Like many music fans, the Young Folks staff was shocked to hear the news on July 20, that Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington had died by suicide in his Los Angeles home.
As the leader of one of the most popular rock bands of the past 20 years, Bennington’s deeply affected millions of listeners, who connected with the themes in his songwriting and music. Over the course of this past weekend, some of TYF’s music writers reflected on Bennington’s life and career.
Brittany Menjivar writes:
As soon as I heard about Chester Bennington’s death, I texted my friends about it in shock. Right away, they replied with a flood of choppy, crestfallen messages. Linkin Park had always been a vital part of the soundtrack to our youth, so the news was particularly difficult for us to comprehend. We had sung along to everything from “Crawling” to “Heavy” together, and some of us had even been hoping to attend Linkin Park’s upcoming show at Jiffy Lube Live.
As the vocalist of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington helped all kinds of listeners—especially young people—to understand and come to terms with their most intense emotions. Sometimes his songs expressed raw frustration—for example, “In the End,” a solemn hit that struck a chord with enough people to reach #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2002. Other times, they offered anthemic proclamations of hope—e.g. One More Light’s “Battle Symphony,” which contains the mantra, “If my armor breaks/I’ll fuse it back together.” Always, though, they discussed complex situations in honest, universal phrases, giving the band’s fans tools they could use to overcome their personal demons. There’s a reason that Will Gould of Creeper, Garrett Russell of Silent Planet, and I found ourselves chatting about our collective appreciation for Hybrid Theory at Warped Tour a few days ago. Bennington made the type of songs that you never truly forget about, even after the passage of years. I’ve felt motivated by his lyrics countless times, and I know that they’ll continue to motivate listeners long after his death.
Camille Espiritu writes:
I’m not too keen when it comes to metal bands but I would honestly be so baffled if music lovers don’t know the band, Linkin Park. They have made a name for themselves in the music industry that changed the way metal rock was appreciated. The band knew how to blend together different sounds such as rap, hip hop and rock together that left you awestruck. Due to their unique sound, their fan base varies and it’s common to find music lovers of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds enjoying Linkin Park’s music.
But being rich and famous isn’t the answer to living a happy life. When I found out that Chester Bennington, Linkin Park’s lead singer, died I was truly speechless. Additionally, finding out that he died from suicide makes you wonder what was going through his head during the time. Here was a man who, in a fan’s point of view, had it all. He was so young and still had a long career ahead of him and yet his sudden passing brought everything to halt. His lyrics, music, and vocals truly changed the game and music will never be the same without him.
Leonel Manzaneres writes:
I was never much of a Linkin Park fan — Hell, i didn’t even like the so-called “Nü Metal” scene for that matter. At 11 or 12, i preferred the technical dexterity of power metal and Prog, or the exciting atmospheres of goth and black metal, and had no interest in hearing some tattooed 25-year old bros talking about how shitty high school was. But there was always something about Chester’s voice that i found fascinating. Take a song like “Crawling” for example: His range, from the half-hushed croon in the verses to that shrieking, throat-shattering monster of a chorus, was always impressive to me, but the true power in his singing resided in the deeper kind of pain he communicated.
A decade later, i was singing in rock bars to deal with college expenses. Nü Metal songs were now old enough to be considered classics, so there was no shortage of Linkin Park requests. So i started to reassess their legacy by way of interpreting these tracks — those vocals are really hard –, but most importantly, by listening to the stories of hundreds of people to whom Chester’s music meant so much more. Those records have helped them deal with family trouble, the pains of growing up, anxiety and of course, depression. That same depression that has sadly taken Chester’s life. But the music, and the enormous power of his words, will be here forever. And it can potentially save so many lives. It already has.
Joey Daniewicz writes:
Around the time Meteora dropped, I was an eleven-year-old posting on BZPower.com, a website about Lego Bionicle. I stumbled across a thread where a user was creating music videos set to promotional CGI Bionicle videos (in retrospect, this was a lot like the “Pts.OF.Athrty.” video I wouldn’t be aware of until years later). He’d done “Kung Fu Fighting,” Alien Ant Farm’s take on “Smooth Criminal,” “Basket Case,” “In Too Deep,” and then a buttload of Linkin Park. Those videos were basically my first real foray into popular music. I’d just load them up on Winamp and watch those videos over and over and over again.
Before The Clash, before Guns N’ Roses, before Sum 41, and before Green Day, Linkin Park became my first favorite band. When everyone else was adapting to mp3 players, I brought a big honking portable CD player to school and listened to Meteora and Hybrid Theory during study hall. It would be a while before I’d learn which songs were popular and which weren’t. It would be a while before I’d even think to realize that there were, in fact, two vocalists and not one. Chester Bennington was the one screaming like he was trying to be heard from the top of a mountain.
Over the years, my Linkin Park fandom would introduce me to terms like “angst,” and I’d swerve over to far less angsty music such as, um, Sum 41 and Green Day. By the time Minutes to Midnight came out, I wasn’t even interested in hearing the album.
With retrospect, Linkin Park’s legacy may change now that said “angst” might not seem like it was intentionally shoring up and exploiting a market of alienated teens but was instead something incredibly genuine. Although their computerized aesthetic was partly responsible, a feature of Linkin Park’s songwriting was that they never felt very personal. It shouldn’t have taken Bennington taking his life to confront Linkin Park’s material in good faith. It wasn’t really fair.
But even if I spent well over a decade treating their music with derision, Linkin Park made me the music fiend I am all these years later. That might be more meaningful than me having simply been a fan.