It’s common sense to talk about the existence of a way out in desperate moments. There’s always a solid and peaceful solution, an alternative to the suffering, right? Well, everyone who’s been suffering from depression knows these tender words from outsiders. They mean no harm. All society wants us is to accept the struggle, learn to wrestle with our demons and … you know … get better. But what if that just isn’t always possible?
The death of an influential artist like LINKIN PARK‘s Chester Bennington is a harsh reminder of the often ignored truth that there sometimes is only one way out for a person. Happening on the birthday of Chris Cornell who took his life two months ago and who happens to be both – idol and friend – to Bennington, the apparent suicide of the singer follows similar patterns, leaving us all with a big ‘Why?’ It shows that the battle with your inner demons isn’t a question of status and age. All the Millions of fans, dollars, the love of your own family and the possibility to have your dream job aren’t enough. And that’s what makes this whole affair even bleaker. The voice who spoke for so many and who helped so many of my generation during their adolescent years couldn’t help itself. That’s the tragedy of such iconic artists, isn’t it?
Back then, when the Nu Metal hype was burning up, I happened to be the perfect target group for Chester’s messages. 16, way too shy for the cool kids, no love life and generally dissatisfied with life in general. Of all those bands coming up during that time, LINKIN PARK and Chester Bennington had the perfect mixture to please my special kind of taste. While LIMP BIZKIT’s Fred Durst was a narrow-minded poser and KORN’s Jonathan Davis a gloomy weirdo, Bennington and his band combined raw anger with tender melancholic pop appeal in both, their music and his voice. Their love for electronic elements and DEPECHE MODE might have also played a part. Chester had a soft core beneath his hard looks and that’s the key characteristic he kept over all those years. His lyrics haven’t always been subtle but it turns out they’ve been honest. They captured the struggle with the world, the inability to fit in and to simply greet your demons with a big smile. And even the hopeful moments in his songs had this element of darkness and desperation living closely next to each other. Bennington didn’t had an easy childhood, he was abused as kid, his parents got divorced and he fought a lifelong battle with various addiction. Music might have saved him… at least for a few years.
The Music Changed, The Message Remained
Over the past two decades, LINKIN PARK changed their style multiple times and they weren’t afraid to go ‘full COLDPLAY‘, record an EDM single and still look for their place within the mainstream Top 40. It kept the band vital and increased their fan base and I don’t see that happening with a lot of competitors from this generation of bands. But no matter if it’s a U2-rip off like Shadow Of The Day or this year’s cheesy pop ballad Heavy – the desperation and internal struggle always had a prominent place within these songs.
And only now we come to realize that it wasn’t a shallow pattern, a hollow gesture to appeal to a new generation of struggling teenagers who turned away from heavy rock towards other genres.
Chester Bennington wasn’t playing the role of the teenage angst leader, it has always been him. JOY DIVISION‘s Bernard Sumner once recalls the time when their front man Ian Curtis hung himself at the age of 23 by stating he never understood his bandmate’s struggle as he didn’t pay that much attention to his lyrics. You can blame that on youthful naivety but what’s with people like Chester who was 41? Or Chris Cornell who was 52? Or comedian Robin Williams who took his life with 63? Our all the countless ordinary people and non-celebrities who commit suicide?
Society tends to overlook the signs, we often lack of sensitivity and a general understanding of depression and the harsh struggles it causes on an everyday basis. Still, there’s often so little we all can do to make a difference. Have open ears and arms for your loved ones, notice the signs and have a serious, realistic approach towards the situation (you know, without those ‘Come on, get yourself together’ sayings). On the other hand, there is the harsh truth that not everybody can be saved and that even the best possible scenario (at least from the outside) is not a guarantee to be saved. In an almost cynical way, the cases of people like Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington are publicly effective events to shed more light on the topic. It’s upon us to make a difference in society, to be more sensitive in general. In one of LINKIN PARK‘s greatest hits Bennington sang about how he tried so hard and got so far only to realize that it doesn’t even matter in the end. Let us all prove him wrong! This does matter and always will. May his soul rest in peace.