Where’d you go? I miss you so, seems like it’s been forever … that you’ve been gone.
Words can inspire, they can be ominous and prophetic; they can also cut like a knife. These are the words to a “Where’d You Go?” by a band called Fort Minor, a side project for Linkin Park co-founder, Mike Shinoda. LP has been in the news the past few months, some good, but mostly not so much. Instead of doing press for their latest album, the band is coping with the death of their lead singer and friend, Chester Bennington who took his own life last July.
The Phoenix, Arizona native was a singer, songwriter, and actor best known for being in Linkin Park; but he was also front-man for Dead by Sunrise, and in recent years lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots. That’s what you’d read in a bio about Chester. What you might not read is that he’s a byproduct of society, the embodiment of our nation’s greatest man-made afflictions, depression as a result of drug addiction.
Everyone has their secret sorrows, those wounds never show and we all deal with our past in different ways. Bennington had many crosses to bare. Besides having ongoing physical ailments, he was a victim of sexual abuse when he was just 7 years old. That’s not to say that was the catalyst of all his ills, but anyone that suffers this kind of event can end up with addiction issues resulting in depression. That affliction is insidious by nature; if it is compounded with addiction, it becomes virtually impossible to see the end, no matter how successful a person is in their personal life. To the afflicted, any day could seem as if up was down, left was right, common sense, or lack thereof, have no rhyme or reason.
As for what made Bennington a household name, that was the band. LP was formed in ‘96 in Agoura Hills, California by high school friends Shinoda, Rob Bourdon, and Brad Delson. Like most bands just starting out, they had several setbacks. After a few setbacks, they had even more. Things looked up once they added Bennington. What you may not know is that before they were LP, they were called Xero, and Hybrid Theory. Once the name was established, and they got an EP out, they took off. With their 2000 seminal freshman LP in play, Hybrid Theory, their meteoric rise began. Songs that blew up on alt rock adio included “Papercut”, “One Step Closer”, “Crawling”, and “In the End”. Their sophomore effort, Meteora, propelled them into the stratosphere. Meteora sold more than 800,000 copies during its first week. Songs off that album included “Breaking the Habit”, “Somewhere I Belong”, “Numb” and “Faint”.
LP is credited with merging metal with hip-hop in a way that put them in a league of their own. Then came Minutes to Midnight in 2007.The album topped the Billboard charts and had the third-best debut week of any album that year. The band continued to explore a wider variation of musical types in their musical journey of sight and sound. Their 6th studio album, The Hunting Party, came out in 2014; it was a return to their heavier bone-crunching sound. Other songs that made them the international phenomenon they’ve become are: “Bleed It Out”, “Given Up”, “What I’ve Done”, “My December”, “Waiting for the End”, “Wretches and Kings” and “New Divide”. To date, LP has sold more than 68 million records worldwide.
Their well-articulated lyrics depicting the emotional struggle of addiction, depression, and just being young gave countless fans an emotional attachment to LP. That, coupled with a larger-than-life sound with two dynamic lead singers turned LP into pied pipers of a new generation. Shinoda mesmerized, but Bennington definitely had a distinctive agro-controlled voice, one that their fans called their own. Even though LP was “their” band, they have been recognized with music awards across the musical spectrum winning AMA’s, Billboard Awards, Grammy’s and several VMA’s just to name a few. Despite all the success, LP remains grounded. Over the years, LP has participated in several charitable events. Most notably, they raised money for Hurricane victims and donated money to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation and helped in relief efforts for the Indian Ocean tsunami victims by staging several charity concerts and setting up an additional fund called Music for Relief. LP continues to support causes near and dear to their heart.
Currently, the band consists of Shinoda, Bourdon, Delson, Dave Farrell and Joe Hahn. The guys actually started working on their 7th studio album, One More Light, in November 2015. It was released on May 19, 2017. Truth-be-told, some songs weren’t as well received by some of their hardcore followers. However, the title song, One More Light, took on new meaning for the band as the death of Chris Cornell of Audioslave hit them hard, especially Bennington. Cornell was a very close friend of his. It was devastating to hear the Wayne County Coroner say that Cornell committed suicide by hanging. The song was consequently a tribute to Cornell.
For years, Chester had been open about his struggles. He gave us insight to his thoughts through lyrics. Through music he’s said things like: Paranoia’s all I got left… I bleed it out, digging deeper just to throw it away… I’m my own worst enemy… Take this all away, I’m suffocating! Tell me what the fuck is wrong with me, God, put me out of my fucking misery! He even screamed at us: Don’t turn your back on me, I won’t be ignored! These lyrics can be argued to be signs; signs we ironically ignored because they were nicely wrapped as part of a hit song. We all knew Chester had demons; it was that honesty that made Chester and LP so relatable. What’s even more ominous is that Bennington’s death occurred on Cornell’s 53rd birthday. All the signs were there. Chester once Tweeted he couldn’t imagine a world without Cornell in it. Sadly, the way we talk about rock stars who die from suicide only perpetuates a myth instead of looking at the illness that is addiction and depression.
Ask anyone in the know, addiction and depression are not exclusive of each other, but are often a boxed set.
The toll it takes is not just on the afflicted, but those closest to that person are also impacted. For Chester’s fans, they know he battled his demons, and they were eventually too strong for him. If we want to get our arms around this harbinger of death, we need to call addiction and depression by what it is. We need to stop calling them demons and call it a disease; just like cancer, diabetes, and MS. Bennington spoke the language that all depressed people speak; we just didn’t hear him. It’s not too late for others who suffer as Chester did.
Bennington’s lifeless body was found at home by his housekeeper. Shinoda confirmed his death on Twitter later that day. Immediately, there were rumors and conspiracy theories about his demise. An attempt was made to put some sense to the tragedy by linking Cornell’s death to Bennington.
Social media took off like wildfire creating a story within a story. Despite some of those stories having some kernels of truth, those stories have since been debunked. The sad reality is drug addiction and depression make a bad combination. The next day, Brian Elias, Chief of Operations for the Los Angeles County, Office of the Medical Examiner-Coroner, confirmed that a half-empty bottle of alcohol was found at the scene, no other drugs were present. A belt Bennington used to hang himself from a bedroom door. The Coroner said there was nothing mysterious about the scene. That’s the reality his family, friends and fans have to live with. Understandably, LP canceled their One More Light Tour. On July 28, Shinoda announced that donations made to the band’s Music for Relief charity would be redirected to the One More Light Fund, which had been set up in Bennington’s memory.
His friends say Chester was a normal guy; he liked things that normal guys like. He was an avid sports fan; he loved every Arizona sports team. He loved bands like Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, STP, Alice in Chains and Deftones. He was a fan of The Walking Dead, he even appeared in an episode. For some twisted reason, rock stars who check out by nefarious means seem to be elevated to legendary status. Look at Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols, STP’s Scott Weiland and the suspicious deaths of Jim Morrison of The Doors and Jimi Hendrix. As a society, we can recognize depressed artists, but too often, it’s after-the-fact. Checking out at your own hands seems to be the saddest path to becoming an icon. For example, there’s Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, Michael Hutchence of INXS, and most recently, the aforementioned, Chris Cornell. As for Cornell and Bennington, the verdict isn’t in just yet on how history will tell their stories.
Bennington is survived by his six kids; he was married to Talinda Bennington at the time of his passing. She’s the mother of three of his children, and Executor of the estate. Here’s what’s remarkable, to ensure his children would remain a family, he made provisions for them to receive money to visit each other on a regular and ongoing basis. In his will, he wrote I request that my children’s mothers or Guardians encourage and allow my children to visit with one another and with my extended family and the extended family of my Spouse on a regular and ongoing basis, so that my children know that they have a large and loving family. He’s made sure they wouldn’t have to pay for these trips themselves by instructing the Trustee of the family trust to make sure they are given money to cover their travel expenses. It hasn’t been disclosed exactly how much Chester left them. What’s the takeaway from all this? Who cares if one more light goes out in a sky of a million stars, if a moment is all we are? Who cares if one more light goes out… it seems we all do.
Despite his afflictions, those closest to Bennington say he was funny, loved his family, lit up a room with his infectious smile and he had a great sense of humor. He was genuinely a good and decent person. Check out LP’s appearance on Carpool Karaoke, it depicts the Chester his friends all knew. For LP, ironically; this is not the end, nor is it the beginning. Like the Phoenix, they too have risen. To celebrate the light that was Chester Bennington, they’re playing a show tonight at the Hollywood Bowl, dubbed Linkin Park and Friends – Celebrate Life in Honor of Chester Bennington. The event will be LPs first performance following Bennington’s death. Blink-182 and members of System of a Down, Korn, Avenged Sevenfold, Bring Me the Horizon, Yellowcard and singer, Kiiara, have all signed on to perform with LP at their special tribute concert. It’s a sold-out show, so if you don’t already have a ticket, you can watch it from your couch on YouTube live stream from the Hollywood Bowl.