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TRIBUTE: Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington - “You Will Never Be Forgotten”

Ryan Bird
Ryan Bird 20 July 2017 at 21.27

Rock Sound Editorial Director Ryan Bird pays tribute to the late Chester Bennington, who has been found dead today at 41.

"To say that someone defined a generation is a phrase used all too often. To do so means to affect more than just millions of people in dozens of countries - to move them or capture their attention. It means to change the very way that people think, feel and respond to not only music but to life. Chester Bennington, in that respect, was one of those people.

As I sit on a train out of London, my phone buzzing constantly with news of Chester's passing, I find myself stunned. This was a man who alongside his band mates created music that changed everything for so many. Although often mocked and ridiculed at the time (sadly, in hindsight, that's something that never truly ended), Linkin Park created music that flipped mainstream music on its head.

Arriving at the tail end of nu metal, arguably rock's most derided and ridiculed sub-genre, the band's 'Hybrid Theory' debut changed the entire planet's perception of what rock music was.

Their stunning blend of downtuned aggression and irresistible, perfectly structured pop hooks struck a chord with people of every faith, age, gender and sexuality, quickly racking up millions of sales and transforming this little known California mob into one of the biggest bands in the world.

But of all the weapons in its arsenal, what made 'Hybrid Theory' and indeed Linkin Park so spectacular, and so undeniably brilliant, was Chester's voice. Riddled with pain and suffering, the frustration, the sadness, the desperation and the despair were positively tangible.

Although he created songs that transcended social groups, age and everything in between, his tales of angst - songs which hinted at the very real mental and physical abuse he would later lay bare - resonated with millions of people across the globe who recognised his words to be true.

Those who had been bullied and those who had suffered, or even those who simply felt alone and lost without any idea of where to turn, could recognise one of their own even if those around them could only recognise catchy hooks.

He was a man not just listened to, but heard by many. From the timeless refrains of 'Crawling' to the absolutely unmistakable screams of “SHUT UP!” that turned 'One Step Closer' into one of the most famous rock songs of the last 20 years, he was a man who, in a genre full of bandwagon jumpers and money-hungry frauds, was quite simply the real deal.

As time went on I was fortunate enough to meet and interview Chester several times, the last of which came in Los Angeles in April 2014 shortly before the release of 'The Hunting Party'.

A picture of health, his infectious laugh dominated a conversation that spanned everything from fatherhood to a rigorous new exercise routine that had him feeling 10 years younger. He even signed a copy of Hybrid Theory for my then-girlfriend's father, writing the words “I don't like you! Piss off and bollocks!” next to his signature. You had to be there to understand the joke and the story behind it, but it was the act of a man very much comfortable in his own skin for what felt the first time in years.

Two months later, he and his band mates headlined Download Festival to what felt like the biggest crowd on earth, playing 'Hybrid Theory' in its entirety. I will never forget that night and seeing virtually everyone I knew - most of my friends, members of my family, people from countless bands - singing and screaming their lungs out to songs that soundtracked our youths like few others.

And despite the subject matter of many of the songs being sung, in that moment Chester looked as happy as any of us. We even took one of my favourite live photos that night, a picture of him and a red-wigged Mike Shinoda standing side-by-side, fists in the air as they witnessed first hand just what those songs, and especially those words meant to tens of thousands of people standing before them. Songs that will live forever thanks to him.

At this moment in time, none of this seems to matter. A wife has lost her husband, children have lost their father and five men have lost a bandmate and best friend. In this moment our thoughts and prayers must belong to them and nobody else.

But while most of us do not share the extent of their pain, a small piece of so many will feel missing today. Chester Bennington was a rare and special breed, his talent and raw emotion rarely matched and utterly irreplaceable, and a man as worthy of the term legend as any.

Rest In Peace, Chester. And on behalf of so many, thank you for the words, the music and the comfort that you brought. You will never be forgotten."

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