I saw the news that Chester Bennington had killed himself and was immediately transported to the house I was an early teen in, sitting on AIM, typing to Nick Miller about something—maybe even about Linkin Park. And then I was on a family vacation in Oregon, where I begged to go to a Sam Goody so I could use my 14th birthday money to buy the new Reanimation album, and listen to it on repeat on my Walkman.
That night I opened Spotify and played through Reanimation, and was thrust down memory lane even further. I saw the lyrics in Nick's insult-to-chicken-scratch scrawl, passed in a note in Mrs. Sowers' English class, probably. I remembered him playing the piano hook from My December on endless loop. And then in my mind I was in my old Honda, Herbie, turning from the 101 onto Encinitas Boulevard. And that time I got back to CLU to an apology from Sam for having accidentally cracked the Reanimation CD in half when he was borrowing my car.
I thought about the collaboration Chester did with Jay-Z, and how it wasn't my introduction to him (that was Big Pimpin' on the radio, lol) but it was my introduction to how clever he was, and my invitation to explore the rest of his discography that wasn't going to be playing on 93.3 any time soon. I can hope that I would've fallen in love with Hov some other way, but I have Chester to thank for that first deep dive.
When I saw that Chester had killed himself, I realized just how much of my days his voice had accompanied. More than half my life ago, in a much angstier time, Linkin Park put words to feelings I was experiencing and to feelings I didn't know could be experienced. Linkin Park helped my friends and me understand each other more deeply.
The last Linkin Park album I bought was Meteora (2003) so I cannot speak to their evolution as artists or anything like that. But for those formative years of my music-listening life, in particular, I owe a debt of gratitude to Chester and to Mike Shinoda and to Mister Hahn.
I cannot imagine the pain his family and friends are feeling at his death, but I will honor his life by listening to the words he wove together more than a decade ago. I will honor the feelings these words bring back to the surface, and I will reach out to the dear ones I first felt them with.