I didn’t expect the abrupt end to Linkin Park’s lead vocalist Chester Bennington’s life to affect me. But it did and I was brought to recognise a part of me that I was and probably still am not comfortable with.
My music preferences lean towards a more classical genre, shaped by my dad’s daily indulgence in mostly classical and Christian music. Since I was an infant, I grew up listening to Tchaikovsky and Beethoven, and more mainstream Christian artistes from the Maranatha group in addition to Don Moen and Lenny LeBlanc. As I got older I took up slow, easy-listening music such as that from Enya and serene instrumentals including those from Hennie Bekker, Chris Spheeris and Yanni. I guess my choice of music always reflected a desire for peace and tranquillity.
I had always been doing my utmost to suppress the emotional side of me. As the only child of two physically handicapped parents, it falls on me to be the rock of the family. To do what is right for others rather than self remains an important tenet of my life. I had actively driven myself towards a life based on logical deductions and utilitarian considerations. I saw people including myself as entities in a giant framework that required optimisation for society’s benefit. This was probably why I decided to do economics even though my mathematical skills were/are terrible. My fiancee had told me that I was somewhat robotic when we first dated many years ago. She is probably right. But this balance shifted when I was introduced to Linkin Park.
I first listened to Linkin Park, in particular the song “Faint”, when I was in Millennia Institute due to a school project on music. My first response was disgust. I didn’t understand the need for Chester to be belting out the lyrics screaming. (How is this even music? Did this guy not get a sore throat?) A visual look at Chester made it even clearer that this was no way an artiste I could look up to. A strict Christian upbringing teaches you to eschew tattoos and piercings. Chester was a walking museum of such adornments. But there was a project to deliver and my close friends had picked Linkin Park. Being the tech guy in the group, I had to arrange parts of “Faint” to fit our presentation. This meant that I had to listen to Chester yelling “I won’t be ignored” over and over until the presentation was perfected. I had to this on headphones because God forbid my parents found out I was listening to a rock/rap band.
Unexpectedly through this reluctant initial contact, Linkin Park grew on me. It made me question why I was keeping in all that teenage angst bottled by principles and the fear of exploring a messy whirlpool of emotions. It made me take that step towards embracing myself in totality. In my darker times, I found that Chester’s screaming was a welcome release for me. I acquired Hybrid Theory and never looked back. But this was done quietly. I had never publicly identified Linkin Park as a band that I followed because it was so different from my ideals and the way I am.
Linkin Park turned out to be the only band that I followed consistently and it grew up with me. Their more recent albums had mellowed significantly and became somewhat more reflective in nature. While many fans did not like this modulation in direction, it gelled well with me. “Not Alone” was played over and over during difficult times in 2016. In completing my third decade this year, I found “One More Light” and “Sorry for Now” a timely reminder of my time and the importance of treasuring both positive and negative moments.
The passing of Chester made me recognise that this marked an end to a conduit that had made me “less robotic and more human” (says the fiancee) in my past ten years. On learning of Chester’s death, I turned to Linkin Park like clockwork not because of Chester’s association but because Linkin Park is always my go-to outlet in unhappy moments. However, doing so this time simply reinforced what a loss Chester was to me. A Linkin Park without Chester is unlikely to trigger the same perfectly toned notes in an unlikely fan like me. But I am grateful for the brilliance when my world was asleep.
Thank you Chester. Thank you for the music.