Chester Bennington died one year ago today, July 20, 2017, found at his home in Palos Verdes Estates, California after taking his own life.
The music industry and beyond switched its default setting to mourn once again, as tributes for the 41-year-old dad of six flooded social media.
We all knew the music of Linkin Park – the band Chester fronted for years – resonated with an army of disenfranchised outsiders, but the outpouring of grief was overwhelming in scale.
From the moment Hybrid Theory exploded onto our Walkmans with the opening bars of Papercut, we were hooked.
Each song is a three-minute ball of nu metal energy; a heady cocktail of hip-hop, modern rock, and atmospheric electronica, punctuated with instrumental experimentation, which was like sweet musical nectar to our adolescent ears.
The six-piece painted pictures of dark places which piqued some listeners’ curiosity to the depth of the human condition, and simply reminded others of their own struggles.
Hearing Chester brazenly scream ‘shut up’ at the world in One Step Closer felt euphoric to hoards of youths like us, who felt they hadn’t quite found their own voice yet.
The debut album quickly garnered mainstream success in a way never before achieved by an alternative metal mash-up.
Hybrid Theory was certified Diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America in 2005, making it the best-selling debut album of the decade, as well as one of the few albums ever to hit that many sales.
But with great songwriting comes great pressure, as UNILAD Sound discovered:
Linkin Park took their responsibility to fans seriously, and created music marked by a perpetual sense of honesty. Honesty about struggling and, as they put it, dancing with demons.
Chester had been sexually abused as a child, went through the strain of his parents’ divorce at just 11, was bullied at school and eventually turned to drug and alcohol abuse.
To overcome addiction and emotional trauma, he started writing poetry and music.
You can find out how others cope with their own cases of child sex abuse below:
One year after his suicide, it’s natural to read into the award-winning song lyrics written by Bennington and his bandmate Mike Shinoda.
Dr Arthur Cassidy told UNILAD this type of ‘parasocial interaction’ between rockstars and their armies of supporters occurs when ‘fans know lots about their pop singers and rappers but the celebs know nothing about their fans’.
This idolisation can create a lot of unrealistic expectations and put pressure on public figures who are – let’s remember – humans with vulnerabilities and mental health stressors themselves.
Listening to Chester, immortalised in his music, can’t bring back the frontman.
But, today, let’s stick on Hybrid Theory or Meteora and appreciate how he can still help fans deal with their own grief, sadness and struggle.
Chester’s earlier piercing vocals – the perfect foil to Shinoda’s low-key licks – are spiked with anger and frustration, but singing along to the epic choruses brings catharsis, whether you can hit the high notes or not.
Sometimes, Chester’s words are ragged with emotion, screamed through gritted teeth. Often, in the bridge, his melodic vocal captures a quiet pain, selflessly showing his own vulnerability to help others put words and metaphor and tunes to their own.
Over time – and six further album releases – Linkin Park’s raw anger matured and became more nuanced, as did their ability to layer sounds and create walls of sound, both on stage and in the studio.
The final album almost reads like an acceptance letter, an ode to the trials and tribulations of life, which can make you that little bit stronger when you have a support network.
Now, the Linkin Park back catalogue helps us grieve one year later and carry forward the messages of unity and inclusivity Chester championed throughout his life.
Chester began his musical career with Grey Daze, a post-grunge band from Phoenix, Arizona, who recorded three albums; Demo in 1993, Wake/Me in 1994, and …no sun today in 1997.
Then he joined LP – founded in rural LA by Shinoda, Rob Bourdon, and Brad Delson – where he worked hard beyond their musical output to support fans and his show business peers.
Their rap metal style welcomed more diverse collaborations, ushering in Projeckt Revolution and the likes of Cypress Hill, Adema, Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, and later Busta Rhymes, Pusha T and Steve Aoki, to bring members of different musical tribes together on tracks.
Jay Z has famously paid tribute to Chester a number of times since his death, performing the Grammy-winning Numb/Encore from their collaborative 2004 album, Collision Course, on stage to emotional crowds.
All the while, Linkin Park were accepted by the rock’n roll’elite, winning countless awards during their run and playing on the same stages as the likes of Metallica, Iron Maiden, Placebo and Deftones.
Meanwhile, the band founded a charity called Music For Relief, which staged fundraising events for the victims of over 20 natural disasters, and still works hard to help those hard up today.
We are deeply grateful to every person who donated in any amount to @MusicForRelief's One More Light Fund in honor of @ChesterB 's birthday. Together, you raised more than $90,000 to shine a light on mental health. Thank you for making this possible!
— Music for Relief (@MusicForRelief) April 9, 2018
In 2013, Chester fronted Stone Temple Pilots – a band he cites as an early musical influence – for two years before leaving to focus solely on Linkin Park.
Their last album, released in May a few months before Chester’s death, was received badly by the old vanguard of Linkin Park fans, some of whom unjustifiably said the band had ‘gone soft’.
While tracks like Talking To Myself and Battle Symphony have a more mainstream electro vibe, in hindsight, the new sound marked a moment of acceptance for Linkin Park by the pop culture jury.
Yet, they weren’t forced to change to achieve global success and recognition.
They grew and used their own progression and creative talent to break through barriers, and break the mould of what music critics think matters.
Collaborations with Stormzy, Pusha T and Kiiara show the band were moving forward towards the future of alternative metal, its chameleon-like changeability, and how young artists could take up the baton.
Shinoda, who has since confirmed LP will continue, said of the title track:
One More Light was written with the intention of sending love to those who lost someone. We now find ourselves on the receiving end.
In memorial events, art, videos, and images, fans all over the world have gravitated towards this song as their declaration of love and support for the band and the memory of our dear friend, Chester.
We are so very grateful and can’t wait to see you again.
Chester is remembered in his latest solo project, Post Traumatic, as well as through the One More Light Fund, set up by Music For Relief, which aims to shine a light on mental health matters.
Chester’s wife, Talinda Bennington, also initiated a movement called 320 Changes Direction, in honour of her husband to help break the stigma surrounding mental health.
She encouraged other public figures to post to social media saying, ‘I am the change’:
Today we honor the life and music of @linkinpark’s @ChesterBe. @TalindaB joins me on @Beats1 @AppleMusic to talk #320ChangesDirection alongside a special Playlist made by @mikeshinoda. 10 am PT. Be the change. https://t.co/Urz4A9nnO3 #IAMTHECHANGE #MakeChesterProud pic.twitter.com/vDindLb4bB
— Zane Lowe (@zanelowe) March 20, 2018
Today, across the world, fans will show there is no shame in depression or poor mental health, having organised meet-ups and tribute nights to Chester, celebrating his life.
Talinda compiled a list of events and shared it online for those interested:
With the one year fast approaching, there are so many beautiful memorials planned all around the WORLD in honor of Chester. I wanted to share them with you. ❤️
— Talinda Bennington (@TalindaB) July 3, 2018
Meanwhile, the fans of Linkin Park and Chester have found other more permanent ways to honour his memory – and his creativity and love for body art – in thousands of memorial tattoos.
While the alternative ink is a fitting tribute, there’s no better way to show respect and love for Chester than reaching out to someone you think might be struggling too.
You can check some of the ink designs out below:
This means so much to me. This man and this band have helped me overcome some of my darkest days and will continue to be my therapy for the rest of my life. This will be a reminder of that and to #makechesterproud ❤️ Now, time to start saving for my portrait piece! ?? #LP #LPtattoo #LPfan #LinkinPark #LinkinParktattoo #ChesterBennington #ChesterBenningtontattoo #music #musicislife #musicistherapy #fuckdepression #clubtattoo
Linkin Park is hands down my all time favorite band and made a huge impact on me in my life. When Chester passed, I wasn't expecting it to hit me as hard as it did. So when Chester passed, I wanted to do a memorial tattoo for him. So I got this today. Still have the shading to do. Really happy with how it's turning out. Thanks @gabslopez2u #tat #tats #tatted #tattedup #tattoo #tattooart #tattoosocial #tattoos #tattoosofinstagram #tattooed #tattooedandeducated #tattooedandemployed #inked #inkedup #linkinpark #linkinparktattoo #lptattoo #chesterbennington #chesterbenningtontattoo #calftattoo #pain #painful
All those years ago, at the turn of the millennium in 2000, Hybrid Theory left us with a High Voltage closing sentiment, as Shinoda spits, ‘From now to infinity let icons be bygones’.
Even though Linkin Park shunned labels, thrived on authenticity and embraced difference, funnily enough, the band which so dismissed the need for idolisation by way of their own uniqueness, made Chester an icon of kindness and inclusivity.
In the end, that’s all that really matters.
You can speak to someone confidentially about your mental health and wellbeing by calling one of the following numbers: Samaritans – 116 123 , Childline – 0800 1111 (UK) / 1800 66 66 66 (ROI), Teenline – 1800 833 634 (ROI).
If you have a story to tell, contact UNILAD via [email protected]