBT/Sexuality Support: 800-246-7743*
Eating Disorders: 630-577-1330*
Grief Counseling Hotline: 415-499-1195
Runaway Safeline: 800-789-2929
Exhale (Post-Abortion): 866-439-4253
*=hotlines that are not available 24 hours a day.
You can always find support from the following mental health organizations: To Write Love on Her Arms (www.twloha.com), HeartSupport (www.heartsupport.com), and Hope For The Day (www.hftd.org).
While we are a music publication, you can always drop us a line. We are here, and we will always listen.