A Tribute To Chester Bennington

Chester Bennington STP
Chester Bennington performing as a part of Stone Temple Pilots at the re-opening of Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ in September 2013. Photo Credit: Keeyahtay Lewis/Deadbolt Photos/The Pop Break

“It’s easier to run/ Replacing this pain with something numb/ It’s so much easier to go/ Than face all this pain here all alone,” these haunting words from Linkin Park’s “Easier To Run” keep running through my mind as I attempt to summarize the intense magnitude of Chester Bennington’s passing. Most importantly, my sincerest condolences go out to his wife Talinda Ann Bentley and surviving children Jamie, Isaiah, Draven, Tyler Lee, Lilly, and Lila. I cannot imagine the level of grief they feeling at this very moment.

Man, I truly feel defeated after yesterday’s news. It is hard to function, let alone feel “normal” when someone so passionately devoted to expressing himself, as an artist is no longer with us. Chester Bennington was the voice of my generation; someone who possessed a one-of-a-kind ability to sing with such a delicate sense of graceful innocence yet could unleash this relentless rage within a moment’s notice that surmised the realities of coping with both internal and external pain that so many of us endure on a daily basis.

Whether someone reading this story is a longtime listener or casual fan, please take a moment to appreciate the courage and strength it took for Chester to consistently confront his demons through his music. Songs like “Crawling,” “Given Up,” and “Until It’s Gone,” where he composed and sang lyrics about his darkest realities through a melodic spectrum that helped so many of us find a comfort zone to release our fear and angst.

Truth be told, I am still reeling from the loss of Chris Cornell and have grieved his passing as if I lost a best friend or family member. It has been well publicized how Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell shared a close friendship and some are trying to draw parallels between the two since Chester’s passing coincided with Chris’ 53rd birthday. None of us will ever know the truth behind either individual’s decision. However, I can only tell my story and just like the week of Chris Cornell’s passing, my body was honestly forewarning me that something bad would happen throughout this week.

Chester Bennington singing with Linkin Park at The Carnivores Tour at the PNC Bank Arts Center in 2015. Photo Credit: Jesse Murch/The Pop Break

Call it a sixth sense or intuition, I woke up on July 20 and saw a Facebook memory from last year where Temple of the Dog announced their first ever tour across the United States. I rewatched a video announcement from Pearl Jam’s Facebook page and sat there for a few minutes reflecting on the concept of how a year could make such a huge difference in someone’s life, let alone my own life. In the early afternoon, I was listening to Soundgarden’s “4th of July” when I opened up my Facebook app and read this headline atop of my newsfeed from Metal Injection, “We are stunned. RIP Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington. This is not a joke.” I did not want to believe what I just read, not this soon after Chris’ passing, let alone click the article to find out the details.

And once again, just reading that Chester’s death was the result of a suicide; I almost fell down and had to sit for a second to gather myself. I just put my hands on my forehead and felt nauseous from the news. Heartbroken, soul crushing, and misery: those were three emotions that purged through my body.

On June 6, only a few weeks after Chris Cornell’s passing, Chester wrote an open letter about his appreciation for Chris’ friendship that was truly beautiful and moving: something that only increased my profound respect for Chester and made me feel optimistic about Chris’ legacy. In Chester Bennington’s own words, “You have inspired me in many ways that you could have never known. Your talent was pure and unrivaled. Your voice was joy and pain, anger and forgiveness, love and heartache all wrapped into one. I suppose that’s what we all are.” I only hope that Chester knew that his own heartfelt words dedicated to his friend were so relevant to his personal legacy as well, and how so many listeners from across the world identified those same miraculous qualities within Chester as a vocalist and most importantly, as a human being.

Chester Bennington performing with Stone Temple Pilots at The Wellmont Theatre in Montclair, NJ in 2015. Photo Credit: Saidy Lopez/The Pop Break.

As we stand here today, we have not only lost two of the most talented vocalists to ever grace the microphone, but we have lost two generational icons that defined the word “innocence.” What does that say about our world where two of the purest individuals who achieved the highest levels of musical success are no longer with us within a two-month timeframe? It is a terrifying thought and reality.

All across Linkin Park’s catalog, Chester Bennington self-examined his struggles with depression, addiction, and the horrifying hardships of his childhood and he cut his heart wide open and put his insecurities out there for millions of people to hear: that is what I define as bravery. How many of us are still searching for “Somewhere I Belong,” that place, idea, and sense of inner peace that Bennington strove for, sang about, and unleashed with every ounce of oxygen and anguish in his lungs.

Linkin Park’s legacy is one-of-a-kind: they merged together the most emotionally riveting dynamics of heavy metal, hip-hop, pop, and industrial into this groundbreaking display of alternative musical elegance. Listeners from across the world – fans of all different genres and backgrounds represent Linkin Park’s fanbase, possibly the greatest display of musical diversity and unity in the history of modern music. Let us never forget this miraculous accomplishment and may future artists continue to strive for unifying listeners of all backgrounds in a fashion reminiscent and in honor of Linkin Park.

Even worse, I cannot imagine the level of grief that Chester’s bandmates are feeling at this very moment. I want to express my sincerest condolences to Mike Shinoda, Brad Delson, Dave Farrell, Rob Bourdon, and Joe Hahn. It breaks my heart to know the emotional pain they will endure for the rest of their lives. There always seemed to be a friendship and brotherhood at the core of Linkin Park that was easily identifiable, relatable, and transparent to their fans. These guys cared for one another and their history wasn’t clouded with the immaturity and bad blood often seen by bands of their stature like Guns N’ Roses and Van Halen.

According to reports, an unidentified bandmate allegedly arrived at Chester’s house to pick him up only to find police cars sitting outside of his home. As a musician, the thought of this situation – learning about the death of your bandmate in this setting makes me absolutely sick to my stomach. The band was supposed to have a photoshoot today, July 21, and start a massive tour next week – a tour I planned on attending.

I also have to confront this subject – within the last year, Chester Bennington received so much negative backlash over the musical direction of Linkin Park’s latest LP One More Light. It felt like he was constantly bombarded with harsh criticism on Twitter from “fans” that took out their personal anger and insecurities towards someone they don’t personally know and an artist who truly owed them nothing. And this is just beyond disgraceful – so many people have been disgustingly insensitive towards his passing. Let this be a lesson to choose your words wisely and watch what you say to those around you, let alone complete strangers and supposed “idols” of ours. How many times must we, as a society, repeat this message about cyber bullying? You never know how your words can affect someone. Verbal abuse is abuse, point blank. It is literally the circle of life; artists will grow and evolve over the course of their career. Listeners need to get over it and more importantly, in today’s digital age, get over themselves. The older material does not miraculously vanish and will always be there if that is what you have personally enjoyed.

Chester Bennington Carnivores Tour
Chester Bennington singing with Linkin Park at The Carnivores Tour at the PNC Bank Arts Center in 2015. Photo Credit: Jesse Murch/The Pop Break

Over the next few months, do not take your favorite artists for granted: listen to their catalogs, appreciate the emotional effects of their artwork, and check out their live shows if they happen to be on tour. Those who grew up in the era of Linkin Park, be grateful and take a moment to thank the likes of Jonathan Davis, Brandon Boyd, Lajon Witherspoon, and Corey Taylor who possess the innovative drive, unique individuality, and genre defining voices just like Chester Bennington.

To quote Chris Cornell’s words in “Say Hello 2 Heaven,” “I never wanted to write these words down for you.” When I reflect back on Chester Bennington’s legacy, the image of seeing Linkin Park live in 2014 and witnessing this otherworldly scream pierce through the venue during “Rebellion” – one of my personal favorite tracks in their catalog – will stay with me forever. This man truly took such great pride in his family, friends, and songwriting. I am praying for his loved ones.

To Chester Bennington, thank you so much for creating a timeless catalog of music that helped me persevere through some of the biggest mental and physical hurdles of my life. Thank you for changing the world with your music and helping so many people not feel alone in their pain. Your heartfelt honesty in your lyrics will continue to strengthen us and make us better for generations to come.