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‘You can’t miss someone you’ve never known.’
In music, we have heroes in head-spaces we can’t comprehend. We were recently rattled by the loss of Chris Cornell, and now, suddenly and just as tragically, the loss of Chester Bennington.
One can suggest that a person cannot miss someone they’ve never met, never spoken to, all they like. In the minutes and hours following the confirmation that Bennington had passed, there was a palpable sense that millions of people had lost a voice of their generation. Fans were able to pinpoint when they first heard Hybrid Theory or Meteora, or where they first saw the band live. How Bennington’s lyrics saved them as lost, lonely teenagers. How Linkin Park were a timely introduction to genre, and that they opened up a whole world of heavier music that was otherwise inaccessible to them at a young age.
Talking about someone who was such a pivotal influence in my life and in the lives of millions of others doesn’t even begin to do Bennington justice. We’ve been collectively talking non-stop about the first two records, but working through the catalog now and rediscovering Minutes to Midnight, I can’t stop thinking about “Leave out All the Rest”, specifically the chorus.
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
Leave out all the rest
It’s chilling that a song released ten years ago – the same year I discovered Linkin Park – resonates so hard today, and as the dust settles and Bennington’s family and friends are given space to grieve, it seems fitting to remember everything this man was to our generation. We scramble to write obituaries, record accomplishments, dig up memories when a person of note passes. I’ve read pieces talking about his struggles with addiction. I’ve seen speculation that “Heavy” and other tracks from One More Light were a goodbye – though it would be hard to pick out a single song and suggest that one held up against all others is a particular kind of farewell. We try so hard to cling on to what we have when someone passes. With Bennington, it’s not specifically about what he did so much as it is about who he was and what he brought to the table as a musician.
I wrote books listening to Meteora on repeat, not realising until some years down the line that they sanctioned me to access emotions safely. “Somewhere I Belong” brought me peace in ways I can’t do justice on paper. There was always something about putting on headphones, pressing play, and surfacing at the end of the record to a feeling of calm nothing else would bring. I’ve heard from friends that their experiences of the early Linkin Park records were notably similar.
Of course, in order to be respite to so many, we must imagine that the demons Bennington confronted on every single record were, perhaps, far greater than our own. Not only were his words offering an open view into a dark chasm, but he addressed and readdressed them again and again. He sang frankly and honestly about depression in a way that reached out and touched the masses. It’s presumptuous of any of us, except those who know him best, to think we can fathom what place he put himself into night after night to continue connecting with people through music.
We have heroes in headspaces we can’t comprehend. Artists opening old wounds, examining fresh ones, composing life into angry, visceral sound. Going out on stage or walking into a studio with a head full of troubles and a tongue full of pain. We ask that no one suffers for their art, but some do. Bennington repeatedly, seamlessly twisted his experiences into memorable reasons to be missed. The tributes that have poured in from fellow musicians are testament to his far-reaching talent and ability to leave a stamp on a scene so often built on pain.
It would be wrong to write anything about Bennington without mentioning the circumstances. Depression affects 1 in 4 of us, and no amount of success or fame can make a person immune. Cornell died by suicide back in May. Bennington died the morning of Cornell’s birthday. Again, there is much speculation surrounding the reasoning, but with depression there are rarely many answers.
Two of our very own have organised a night in The Workman’s Club on August 3rd in aid of Pieta House. The event, a singalong to Hybrid Theory, has already sold out less than two days since it was announced. Pieta House, who offer free counselling to prevent suicide and self harm, are a necessary Irish service. Even if you didn’t manage to nab a ticket, any and all donations you can offer will go a long way to helping someone. They saved me once, and have helped out so many of my friends. I can’t think of a better charity to raise money for in memory of Bennington.
As a community of music fans, the loss is more than tangible. It felt contrived to put old records on and cry for someone I’ve never known, but I did. And so did everybody else.