Life as a teenager is never easy; it's full of perils and tribulations, angst, joy, pain and sometimes our first contact with grief. You slowly begin to see what the world is like, its sharp edges and at times every problem feels like a massive wave crashing on top of you. In those moments, you find something to help you get through the days, something that understands you. For many of us that was Linkin Park, and the voice of Chester Bennington.
I stopped listening to Linkin Park for a few years now, and haven't listened to their recent albums. But as news broke of Chester Bennington's passing, I was pulled back into my childhood memories, thinking about the band that I grew up listening to. We feel nostalgic about our music, considering that what we heard in our youth eclipses that of the music today. But Linkin Park were different; something else, something that at times just transcended about being music. Their songs were like a helpline of sorts for some teenagers, and at their best, there was no one like them. There was no one like Chester Bennington when he was singing the choruses of "Numb" or "In the End."
The retreat from the world into a safe space, into a bubble cocooning you from everyone else is something everyone might have experienced at one point growing up. Something to help you understand the pain you were feeling, and maybe cure that sense of loneliness in the struggle you were facing. For many disaffected teenagers, Linkin Park touched them in ways that no other band could. There was a sense of raw anger, hurt and defiance that set the tone for their songs, an acceptance that there was internal strife but it could be spoken aloud and defeated. To every young person, the retreat into their bedroom and plugging in Linkin Park was because there was no outlet, no way of expressing what they were going through. First with their album Hybrid Theory, and then Meteora, Linkin Park were about tackling grief and pain, about dealing with it, but without ever being too preachy about it. For children who grew up in homes of abuse or faced bullying, Chester Bennington's voice was a powerful, soothing presence in our small worlds. His voice was the soul of Linkin Park, synchronising flawlessly with rapper Mike Shinoda. Linkin Park took rap metal to another level, transcending the genre, becoming a pillar of the music community, and an integral part of nearly every teenager's life.
Linkin Park helped teenagers like me make sense of the issues that we faced. That sense of being alone against the world with no one to understand why you're lashing out at school, the confusion as to why all your friends have suddenly lost interest in you, Chester Bennington's voice had a way of resonating with it.
And just as teenagers slowly grow up and change, and become less defined by an outward anger, Linkin Park expanded. Their later albums were softer, more considered and less grounded in metal and though it didn't feel like the Linkin Park of old, that was all right. Their songs weren't about staying trapped in your anger but facing it, dealing with and then trying to move on.
There is a massive sadness in the fact that Chester Bennington helped millions face their troubles with his songs, but struggled throughout life with his. His childhood was one many teenagers could relate to, and did through the songs. His death is another reminder that depression and anxiety when left alone amongst men can lead to suicide.
Chester Bennington's life was told in the songs. And so were ours. Linkin Park made every lonely, hurting teenager feel not so alone.
Useful websites and helplines:
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Rethink Mental Illness advice and information service is open 9:30 - 4pm Monday - Friday - 0300 5000 927. They have over 100 factsheets with easy to understand information on a variety of issues related to mental health
- CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) is a registered charity, which exists to prevent male suicide in the UK. Call 0800 58 58 58 or visit thecalmzone.net
- The Mix is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41