The Shadow Of The Day
Over the past week or so, many pop culture outlets have covered the tragic death of Linkin Park lead singer Chester Bennington. So far, this coverage of the singer’s untimely death has focused heavily on his battles with alcoholism, substance abuse and his lifelong battles with his mental health. For this addition of Nerd Icon, instead of focusing on his troubles, I am going to discuss the reason that he meant so much to so many of us; his music.
Whether you are a fan of Linkin Park‘s music or not, there is one fact that you cannot dispute; Chester Bennington was one of the standout lead vocalists and frontmen of any band, from any genre of music for over the last decade and a half. His impressive vocal range meant he could sing a myriad of vocal styles, as evidenced across Linkin Park‘s changing style across their seven studio albums and various remix compilations.
I will now share with all of you some of my favourite Chester Bennington vocal performances coupled with some candid personal anecdotes.
A Place For My Head
The first time I ever remember hearing Linkin Park was back in the year 2000 shortly after Hybrid Theory came out. I was visiting a friend’s house and he put MTV2 on the TV. Next thing I know I’m listening to a hybrid of rap and metal (Nu-metal as it was known) in the form of ‘One Step Closer’. The lead singer of the band had bleached blonde hair, flames tattooed around his wrists and he sang with a fury my pre-teen self hadn’t encountered up until that point.
The person I am describing is of course Chester Bennington himself. During the Christmas holidays from school, I bought Hybrid Theory and that record acted as a catalyst for my love of rock and roll and my desire to be a lead singer in a band.
While ‘Papercut’, ‘Crawling’ and the massively popular ‘In The End’ were the other three singles from Hybrid Theory, my favourite track from the album back then and still today is ‘Pushing Me Away’. While Chester’s vocals on most of Hybrid Theory‘s tracks have varying levels of intensity, ‘Pushing Me Away’ was the first time we heard his softer side. It remains not only my favourite Hybrid Theory song, but one of my top five Linkin Park songs.
Find Something I Wanted All Along
Meteora was released in 2003 and it coincided with a very difficult period in my childhood. While I had close friends and a supportive family, my 15 year old self was beginning to feel like an outsider.
Through his lyrics in the first single on Meteora, ‘Somewhere I Belong’, Chester mirrored a lot of what I was feeling at the time: “I want to find something I wanted all along, somewhere I belong.” And in these words, a teenage kid that was struggling to cope found great solace.
‘Breaking The Habit’ holds a very special significance for me. This was the song I listened to right before my teenage self told my parents that I was having suicidal thoughts and that I needed help. Music is a powerful thing. Listening to the words “I don’t know how I got this way, I’ll never be all right. So I’m breaking the habit tonight” made me want to get the help that I so desperately needed.
This is one of the reasons Chester‘s suicide has hit me so hard. His lyrics gave me the strength that I needed to get help and it breaks my heart to know that he could not find the help that he needed.
Between My Pride And My Promise
Onto happier times in the year 2007 during my second year of college, Linkin Park released Minutes to Midnight. And with the release of this record came a stylist change for the band. ‘What I’ve Done’, the first single from the third album, drew a line under the band’s Nu-Metal past. ‘What I’ve Done’ is a straight up hard rock tune and one of Chester‘s finest vocal performances.
While this song doesn’t hold the personal feeling of the early ones I have mentioned, it’s just an example of some kick ass rock and roll and the great talent that Chester had.
‘Shadow Of The Day’ is not just one of my favourite Chester vocal performances, I think it may be his best performance. His vocals are brimming with emotion on this track and when I hear it now, I can feel myself having to fight back tears. A great talent so tragically lost.
Lost In The Echo
Admittedly after Minutes to Midnight, my Linkin Park fandom did wane somewhat. As we get older, our music tastes evolve and as my tastes evolved so did Linkin Park‘s sound.
Until recently, I wasn’t overly pushed about listening to A Thousand Suns, Living Things, or The Hunting Party. It was probably the lead single ‘Heavy’ from new album One More Light that reminded me how much I enjoyed this music and, most of all, Chester’s voice.
Despite becoming a more passive fan of the band’s work for the past ten years, one of my favourite Linkin Park songs was released during this period: ‘Waiting For The End’. Honestly, I don’t think there is another song in their discography where the rapping of Mike Shinoda and Chester‘s vocals create the perfect symmetry that they do on ‘Waiting For The End’.
When the news broke of his passing, I was sitting in room working on a writing project and ‘Waiting For The End’ was the first song I put on. I broke down in tears during the final chorus.
I Can’t Leave Out All The Rest
To properly remember Chester‘s amazing vocal talents, there are two videos that I need to share with you:
During the recording sessions for Minutes To Midnight, Chester also wrote a number of songs that he felt didn’t really fit Linkin Park‘s style at the time. This lead him to form the band Dead By Sunrise and in 2009 this side project released the album Out of Ashes.
The highlight of this record and a standout vocal performance can be heard on the song ‘Let Down’.
Another project of note was in 2013, when he joined California Grunge legends, Stone Temple Pilots. A testament to his talent as a vocalist and frontman was that he was able to adequately fill in for sadly also deceased Scott Weiland.
A Nerd Icon of a Different Kind
Chester Bennington gave so much to all of us in his short 41 years. I cannot even begin to understand what he was going through but I am deeply saddened that a musical hero of mine took his own life. Suicide and the subject of mental health are something that we as a society need to discuss with greater depth and attentiveness, so that we may remove the taboos that surround them.
If you’re reading this and you are struggling with your mental health, please tell your friends, tell your loved ones and seek help from the wonderful people at the Samaritans and Pieta House.
Rest in peace Chester Bennington and thank you for all that you gave me personally, and all that you gave all of your fans the world over.
“Who cares if one more light goes out? Well I do”