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“There’s something inside me that pulls beneath the surface
This lack of self-control I fear is never ending
Controlling I can’t seem
To find myself again
My walls are closing in.”
Prophetic words? Maybe. One thing’s for certain though, the torment and anguish Chester Bennington experienced translated into some of the most emotionally captivating songs of our time. Often haunted by the success of their first album, Hybrid Theory, Linkin Park continued to evolve and interpret the progression of their lives into an ever-transforming style and message and Chester’s lyrics were an essential component of that journey.
Behind the music was a group of high school buddies, Mike Shinoda, Rob Bourdon, and Brad Delson. Chester only joined the group a few years later. Not long into their existence Linkin Park rose to prominence and at the forefront of this circle was Chester, a bullied teenager, with a troubled past, unbeknownst to the even the closest in his life, he was sexually abused as a child and young teen. These demons never seemed to let go of their grip, and years later this bright young man not only became a rock god, father of six and beloved husband, but also took his life tragically.
Chester always seemed like the anti-rock vocalist. Skinny guy with glasses and a shaved head. Timid personality. Insightful commentary. Watching videos of him experiencing everyday life on his wife, Talinda Bennington’s, Instagram account, you get the feeling he was just a regular dude. But in the little exchanges with his family I find it hard to reconcile the raw and painful lyrics he bellows on stage with the smiling family man. In One More Light, a personal favourite, the lyrics speak.
“Should’ve stayed, were there signs, I ignored?
Can I help you, not to hurt, anymore?
We saw brilliance, when the world, was asleep
There are things that we can have, but can’t keep
If they say
Who cares if one more light goes out?
In a sky of a million stars
It flickers, flickers
Who cares when someone’s time runs out?
If a moment is all we are
We’re quicker, quicker
Who cares if one more light goes out?
Well I do”
Was he so candid in his writing that we had become accustomed to his pain, or was this his real talent, the ability to highlight the audience’s insecurities and rather force us to be introspective instead of analytical of the source? Either way, in hindsight, if Chester was speaking from the heart, one could follow his internal struggles with tragic insight.
It is all a thumb suck really, I doubt anybody will ever really know what he was going through. A life intertwined with substance abuse and sobriety, depression and clarity, what matters now is the music. He was a generous musician. I unfortunately never attended a Linkin Park concert, much to my own dismay, but countless footage I’ve watched over the years show how Chester interacted with his fans during his performance. You can see the eyes of the people he connected with light up. And instantaneously you see Chester’s feelings reciprocated. Always giving it everything he had, even in seemingly mellow acoustic performances. Eyes squeezed together, veins bulging on his neck and hands clenching the mic. He loved what he did. His passion for music was evident.
I don’t want to be verbose about this tragedy, over analysing a life already lived. All I still want to add is that Chester’s actions once gain highlight the state many of us find ourselves in, but more than that, it shows what a great impact an honest artist can make.
The out pouring from fans and admirers of his work the world over showcases his power. Knowing you’re not alone in a seemingly dark pit helps. It is often the only light at the end of a seemingly endless tunnel. It’s a sad reality that this very phenomenon was unable to save the creator from his own darkness. As I close my eyes now I can hear Mike Shinoda string a couple of rhymed sentences together and then hear Chester erupt with, “The light on the horizon was brighter yesterday, shadows floating over, skies begin to fade. You said it was forever but then it slipped away. Standing at the end of the final masquerade”.
RIP Mr Bennington, we thank you for your honesty, your ability to point the pen inward and the sharing of your gift. We miss you.
Follow Rudi on Twitter.