In 2010, I picked up Linkin Park’s new album A Thousand Suns. I’d only heard it all the way through once prior, but there was something about the song “Waiting for the End” that really stuck with me and I couldn’t shake it. It was so different from every other Linkin Park song I knew, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
I had just fallen into what I didn’t realize at the time was my second year-long fight against depression. The first was my freshman year of high school, when I had Green Day’s American Idiot on repeat. The third was just this past year, and my album of choice was Coheed and Cambria’s Year of the Black Rainbow. But freshman year of college, I’m not sure I would have made it without A Thousand Suns.
My at-the-time roommates could tell you how many times I listened to that album and cried. I loved it. It was there at a time when I really needed to hear it. And the lyrics have stayed close to my heart ever since. I don’t listen to it straight through nearly as often as I used to, mostly because that was a bad time for me and I don’t need to relive it every day. But you better believe I can still rap all of “When They Come for Me” without missing a beat.
Most Linkin Park fans I know hate this album, just like how most Coheed fans I know hate Year of the Black Rainbow. But I’ve never been one to fall in line with the majority, so it doesn’t bother me much to see everyone else praising Hybrid Theory and Meteora upon learning the news of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington’s suicide.
Chester Bennington is the first celebrity whose death has really shaken me. We lost so many amazing artists between early 2016 and now, and I’ve watched all my friends mourn these strangers in their own ways.
I felt their pain, but I couldn’t say I completely understood it. I know artists like David Bowie and Prince paved the way for so many people, musicians and non-musicians alike, to not be ashamed to embrace themselves for who they are and bend and break gender norms. And I can’t name a single musician who can say they were never influenced by some song created by Chris Cornell.
But I felt no pain of my own for any of them.
A man whose voice helped me get through what felt like a never-ending bout of depression losing his life to his own depression… Now that messes me up.
I wanted so badly to believe this was a hoax when I first saw the news on TMZ. Then every other news outlet picked it up.
“I’m not believing anything until the band makes a formal announcement,” I repeated like a mantra.
Then Linkin Park’s co-lead vocalist Mike Shinoda confirmed it on twitter.
It’s not a hoax. Chester Bennington hung himself, and on Chris Cornell’s birthday of all days. I am in shock.
My dad always told me a story growing up about one of his favorite bands. Lynyrd Skynyrd came through his hometown of Tampa, Florida, every summer, and he always went to see them. One year he had a ticket and decided against going. Something came up, but it was no big deal because he’d see them the following year.
The band lost two members in a plane crash later that same year. My dad never got his chance to see them live again.
That story always stuck with me and reminded me to never stop chasing what makes me happy because you never know when it might be too late. Like father like daughter, so for me that thing I chase has been live music as well. I’ve seen Coheed and Cambria 19 times and Green Day 16 times.
But I never saw Linkin Park.
I finally have my own version of that story to remind me that these musicians I look up to are human too, and ultimately everyone dies. I’m not just seeing these bands I love every chance I get because of my own mortality, but because of theirs too.
I had a ticket to see them live once two years ago, but the show was canceled after Chester broke his leg, and I never tried to see them since. What’s worse is I specifically remember saying just a few months ago, “I used to love Linkin Park, so I should see them live. But I don’t like their new album, so now’s probably not the best time to do it. Maybe after their next album.”
I have some regrets. Maybe it’s true that we don’t know what we have until it’s gone.
I’m glad Chester is no longer in pain, but my heart hurts for his family, bandmates, and the rest of the Linkin Park fanbase.
“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” (2007)
Today, many people are listening to Hybrid Theory on repeat, screaming out in anger at losing such a powerful voice from our generation. I’m taking another route, and having a good cry to A Thousand Suns.
Photo credit: Linkin Park