We will miss you Chester Bennington[1976 – 2017]
Rock music thrives on an intensity of spirit and thought. Often enough, this leads rock musicians to live on the edge; experiment, switch it up and fight their resulting demons. Rock fans listen to their favorite artist pouring his or her heart out and connect with the pain translated to music. Seldom do we realize that there is an actual, breathing person expressing this pain; that the struggle is real and someone is constantly going through it. Caught up somewhere between fulfilling the demands of music labels and being hounded by his or her fans, the artist chokes. Somehow the expression of his or her internal torment becomes the only ‘productive’ thing about them in the public eye, and they end up becoming alienated from the world.
Depression is directly caused by alienation and the frustration of not being heard. Sure, singers and musicians are constantly ‘listened’ to by concert-goers and record-buyers, but are rarely ever heard. Their larger than life existence can overpower what is real in their life, which contributes to the depression. Rock and roll has lost far too many artists to this; Kurt Cobain, Scot Weiland and, very recently, Chris Cornell being just some of the names amongst them. It is strange that only after these artists succumb to their demons do fans begin connecting the dots of depression in the work they have left behind.
Chester Bennington too has joined this catastrophic list of artists lost to mental illness and alienation. Known as the lead vocalist and songwriter in the alternative metal band Linkin Park, the forty one year old singer was found in his California home hanging from the ceiling. The world is no stranger to Bennington’s pain; his piercing voice and heart-wrenching lyrics have gained him almost two decades of accolades. Yet, his suicide (confirmed by the Los Angeles Police Coroner) has come as a horrific shock to his fans, band mates, friends and family alike. Bennington is succeeded by a wife and six children while Linkin Park’s on-going tour has been cancelled. Bennington’s is a loss the world is still healing from.
A Tortured Existence
While it is true that Bennington had a personal life which was different from the public eye, he had made many of his torments known. He had a tumultuous childhood which began with his parents’ divorce followed by being sexually abused by an older friend for a number of years. To combat the shame and confusion of this exploitation, Bennington began doing hardcore drugs between the ages of thirteen and sixteen including LSD and opium.
The habit returned to him again in the form of alcoholism years later, particularly after divorcing his first wife and he was only able to break free from it with his band members’. Later in his life, Bennington embraced being rid of drugs with pride, projecting the dark side of drugs in his lyrics. As he told Rolling Stone Magazine in 2002; “I found myself not saying no to other things, things that would have made me another rock ‘n’ roll cliché. It’s easy to fall into that thing – ‘poor, poor me. That’s where songs like ‘Crawling’ come from: I can’t take myself. But that song is about taking responsibility for your actions. I don’t say ‘you’ at any point. It’s about how I’m the reason that I feel this way. There’s something inside me that pulls me down.” –Chester Bennington, Rolling Stone 2002
Chris Cornell’s suicide at the beginning of 2017 also left a deep effect on Bennington, who was his close friend. The two were Godfathers to one another’s children and had a bond which extended beyond music. Bennington performed a moving version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah on Cornell’s funeral service and dedicated the title track of Linkin Park’s latest album, “One More Light” to him. In an open letter to his deceased friend he said; “Your voice was joy and pain, anger and forgiveness, love and heartache all wrapped up into one… Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life.”
The chorus of One More Light, in Bennington’s emotional voice says “Who cares if one more light goes out? / Well I do.” Perhaps what is even more harrowing is the fact that Bennington killed himself on what would have been Cornell’s fifty-third birthday. However, indulging in these parallels is fruitless, since there is no suicide note proving the artists’ motive in taking this drastic action. All we can do in our capacity is value the person who lived and the art that he has left behind.
A Ray of hope
Despite his fair share of demons, Bennington was a goodly soul, always compassionate, boisterous and projecting positivity where he went. It was almost as if the only platform for his dark thoughts was his songs, and other than that he was bright as the day. Limp Bizkit’s Fred Dust states, “He had a way of making anyone he spoke to feel heard, understood and significant. His aura and spirit were contagious and empowering. Often those types of people have so much pain and torture inside that the last thing they want is to contaminate or break the spirit of others.”—Variety, 2017
Bennington was a positive influence on his younger listeners, by being vocal about the dangers of drug use, about the fact that it ‘isn’t cool’. He was magnanimous to his peers, never one to miss an opportunity to compliment them. He denounced the raucous rock and roll lifestyle and lived a constructive, normal life with his children and wife; an active father and a loving husband.
Always known for wearing his heart on his sleeve, Bennington has left a void that would be difficult to fill. One is torn between mourning his loss and celebrating the beautiful career and life he has lived: We Will Miss You Chester Bennington, you wonderful, imperfect, human soul. Thank you for your bravery and honesty. May you rest in power.