21 July 2017, I woke up this day thinking that during my sleep the world remained the same. I got up, got ready for work, unlocked my phone and checked my facebook newsfeed. It was at this moment that what seemed like a run-of-the-mill day turned sideways into tragedy. The news, from TMZ, read “Linkin Park front man Chester Bennington found dead”.
It was a cold, rainy day back in 2000 when I first heard the track “One Step Closer”. Apprehensive at first, since I was more into hip-hop and R&B back then, the song grew on me. It took me a good 3 months before I really got into this new genre, and from that moment never looked back. Then came one of the band’s most popular song “In The End” which I took to heart memorizing the lyrics. All of a sudden, everyone was a fan of Linkin Park. All of a sudden, they were cool and everyone can recite the lyrics of In The End.
I remember buying my first ever record. It was Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory. On my part it was a sense of accomplishment not only because I saved up for the record, but also because this is the first record that I truly loved all the songs, yes, including Cure for the Itch. To me this symbolized an accomplishment of sorts, a trophy, and a token of an unending admiration and love for the band, including Chester.
I couldn’t help but think “this is a hoax, right?”
Staring back at the article on facebook, I couldn’t help but think “this is a hoax, right?”. After all, celebrities die all the time in several hoaxes or fake deaths. But as I clicked the link and read the details, I had that sinking feeling that this is the real deal. Still, I couldn’t be sure, this may just be a fake TMZ website, so I researched, pulled-up Google and searched for any news on Linkin Park or Chester Bennington. My heart sunk when several news reports confirmed what was a hoax in my mind.
It was surreal back then, everyone united with their admiration over the group. Stadiums and arenas often filled with screaming fans, participating in the mosh pit, singing, nay screaming, the lyrics to every Hybrid Theory song. Being a teenager at that point, you were required to love Linkin Park. You were required to know each and every song. I was also one of those people who knew each and every song by heart.
At the same time, I was in disbelief that their songs were well received by my parents. My parents would often complain about how noisy the songs were, but at the same time would sing along to the refrain of “In The End”. It was confusing at times, but I relished that part since it bridged a gap between me and my parents. Finally, something that I listen to that my parents are familiar with.
“A person who voiced out all of my emotions be it sorrow, anger, hate, or me just feeling rebellious, just perished”
The moment I confirmed everything was the moment that I was flooded with emotions. I felt an emptiness or void immediately after knowing that my life would not be the same again. A person who voiced out all of my emotions be it sorrow, anger, hate, or me just feeling rebellious, just perished.
I remember vividly the time when my sister heard Linkin Park’s newer material. She noted that this was a far cry from the angst filled songs of yesteryear. Gone were the screaming and in with the synth and electronic sound. This was a, by definition, a reinvention of the band’s image.
It took some time to get used to the less edgy songs in A Thousand Suns, Living Things, and the Hunting Party, more so in their newest album One More Light. Nonetheless, these songs were trademark LP. It still had that edge in the lyrics and the melody and vibe were still there.
Initially, this shift in identity brought about all types of hate and anger spewed towards the band. They were branded as sell-outs, and trying hard to keep up with the ever growing electronic pop mash-ups that flooded the radio waves. I, for one, am guilty of being angry at the band. I expected so much more from them, not a Chainsmoker-like record that they released. I learned to deal with it eventually…
“It comes as foreshadowing.”
As of this time, I am writing this in a McDonalds, alone and full of questions. Would it have helped if his family, band, or the fans reached out to him? To this, I have no answer to. Tears start to swell up once “One More Light” plays on my Spotify playlist. It’s so ironic that this song, the one he performed during his friend Chris Cornell’s tribute concert, reflects so much on the events that transpired within the last 24 hours.
It comes as foreshadowing. The entire record is filled with lyrics that scream trouble and depression, and even death. While it appears as if it was just heartfelt lyrics, it may just a call for help on the part of Chester.
Back in August 2004, I got to see them perform live here in Manila. By far the best night of my life. The band was in the midst of their Meteora Asian tour, and Manila just so happened to be on their list. Clad in a black shirt and ready to rock out, I was raring to get to the concert that night. But the road to getting tickets was arduous. At that time I was in junior high, I didn’t have the means to buy tickets to the show, I had to bargain with my parents just to purchase tickets. After months of pleading, my parents gave in. I got the ticket, on one condition, my mother would come with. I bargained, but lost anyway.
So there I was with my mom, Linkin Park about to go on stage, the music drops, the drums start rumbling, Brad Delson and Phoenix come up on stage and start playing, Rob Bourdon and Joe Hahn do so too, and then Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington come to view and everything goes just as how I expected it. From the get go I was thrilled just to breathe the same air as my idols did. I sang along, I jumped, and I relished the moment as this may be my only chance to see them up close. The highlight of this was my mom, though. She enjoyed every moment. These guys really knew how to bridge the gap between generations.
I came home wishing that I get another chance to see them live.
“I, however, never thought that any one from my favorite artists would succumb to depression.”
From what investigators gathered, the main culprit was Chester’s depression. Depression has taken countless of lives over the past decade, with famous actors such as Robin Williams, and Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell being some of the few. I, however, never thought that any one from my favorite artists would succumb to depression.
Truth be told, I never really understood why fans cried and mourned the loss of their favorite singers. When Michael Jackson died, I didn’t cry. Yes, I felt sad due to his death, but to the point where I cry or be this affected, no. Same goes with Prince and Chris Cornell. It all changed today. I felt the weight of his loss. I felt sadness. I felt alone.
In 2015, Linkin Park returned to Manila for a concert. I was giddy at the opportunity to see them live again and sing their songs without a care. At this point, I was already employed and at the same time studying law. The concert date was scheduled, however, on a Wednesday, the same day that my Criminal Law class took place. Let it be of record that I considered skipping class on this day just to come see the band play. My sense of being a diligent student prevailed, sadly. I said to myself, it doesn’t matter, they’ll be back soon, by that time I’ll be in the VIP section to get up close and maybe get a backstage pass. Little did I know that there would not be a next time.
“For me, Chester was the voice of our generation.”
Linkin Park has been a huge part of my life. It got me through the toughest of times. Their music just spoke volumes to me specially when I faced challenges or that feeling of angst. For me, Chester was the voice of our generation.
So why am I pouring my heart out for this? As Chester sung “When my time comes, forget the wrong that I’ve done. Help me leave behind some reasons to be missed. And don’t resent me, and when you’re feeling empty, keep me in your memory, leave out all the rest.” I’m doing this to keep my promise whenever I sang with him, I’m keeping all the good memories and leaving out all the rest.
Rest in peace, brother.
Gino is the Gladiators’ resident TV and comicbook aficionado. He is Matt Murdock by profession by day, without the vigilante crime fighting at night. He believes that the lightsaber is the best weapon during a zombie apocalypse.