Last week, Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park and formerly of Stone Temple Pilots, committed suicide. He was 41.
Unlike the death of Chris Cornell, losing Bennington hit me. I have come to deeply appreciate the talents of Cornell after the fact, but before he passed I hadn’t developed much interest in grunge altogether. That has changed. I’ve developed that bond with his music.
But Linkin Park? I grew up with them, man. So, I want to share a few thoughts on Bennington, the band and their effect on me.
And I know, I may end up failing too
But I know, you were just like me
With someone disappointed in you
Growing up is hard. I began to realize at a certain age that I had expectations for my life that ultimately were not achieved. I began to realize that society had expectations for me — as a young male — that I did not achieve. And so it became that I felt like a disappointment, particularly in high school, in the moments I didn’t block it out.
I’m not casting aspersions at anyone or even society, but rather explaining why I could identify with those words. It wasn’t as if anyone was directly accusing me of anything — oh, no, I gladly create my own demons. I could just visualize someone saying those words and realizing that they, too, were just like me.
With someone disappointed in them too.
I know what it takes to move on
I know how it feels to lie
All I want to do
Is trade this life for something new
Holding on to what I haven’t got
Waiting for the End
By now, I’m older. This song came out in 2010, but I didn’t gravitate toward it until the fall of 2014. Those were not good days. I was a mess.
It was in those days I learned what heartbreak was like, a lesson I would learn again. But for the first time, I experienced the shock, pain and utter sense of loneliness that comes with it. There was no relief in sight other than the passage of time, and make no mistake, time healed the wounds.
But during the storm, it is hard to trust that the winds and rain will die down. All I wanted was what I did not have, and so because I couldn’t have, I needed to trade this life for something new. In a sense, I did — I turned deeper into faith in Christ than ever before.
But it hurt. Chester’s lyrics and vocals helped.
I don’t like my mind right now
Stacking up problems that are so unnecessary
I feel this within myself so often that it’s almost a given. I know I will do this — I will start a small fire of doubt and spend days tossing logs on it. Reading those words — hearing Chester sing them — isn’t a simple process for me. Those words are real, autobiographical. For him and me.
Bennington was a fantastic singer, powerful and melodic, able to handle the darkest metal screams and softest pop lines. He’s a fit in anything from “Black” to “Enter Sandman” to “Rolling In The Deep.” His range is often overlooked because of the way Linkin Park is viewed: gimmicky. And, yeah they were. Rap-metal was gimmicky, let’s not kid ourselves, but the band did evolve. “Hybrid Theory”, the band’s wildly successful debut, sounds nothing like “A Thousand Suns” (out in 2010) which sounds nothing like “One More Light”, the band’s presumably final album, out in May.
The mechanism by which they could evolve wasn’t exclusively Bennington (Mike Shinoda deserves a nod, for sure), but he was the engine. Give a band a vocalist like him and let them go. It’ll work.
And it did.