Lead singer of the group Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, holds a mic to his mouth in front of a crowd, his jaw jutting forward and his arm in the air. This picture is in black and white.

Chester Bennington: The Voice I Grew Up With

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  • Somewhere, a kid who grew up with the music from the ‘90s is crying.

    Let me elaborate. Somewhere, a supposedly functioning adult now in her late 20s, was at a loss for words. She woke up one Friday morning, ready to tackle the doldrums of the working world like she did every weekday. She starts every morning by checking her social media for news, most of them depressing ones involving the Trumpocalypse. That morning, she was greeted by news of Chester Bennington’s suicide.

    Chester Bennington, the vocalist of famed American rock band, Linkin Park, isn’t around anymore.

    She choked a little, unsure of how to react. She lay back in bed, thinking, thinking about the amount of work waiting for her at the office. She thought about the tedium of writing ad copy. She thought about the tedium of writing in general. She thought about having a warm cup of coffee at the end of the day. She thought about winding down to music. She thought about the first time she listened to rock.

    Her relationship with the genre started when she was 11 or 12. One afternoon, she decided to buy an album called Hybrid Theory by an up-and-coming band called Linkin Park from a nearby music store. With a fistful of lunch money, she readily paid the cashier and ran home. She eventually spent many afternoons listening to the abrasive, pounding but thoroughly exhilarating rap-rock stylings of Linkin Park’s music on an old CD player. As she turned older, she participated in forums, repeated Mike Shinoda’s raps incessantly to anyone within earshot, and fervently drew embarrassing fanart. She wrote fanmail to Chester (which she was pretty sure were never read by him) and told him to take care when she thought he had vocal cord surgery (apparently, he didn’t).

    Then the internet happened. She was told that there are tons of better rock and metal acts out there. She discovered new bands. She learned about hardcore punk, post-hardcore, emo, grunge, post-grunge and many other genres. But she always came back to Linkin Park’s music, which was a perfect amalgamation of adolescent angst, testosterone-driven rage and raw attitude. She thought that it was the soundtrack to the growing pains of being a teenager.

    But when Living Things was released, she thought she grew up and fell out of love. Out of curiosity, she checked back on the band occasionally, only to reaffirm her suspicions that she had outgrown them. Yet, Chester’s voice was still as powerfully cathartic as before. She marveled when Chester announced his side project, Dead by Sunrise. She rejoiced when Chester joined Stone Temple Pilots as their vocalist. She watched as his band released albums after albums after albums. Their newest one, One More Light, was met with a fair amount of backlash from the public. She thought, “They’ve gone full Chainsmokers.” She shook her head and she moved on.

    Or not. Maybe she never did. On that Friday morning, she learned that Chester was gone. He committed suicide on what could have been Chris Cornell’s 53th birthday. In her mind, there was no doubt that it was premeditated; it’s too much of a coincidence. She played his band’s old songs, carefully listening to Chester’s self-lacerating lyrics again like she did when she was 12. She felt like a kid again.

    She cried.

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