Last Saturday was another person’s birthday. A person I did not get the privilege to know personally, and yet that person has changed my entire life. A person whom I never had any form of direct chat with, and yet he has been talking to me for the last eleven years of my life. I never replied back as I never felt the need to, since he seemed to always know what to say to me as well as how to say it. My thoughts and feelings were no secrets to him. He did this for so many people of all ages all across the world. It was some sort of gift that only those who truly talked to him could benefit from. Those who understood his calling to be there for others, from teenagers all the way to parents and grandparents. He brought hope to various generations for decades, precisely from 1993 until 2017.
Sadly, the world remained too cold for him. It did not matter how many fans he had, how many lives he had changed through the course of those 24 years. No amount of fame, glory or money was enough for him to be happy, to truly feel satisfied. It has nothing to do with greed, but everything to do with how he perceived himself, childhood and life he had lived up until that point. He listened to the problems of the entire world and replied to them through the lyrics, melodies, beats and performances put in motion. He gave the world a silver lining, yet, no one ever understood his pain. Maybe this is why none of us felt like that person was actually crying for help in his songs. He gave hope to the world, but never got any of it in return.
Chester Bennington changed the world, whether we liked his music or not. It is correct to say that neither his voice nor the music produced by the different bands he was a part of could appeal to everyone. Hard rock and alternative music are two genres that have their very own audience. They will not occupy the majority of positions in a radio’s top 10 – or even top 50 – hits of the year, or even of the decade. Nevertheless, no one could deny the strength and power of the words that came out of Chester’s mouth. This was proven through the outstanding performances of two of Linkin Park’s most famous songs: In The End (2002) and Numb (2003). These two songs respectively occupied the second and eleventh position of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, with the former staying at those rankings for 38 weeks and 32 weeks for the latter.
Today, these songs are considered amongst the greatest hits in the industry of music, right next to songs like Survivor’s Eye Of The Tiger and Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, because they succeeded in any song’s ultimate test: the test of time. Eighteen years on, anyone with a bit of knowledge in music has heard of Linkin Park and knows at least those two songs. There can be different reasons for a song to become immortal and part of the All Time Hits category: it has a good very good sound to it, it had an outstanding marketing investment (though that is the case of most pop songs today yet most of them are forgotten within twelve months), or because it came out at a time when people needed to hear this song (which is the case of Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World). The last one is the reason behind Linkin Park’s overall success, as they found a way to connect with people. In one of his many interviews during which he discussed the band’s music, Chester Bennington said that they were:
“Focused on writing really great songs that mean something to people. We are trying to connect with people. You know, like we are trying to make a record that has those stellar songs that people would want to listen to all the time.”
Chester Bennington’s lyrics – often co-written with band pianist Mike Shinoda – focused strongly on telling the listener that they are not alone, that they are not the only ones who feel this way. All of their songs were sad songs, but they were written with the intention of helping people get back up, since most often than not when we feel sad and depressed, we are not looking for advice; instead, we search everywhere for a heart that understands, for ears to listen to us, for arms to hug us and for lips to tell us: “Yes, I have been there too. I know how you are feeling.” Linkin Park did that, and even went beyond. They used their music in order to give people a voice on different political topics and decisions. One example was stating their position on President Georges W. Bush’s decision regarding military action in Afghanistan and Iraq following the 9/11 attacks, through their song Hands Held High. A few years later, the band would walk down that road again by releasing their song Castle of Glass, in order to portray how children felt when they lost a family member in battle for “protecting his country”.
“All I want to do is trade this life for something new.”
– Waiting For The End by Linkin Park
Looking back on all of his songs while paying attention to every note and word that was generated from my cell phone, I finally see a pattern.Especially in his last album One More Light, it became clear that Chester was sending a message. A last call for help. A last shot for hope before ending it all. Sadly, that hope never came, as the man ended it all on July 20, 2017, after having struggled for so long with depression. There is only so much we can pay attention to in this life. We have achieved tremendous progress when it comes to medicine and technology, yet we still struggle to identify depression even when it is right in front of us.
Linkin Park songs never sounded the same again since. Whenever I listen to that band, the only thing crossing my mind is how insane that man’s voice was. It was powerful, emotional, alive. It felt connected to me through an invisible wire. I discovered the band back in 2011 when I was going through some hard times myself. Since then, they have made me realise how amazing of an escape from the world music truly is. I learned it then, and I still apply it today.
Chester Bennington changed my life.
He gave me a new approach to music.
He motivated me to connect with people through my own form of art, whether it is by playing music or by writing it.
He did so much more for me, and I will always be thankful.
Therefore, on Saturday, March 20, 2021, I wish you a happy birthday, Chester.
Heaven must sound so beautiful now that you are there.
“Who cares if one more light goes out in the sky of a million stars? Well, I do.”
– One More Light by Linkin Park