Legendary Linkin Park frontman, Chester Bennington, was found dead in his private residence in Los Angeles County at 9 am on Thursday. The 41-year-old was the founding member of the American alternative rock band. With him at the helm, the band sold over 70 million albums worldwide, won two Grammy awards and hit multi-platinum or diamond status for numerous albums. Linkin Park has been on the MP3 player of possibly every 90s kid at least once in living memory. And Chester’s voice has been one that has religiously followed, a voice that echoed across generations, tugging at the heartstrings of his followers across the globe since their debut album Hybrid Theory hit the shelves in 2000.
For someone who had been as successful as he was, his source of inspiration is quite the cinderella story. Like so many of us, he had a forgettable childhood dotted with immense struggle, traumatising experiences and pain. At a tender age of 11, he had to deal with the divorce of his parents and ended up in the custody of his father. His early teenage years saw incredible amounts of substance abuse including marijuana, alcohol and LSD. This, coupled with the pain of having a broken family were key inspirational sources for some of his biggest hits. Tracks like Numb, What I’ve Done, Crawling, From the Inside and In the End resonate the pains of a traumatic upbringing and loss of innocence.
Mriya Dwivedi, 28, Mumbai, had this to say for her now deceased idol: “If you pay close attention to his songs, you will realise each one is a desperate and powerfully successful attempt at cleansing his inner demons, the thoughts that torment him and the baggage that he carries inside his heart – all indicators of a true creative genius. Indeed, we have lost an idol that comes along only once in a generation.”
At 17, Chester moved in with his mother and thereby began attempts to reclaim his life for the better. He worked part-time at Burger King and began pursuing a career as a professional musician. His mother banned his drug activity, inadvertently putting a stopper to his substance abuse problems. However, problems arose in other forms, as he was constantly bullied and even sexually abused during his schooling years. The sheer trauma of his childhood coupled with social exclusion often made him suicidal. Yet, instead of wallowing in his misery, he used his experiences and negative externalities to churn out masterpiece after masterpiece in music. The tracks Breaking the Habit, Somewhere I Belong, Leave out all the Rest, New Divide and Shadow of the Day are iconic in their own right, echoing the incredible attitude with which he resolved to overcome his difficulties. Linkin Park’s early albums Hybrid Theory, Meteora, Minutes to Midnight were the stepping stones for unmatched recognition and success.
“Each time he hit the high note, goosebumps followed. Each time he jumped on stage, my heart skipped a beat. The charisma, the energy was unbeatable”, says Abhijit Moharana, 22, Bhubaneshwar, who’s been an ardent follower of the band and the singer since the days of Hybrid Theory.
With the all the success of the early years, Chester Bennington believed it was time to move towards greener pastures. Albums that followed, including A Thousand Suns, Living Things, Hunting Party and most recently One More Light chronicled his ideology of not going down the easy route. He commented on the latest album (One More Light’s) direction stating, “We’ve got a lot of great material that I hope challenges our fanbase as well as inspires them as much as it has us”.
The newer albums were praised for their experimental efforts and out-there creativity, but none of them saw the positive fan reception anticipated. Yet, stand-out tracks continued to hit the billboards, such as The Catalyst, Burn It Down, Waiting for the End, Castle of Glass and most recently, Heavy.
While the band continued to enjoy meteoric success, he continued to experience various health problems over the past decade. While he had taken incredible steps in the direction of total abstinence from any form of substance abuse, he struggled with depression. The passing of close friend Chris Cornell in May 2017 was arguably the catalyst to a relapse into chronic depression. 20th July, which would’ve been Cornell’s 53rd Birthday, was the day Chester succumbed to his thoughts and took his own life. Perhaps, the pressure of expectation paired with the loss of a loved one was too much for him. Or perhaps, the battle with himself finally overwhelmed him.
One thing is certain: while he may no longer be with us, his work is immortal. As tributes poured in from each corner of the earth over the last few days, it stands to remind us of the incredible person that he was. His creative music was a source of incredible support and inspiration to millions, and his charitable work with Linkin Park has had an unmatched impact to so many, who like him, have suffered the injustices of the world.
Indeed, Chester Bennington was one of a kind, and the world will truly miss his presence. In the end, all that matters is the immortality of his spirit and the true nature of his character that will continue to resonate through time in the form of his work with his band for generations to come. Chester was, is and will always be the frontman of Linkin Park. Rest easy, Chester! Thank you for the music; we will never forget.
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