I wanted to write something off the cuff regarding the sudden and shocking passing of Chester Bennington, who took his own life today at the age of 41. As you’re probably well aware, Chester was the lead singer of Linkin Park, the alt-rap-rock band that scored a surprising number of hits from 2000 onward which made them staples of mainstream rock radio. Some of their best known hits include “In the End,” “Numb,” and “When I’m Gone,” and their constant presence and willingness to experiment with their genre has made them one of the most successful rock acts of the last twenty years.
If you’ve come here expecting me to reminisce about all the times that I put on Hybrid Theory or Meteora in order to escape the world around me, I’m sorry to say that during my formative years, I barely had any interaction with Linkin Park, which I guess puts me in the minority of my generation. I’ve heard only a handful of their songs, at least to my knowledge, and there’s no personal connection I have to most of their music. Strangely enough, the most distinct memory I have about Linkin Park is a pretty lame one – in 5th grade, my entire elementary school class voted for their favorite band and Linkin Park was the winner (I voted for the Beatles in a moment of unfathomable social ineptitude).
Linkin Park has always been a consistent presence in the musical circles around me, especially during middle school and high school, but I guess I never jumped on their bandwagon and never really took the time to understand their importance to those around me. I didn’t really get into “new music” until I was 12 or 13 – at that time, the band/album to be into was Green Day’s American Idiot, so I jumped aboard that train and never actively listened to Linkin Park. I guess looking back at that time now, Linkin Park was just too aggressive for me – simultaneously too angry and too metal to ears that had been raised on nothing but classic rock and oldies, and was only starting to get into pop-punk and mainstream pop. Maybe if I had gotten into Linkin Park at a younger age like many others in my 5th grade, my tastes would be entirely different now.
But, I can listen to Linkin Park today – songs like “In the End” or “Shadow of the Day” – and at least begin to understand why they were so important to those around me. Their music (especially their singles) were not only extremely catchy, but they had enough aggression to connect our generation in a post-9/11 world. Their surprisingly deep and profound lyrics regarding being an outcast from everyone else in the world hit a nerve with many of those who listened. There are many out there who cite Linkin Park as the band that got them into the hobby of listening to music, which I think is amazing and wonderful. My biggest takeaway today is that they helped a lot of people get through some really rough times – and that means a lot to me.
The fact that Chester Bennington’s suicide is the first real “rock star” death of our generation also puts things in a different perspective. Other famous musicians who have recently passed on too early – Scott Weiland, Chris Cornell, Glenn Frey, and David Bowie – all hit their mainstream stride and were at the peak of their powers during previous generations. Never has a rock star dying hit so close to home, at least for all the twenty-somethings out there.
Before today, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have a musical hero of my childhood leave this Earth. Now I can begin to understand, but I want to connect more with those who looked up to Chester and Linkin Park to talk about what the band and their music means to them, so please reach out. Chester’s death is a good opportunity to remember what music means to each of us, how our childhood memories and preferences can shape our lives, and unfortunately, how all our heroes, (both musical and otherwise), will one day come to pass.