First and foremost, my deepest condolences to Bennington’s family, bandmates, friends, and fans. Rest in peace, Chester.
The news of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington’s death first struck me as a farce, since the music world is still recovering from the sudden loss of Chris Cornell and the eerily similar, tragic story popped up on what would have been Cornell’s 53rd birthday. Finding the article of Bennington’s apparent suicide on social media, where anything can be fabricated and distributed, I was immediately skeptical. Whatever the reason, I detached from popular outlets online and attempted to sleep with suppressed fears that another beloved and talented musician was gone forever. Sadly, the Los Angeles County coroner’s office confirmed today that he died by hanging, in his Palos Verdes home.
In my grief, I feel compelled to write something that will help me grasp what has happened, and to pay my respect to someone I never met but felt like I’d known by way of his music, concerts, and one very happenstance occasion, a decade ago.
Like many fans, I’ve been a lover of Linkin Park music since the early 2000s. Their first few albums were played religiously during my middle school and high school years. I think they were rocking tunes off Hybrid Theory when I saw them in concert for the first time, in 2004. Years later, I watched them play in Los Angeles and recall that show as the one where Chester pulled a teen from the front row onto the stage and let him perform the chords of “Faint” with Brad Delson’s guitar. That kid’s two minutes and forty-two seconds of fame was outrageous! Of course, the band gave a solid, head-banging performance, too. I’m so thankful I saw the whole band deliver that gritty goodness that is Linkin Park.
If you’ve ever come through the station and had a chat with me, you might know I grew up in California near Palos Verdes, where Bennington lived. I’ve come across all kinds of characters in the Southbay, but never imagined how befriending one gal would become the coolest example of six degrees of separation.
Back in 2007, my co-worker, Ally, asked if I wanted to go to a BBQ after work and I readily accepted. After a windy road here and a tree-lined street there, we arrived at this gorgeous home. Her male friend whose name I forget (sorry, dude!) met us outside and quickly introduced us to his sister and nephew. The summer shindig was in high gear and burgers were on the ‘que. Life was good. It took me all of 20 minutes in their home before it dawned on me that there were quite a few 30×50 framed Linkin Park pictures on the wall. I just assumed the homeowners were fans and was on to the next thought, not thrown at all until I was in the bathroom with yet another Linkin Park photo. Puzzled and intrigued, I began to really wonder where I was. A surge of adrenaline fired as I guessed I might be at a band member’s house. I briskly walked back to my friend and asked her, “Why is there a lot of LP pics on the wall, where are we?” In the calmest, most nonchalant demeanor I’ve ever seen, Ally replied, “Oh yeah, this is Chester Bennington’s house”. Instantaneous freak out!
I was so extremely tickled to know I was in the lead singer of Linkin Park’s house, and floored how my friend never let on. By that point, she’d encountered Chester dozens of times, so her “OH MY, A ROCK GOD!” enthusiasm was toned down some notches.
I desperately hoped he would come through the door at any minute, but Ally informed he no longer lived at the house because he and Samantha split. Although bummed, I was still excited by my sheer luck and fangirl experience. Socializing with his family was so cool. Sam sweetly offered me a bathing suit for the pool and his son, Draven, was so young. I remember that time like it was yesterday.
Even though I received a unique perspective of just a smidgen of Chester’s life, I felt closest to him through the band’s musical poetry. Those lyrics are intense and guttural, and their music was just what I needed to hear at times in my young adulthood. For me, a handful of bands possess that life force which really reeks of innovation and genius, Rush being one of them. Linkin Park is another band that has been mind-blowing and life-changing, so to say that I’m deeply saddened by Chester’s decision to end his life is an understatement.
I’ll always regret that I never saw him one more time or that I never bought those Stone Temple Pilots tickets during the two years he fronted for the band. I can’t help but hurt for the sweet family members I once met, and especially sad for Chester. He must have been silently struggling with the worst kind of demons. He will be missed by adoring fans and the ones who loved him most. I wish he would have gotten help.
PLEASE SPEAK OUT TO SOMEONE IF YOU ARE HAVING THOUGHTS OF SUICIDE. Call the confidential National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone.
Written by Chloe DeLuca