My little brother texted me last night.
The last time I spoke to him was at the end of March. I’d just taken him to his first proper gig (Creeper – and yes, he jumped in the pit for Milk Teeth) and he loved it. See, with five years between us, different dads, a shared bedroom and me out the door by the time he turned sixteen, we’ve never been as close as we could be.
There’s never been a lot of common ground, but we happily shared acres of it for Linkin Park. We watched the video for ‘Breaking The Habit’ on our newly installed Freeview; spent afternoons lost in their ‘Live At Texas’ DVD, and when I asked Chester and Mike to sign a vinyl copy of ‘Hybrid Theory’ for him a few weeks earlier, Chester asked for his name straight away. There’s always been a touch of the personal to Linkin Park’s frontman.
It’s why Jack texted me, “It’s like a part of my childhood has died with him.”
Editorially speaking, I should probably have opened with a list of numbers. Did you know Linkin Park had sold this many records? They’d played to this many people? But you don’t need to be told what Linkin Park mean to you. You don’t need to be spoon-fed the importance of Chester Bennington’s words.
Sure, there’s a chance the likes of PVRIS, Twenty One Pilots, Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco and pretty much every neon-coloured source of excitement wouldn’t be as accepted, as celebrated, as embraced as they are without Linkin Park. But that band were always more than a new path in rough terrain.
From the off, Chester sang of emotion. He was an open book of bile, rage, and fury, basking in the belief that he wasn’t alone. There was a dark cloud and constant trouble behind every lyric, but he transformed it into something positive. Something bigger than himself. Something to cherish.
His is a voice that spans generations – be it ‘Hybrid Theory’, ‘Minutes to Midnight’ or ‘New Divide’. Even new album ‘One More Light’ saw the audience shift, grow and adapt. It was an album that started with him hating the world and wanting to rage against it, but he found comfort in friends. In art. There was a light.
The story of the album focuses on the fact the band “went pop”, but it’s much deeper than that. It’s an album about finding new depths of despair, and still having the strength to look up. The lyrics are an open-book admission of an ongoing struggle, but there’s always hope. Chester bared all to make others feel safe. He wanted people to know they were never alone.
It was never about encouraging others to speak up if they were struggling. The burden was never on those already shouldering the weight. It was an album about looking out for each other. About being there, no matter the weather. About asking questions, not about the answers. At their show at The O2, Chester went down into the crowd as he sung the title track, eye contact and held hands throughout. Stark, bold and unwavering, the delicate but bright ideal of “Who cares if one more light goes out? Well, I do,” is a perfect example of the sort of person Chester Bennington was. He’d suffered – he had the scars to prove it, too – but he wasn’t going to let that stop him from letting others in. He knew it was important to open up and ask for help, but there’s also something to be said for asking if everything’s okay.
We’re not the only ones with stories to share. We’re not the only ones affected. When you change so many lives, introduce people to new worlds and share your spirit so openly, people are going to care. Perhaps there’s a solace to be found that you’re not alone in your sadness, confusion, worry or anger. You’re not alone in how you feel.
More than a voice of a generation, Chester was the voice of the individual. He gave us a reason not to feel alone. He gave us a reason to come together. Treasure that.