Dear Princess ‘Ishka,
Chester Bennington, front man of Linkin Park, has left us. I would like to remember him for how much his music has meant to me during the hardest times of my growth. In the past, it seemed to me that Linkin Park were keeping track of my path, writing the right song at the right time to help me find comfort, inspiration and to just hold on.
I was in Dublin for a study trip when I first heard of Linkin Park. I was twelve and I got captured by their harsh sound emanating from a melodic core. Their music expressed sorrow, rage and violence, but you could sense a deeper, melancholic lullaby in each of their songs. The magic was made by Chester’s voice, for it was so authentic, that it sublimely cut through your chest, reaching your most inner struggles. His voice expressed vulnerability, sometimes with harshness, sometimes with sweetness, but always with the sensitivity able to heal your hatred and cure your open wounds.
I started like all preadolescents start: being a crazy fan. I was always engaging in discussions about whether the original “Numb” was better than the remixed version with Jay-Z, singing along the lyrics with classmates and producing indistinguishable sounds to follow the rapped part of “In the End”.
I’ve never understood completely the true meanings of Linkin Park’s songs, but I never bothered too much. All I needed was their music made of words, electronic sounds and pain.
I want to remember three songs in particular. I could have chosen my all-time favorite “Somewhere I belong” or the most famous “In the End”, but I’ll go with three songs that are related to three very specific points in time of my life, when Chester’s voice helped me the most.
The first one is “Valentine’s day”. This song talks about death in a very poetic way, but also very straightforward. I started listening to it by chance, after I declared my love to a girl friend of mine when I was thirteen. It was around Valentine’s day, and it just matched perfectly. I showed my feelings and it hurt to be rejected. Nowadays I know that that was just an attempt to escape the most demanding questions about my homosexuality. “I used to be my own protection, but not now” was the most potent verse, and that became a mantra in the future for my self-acceptance.
Then, everything started falling apart. There was no place I could feel safe and I started hating. And as my hatred grew, I needed to express it. “I’ve lied to you / the same way that I always do / this is the last smile / that I’ll fake for the sake of being with you…” sound almost like prophetic words. It is the lyrics of “Pushing Me Away”, the song with which I screamed my pain in my darkest hours. The climax was reached with the chorus: “Why I never walked away?/ Why I played myself this way? / Now I see, your testing me, pushes me away”.
When I heard for the first time “Iridescent”, I was on a regional bus driving me away from my toxic hometown, back when I decided to live with my grandparents for a couple of months. I used to have a super tiny, stupid, orange mobile phone, which was almost useless except for its radio. It took me a second to recognize the iconic sound of Linkin Park. And Chester was telling me again my own story: “Do you feel cold and lost in desperation? / You build up hope, but failure’s all you’ve known / Remember all the sadness and frustration / And let it go / Let it go”.
Now, we really have to let him go. Chester Bennington has been called “the voice of a generation”. To me, his voice was a friend’s voice when I had none. He has helped many people like me and will continue to inspire new generations of artists. He will be missed.