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One More Light

Reflecting on the passing of Chester Bennington

I remember the day well. It was a sunny Thursday evening at Cutty Sark where I treated myself to a pizza at Zizzi’s after work. As I flicked through my Facebook feed, I recall the dumbstruck feeling when reports circulated online about Chester Bennington’s suicide. At first, I thought it was a prank; sadly celebrity deaths are often faked to generate a buzz. But this wasn’t a joke. Quickly the news spread through official news outlets and I left the restaurant weak in the knees, completely numbed to what had happened. I was in disbelief.

My journey with Linkin Park

Chester Bennington was the frontman for Linkin Park, a hugely successful Californian band that doesn’t need an introduction. For the past decade I’ve connected closely their music which has unquestionably shaped the person I am today, as those that know me well will attest to. Their unique mash-up of hip-hop, rock, metal and pop resulted in a distinct sound which is always underpinned with a heartfelt message. Perhaps most unique of all though was Chester’s versatile voice . His piercing screams brought immense power to the lead vocals, yet his angel voice also delivered soothing, emotional tones to their music.

Linkin Park, with Chester Bennington on the left

In this sense, Chester’s vocal versatility summed up Linkin Park’s approach to writing music. Each album has been a bold step into the unknown; an entirely new creative endeavour. Most adults my age recall Linkin Park’s original albums Hybrid Theory and Meteora featuring the classic rap-rock combination between Chester and Mike Shinoda. Since then, each of the band’s subsequent albums have evolved into different musical experiences, from the experimental electronic vibes in A Thousand Suns (my personal favourite) to the raw metal tones in The Hunting Party. Their music became a catapult for me to explore new musical genres that I would have previously shunned.

Chester Bennington

Linkin Park’s live performances took the rock concert experience to an entirely new level. My first chance to see them live on 29th Jan 08 at the O2 Arena remains the best night of my life. Despite standing on the furthest seat away from the stage, it was here where I was taken aback by the sheer power of Chester’s voice, which isn’t truly reflected in any of their recorded music. The intense energy the band puts into their live performances is unmatched by any other in my opinion. After each of the subsequent three concerts I was lucky enough to attend (some of my own videos here, and here) I left with a completely shot voice, cramped legs, but ultimately an even greater affection for the band.

It’s been a decade long journey with the band, one which we’ve grown up together. As time passed, angry vocals made way to more mellow songs which these days I identify with more, yet their dynamic musical style hasn’t changed the underlying lyrical themes. Listening to their music was always a re-assuring experience when my life threw up difficult hurdles. It helped me overcome my own insecurities as I grew older, and still does today.

Released earlier this year, their most recent album One More Light was another intensely emotional album but a lyrical masterclass. It grew to become one of my favourites. I remember endlessly singing along with tracks like Talking to Myself and Sorry For Now in my morning shower, on 3AM walks home and even beneath shooting stars in the sea in Zanzibar. The latter being just a fortnight before Chester’s passing.

Trying to move on

Since Chester’s death, I’ve found it difficult to listen to anything other than Linkin Park’s entire music catalogue. Especially in the immediate aftermath, the pain and suffering described in lyrics felt so much more pronounced – it was as though I was listening to songs for the first time. One More Light has become especially poignant. The album now has haunting undertones of being Chester’s goodbye note.

The initial anger and betrayal that I felt when I first learned of Chester’s suicide subsided as I realised more about the mental health issues he had engulfed him. For someone who often gave the impression of being carefree and happy, initially I couldn’t reconcile how he suffered inside despite having all the money, friends and affection anyone could ever ask for. In hindsight, I suppose his traumatic childhood past never really left him.

For those who are or know someone who’s suffering mental anguish, it’s imperative they reach out to a professional to seek support. Mental health matters as much as physical health. No-one should live in pain and they deserve full support to overcome their inner demons.

As a long-time fan this has been a difficult rollercoaster of emotions, but it doesn’t compare to the pain for Chester’s family and the rest of the band. I doubt even they know how to move on or what their future holds. Mike, who’s hip-hop style I’m a huge admirer of, showed enormous courage to lead the band’s recent tribute concert. As painful as it is without Chester, I think he can excel as the sole frontman, but I’ll support any decision the band make.

Mike Shinoda with Chester

For someone whose voice I’ve heard more than my own parents, Chester’s death is still hurting me 4 months later. I had only a handful of celebrity idols, and he was one of them. Even today I can’t bring myself to move on and face the reality that his unique voice is now absent from the world. All I can do is listen to Linkin Park’s songs over and over, and somehow try embark on a new musical chapter in my life.

When my time comes

Forget the wrong that I’ve done

Help me leave behind some

Reasons to be missed

And don’t resent me

When you’re feeling empty

Keep me in your memory

Leave out all the rest.

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