Listening to Breaking the Habit for the first time as an 11-year old is one of my most vivid, and important musical memories. Playing through earphones I’d borrowed from my dad, off a cheap MP3 player, Chester Bennington’s impassioned voice stunned me. The raw emotion, sung with his melodic clarity, shattered every notion I’d had till then of what music could be. I was still young, and couldn’t wholly grasp the power Chester’s words held. But something changed in me – with his soaring voice, he cracked the shell holding in amorphous emotions. What poured forth came to define me, and the music I came to invest in.
Reading about Chester’s death – more specifically, his suicide – now, about 10 years after that first tryst will go on to become another of my defining musical memories. Something cracked in me again – but this time, what poured forth, was unbridled pain that came in waves. Cracked might not be the right word – a part of me broke. For a while, I refused to believe it was real. I looked for some hope that this was some fucked-up hoax. But it wasn’t. It was real. He was gone. The myriad emotions that Chester had helped me deal with, had defeated the man. The voice that made me believe I was not alone in my insecurities, my sorrows, my lowest points, had felt alone himself.
Chester’s searing vocals has soundtracked some of my darkest days. In the depths of my depression, I spent countless nights curled up in bed, his music giving me reason to believe there were others as lost as me, and I found some comfort in shared loneliness. Chester always found a way to soothe my insecurities when he crooned, and then unleash a cathartic wave of frustration and rage when he screamed, his voice shattering the maddening mix of pity and annoyance that I was often met with. His incredible music had helped the darkness feel less oppressive.
I remember how real Somewhere I Belong felt. I remember One Step Closer being a vent for my rage. I remember Numb giving form to my helplessness. I remember My December echoing my pain. I remember No More Sorrow being the screams in my mind. I remember Shadow of the Day being my antidote. Meteora was the first CD I bought, and it was during this time.
Over the years, Linkin Park became a band I had a distant relationship with. I loved a lot of their music, but I also…didn’t. Chester lingered on, his voice would always be carved into my psyche, but it seemed he was in my past, and I accepted it. But now that he’s no more, it hits me with an unbearable weight that the man who often kept me alive would have to be consigned to my memories, whether I liked it or not, whether I wanted to accept it or not. I didn’t even fucking listen to One More Light in its entirety, and now it feels like I did not even give Chester’s last cry a chance. I feel immeasurably guilty. I will never hear him sing anew. And I cannot stop the tears from flowing.
I wish there was some way I could repay him. I wish there was, as so many others have put it, some way I could’ve saved him the way he’d saved me so many times. I wish I could tell him how much he meant to me, and so many like me. I wish I could return the hope he’d given me. But there’s nothing I can do now to have him back.
The words in Leave Out All The Rest now ring heavier than they ever have:
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
I can only honour Chester’s memory. The lives he touched. The music that will live on.He deserved a lot more love when he was alive, love that I wish I could give him now. I will have to live with that, even if he couldn’t.
In his final whispers into the world, Chester sang, “Who cares if one more light goes out? / Well I do.” And I do. Your light will never go out, Chester, I promise.
Thank you, and I’m sorry.
Goodbye, Chester Bennington.