Thank You Chester Bennington - some words on

Before starting seventh grade, my family moved across town. I was the ‘new kid’ in school, and honestly: it was the roughest time. I had difficulty making new friends, I missed my old ones, and I was struggling to figure out who *I* was. OH the joys of early teenagedom…

Musicwise, I was mostly (embarrassingly) into the pop stuff of the time, and anything more obscure or ‘cooler’ than that was a direct influence from my older sibling: (he was super into the Smashing Pumpkins at this time, if I’m not mistaken.. I remember drawing their logo with a white gel pen onto my binder and people laughing at me when I told them the band name.. yes, yes, Smashing Pumpkins. So hilarious. *eye roll*)

But anyways. I was seeking to discover new music on my own. I knew that I was into rock, was super getting into the heavier kind, (what can I say? I was an angry kid), and oh so pathetically desperately wanting to be one of the weird, (but COOL) ‘headbanger’ kids whose fashions I was so intrigued by. Long story short, I don’t remember exactly how I came to discover the band called Linkin Park, but I think it may have been through hearing “One Step Closer” on the radio: a song that fit the bill of all I wanted. It had angry screaming, catchy lyrics.. I was sold. That Winter, I asked my parents for the album “Hybrid Theory” for Christmas, and my life was literally never the same after.

I. Was. Obsessed.

(To me), Linkin Park’s music was unlike ANYTHING I had ever heard. It somehow seamlessly managed to mix together elements of heavy metal, rap, electronic stuff, (DJ Joe Hahn! They had a DJ in their band BEFORE it was cool!), but the ONE thing that stuck out the most for me was Chester Bennington‘s voice. It was what I truly fell in love with. Even now, I struggle to put into words exactly how sounds to me: It was just such a powerful and unique voice. A lot of screaming, yes, (which a lot of people find tasteless), but when he wasn’t screaming, it was soft and beautiful and equally as emotional. It blew my mind.

I found a photo of him that I liked and printed it out. I pinned it to my wall. In his earliest days, Chester wore glasses most of the time, which I was super happy about because I had to wear them too, and he totally made them seem COOL, for once. I admired his tattoos: especially the flames around his wrists. I loved his lip piercing, and totally dreamed of getting my lip pierced, too (something which I actually did do at age 19, but that’s another story).. Without quite realizing it: I had found my first idol. My first hero.

And yes, some pathetically girlish part of me had a crush and wanted to MARRY the guy, but mostly, I just wanted to BE him. He seemed so cool, and so confident – everything I wasn’t.

I would go on to purchase, (and equally obsess about) their next album, Meteora. By this time, my family had cable, and I would record every appearance and show that had some kind of feature of theirs from MTV or FUSE. (On VHS, kids.. the old school way, before the magic of YouTube!). I would get highly upset when they played concerts in my city that I couldn’t attend. (One year, however, they recorded their performance in my city and actually put out a DVD recording of it: the “Live in Texas” DVD, which I also own. I was overcome with emotion).

I was still into them when I started high school, but as is the case with life in general: I was growing up. And with growing up come changing tastes, but also the discovery of other things. Other idols. Other heroes. Slowly, but surely, I began to drift away from LP. But in the back of my mind, I knew they were still very popular in the music world, and growing bigger and all that. I figured they were in good hands with their millions of other fans.. they won’t miss or need me. But I would smile every time I heard a new song by them on the radio, every now and again. “Good for them” that they were still going strong.

Fast forward to just one month ago: I honestly can’t explain where the nostalgia hit me from all of a sudden, but it did. Looking back, it was just the strangest thing: I had an unexplainable, very strong urge to listen to Linkin Park. To Chester’s voice. Something I hadn’t done in YEARS. I literally hadn’t even thought about LP’s music in such a long time.. And I’m not trying to read into it or anything, but the timing of it did strike me as super odd. Exactly a month ago, the air conditioning in my house broke down for a week. I was miserable, and was trying to find any way to keep myself distracted from the agony by drowning myself in movies or YouTube videos. That’s when I got the urge to look up Linkin Park. I literally sat in my room, (with a fan blowing directly at me), for hours, watching their music videos. And it was awesome. I even remember telling my coworker about it. The music video for the song “What I’ve Done” (from TEN YEARS AGO) seems all the more relevant to this particular time period, and it brought tears to my eyes:

One month later, (and one week ago today), I came across the news story that Chester Bennington passed away.

I still can’t actually believe it, but it’s been kind of a roller coaster of emotions. In a strange way, I feel guilty. Because I drifted away. Because I feel like I abandoned his music for years. So it’s like I shouldn’t be allowed to feel bad because I wasn’t a true fan.

But I do feel sad. And mad. And I was, and always will be, a true fan. If it hadn’t been for him, for his voice, his smile, even his freaking tattoos and glasses, my tastes and aesthetics in general might have gone in a completely different direction. I might have followed a different path. It sounds dumb, but it’s true. I grew up with his voice. It brought me comfort when I needed it. His demeanor brought me joy, and something to look up to and learn from. And I had no idea.. I never thought it would come to this.

So I’m sorry, Chester, that I didn’t know how much pain you were actually in. But I’m glad for the time I did have with your music and your voice. Thanks for being my hero. You always will be.