I’ll always remember July 20th.
It was my day off from work. I slept in late, talked with my mom on the phone for a minute, and browsed Facebook for a few moments before I planned to fire up another session of Fallout 4.
And then I saw it.
One of my friends shared a post announcing Chester Bennington was dead, an apparent suicide.
I didn’t believe it. I scoured social media, searching for the revelation that it was some internet troll’s tasteless joke. I never found it. Eventually, his bandmate Mike Shinoda confirmed the news about an hour later via Twitter.
Three days later, I still don’t really believe he’s gone. I remember back in 2000, one of the first CD’s my aunt ever bought me was ‘Hybrid Theory,’ and I absolutely adored it. I was eight. As I went through middle and high school, Linkin Park evolved as I did. Growing up listening to their music and hearing them evolve their songs in much the same way as I grew and became more mature over time helped me through a lot of rough times, and still does.
When they first came onto the scene of rock music, their signature sound was a mass of angst and rage, bundled into a hit album. My teenage self identified with that a lot, as did many of my peers. I never really felt that I fit in with any one social group, and for years “Somewhere I Belong” was my secret favorite song.
As LP’s sound grew up, so did I. You could tell that their music was becoming about more than just being an angry outcast, especially starting with ‘Minutes to Midnight.’ They sang about moving past things they used to think were holding them back. They sang about politics. They sang about lost love.
As their repertoire evolved and grew, I was experiencing many of these things for the first time. One of my all-time favorite rap tracks is still “Hands Held High.”
Over time, more people complained with each new album that the band had sold out. I began to be less public with the fact that they were (and remain to be) one of my favorite bands. I’ll admit, oftentimes it took me more than the first listen to love some albums, but something I always really appreciated about Linkin Park was that each album of theirs is a little different, and you can see how they’ve grown as a band and as individuals over the nearly 20 years they’ve been putting out music.
I always wondered how it felt to music lovers when icons like Jimi Hendrix, Randy Rhoads, Tupac, or Jim Croce died. They were all musicians who died long before their time, and I’m a big fan of their work. Before July 20th, I was grateful I’d never had to experience the premature death of a musician I adored. Until I did.
I felt the need to write something longer than a short social media blurb in a more formal manner because of how much this celebrity death more than any other (besides maybe Robin Williams) has affected me. Music, movies, and a solid group of friends and family have never failed to pull me through my rougher times, and so like Robin, it really distresses me that someone I admire had also wrestled with the idea that for whatever reason, they weren’t good enough.
My favorite Linkin Park song is one I listen to whenever I have a difficult day, and don’t feel like reaching out to someone to brighten my own mood. It’s the last track off their album ‘A Thousand Suns,’ titled “The Messenger.” I always took listening to it to be like Chester and the band speaking out to me, and telling me what I needed to hear in that tough time, because as the Messenger Chester Bennington reminded me:
“Remember you’re loved, and you always will be.”
Thanks for the years of music and memories. I won’t forget you.