To Chester Bennington

I was in 6th grade when my cousin let me listen to an album called Hybrid Theory by a band called Linkin Park. I had been previously chastised by a classmate at school for responding “who’s that?” to the question “Do you listen to Linkin Park?” I knew that owning this album was my way of getting in with the cool kids, but I would have to convince my mom first.

My mom’s immediate answer was “no.” My cousin assured her that the songs had no cuss words in them, and after begging, my mom relented and said she would have to listen to the songs first. I excitedly handed the portable CD player over to her, confident of the album's purity. The first song of the album, Papercut, played. She winced as she sat through the heavy drums and electric guitar. Then the vocals came in, and she immediately took off the headphones and declared “the very first word I heard was a cuss word!” I think in her brain the song went something like this:

F*** your parents!
Drop out of school and do drugs!
God is dead! 
Satan reigns!!!

This was before the time of having all the lyrics to every song in your pocket, but I still had that covered: the booklet in the CD case had all the lyrics to the songs. She skimmed through it. There were, in fact, no cuss words.

When I got my own copy, I put it in my CD player and started listening from the beginning. That same song that so terrified my mom started.

Why does it feel like night today?
Something in the air’s not right today
Why do I feel so uptight today?
Paranoia is all I got left

I listened to that album all the way through, enjoying every minute, and so many more times after that.

At that time, the weightier things of the world were not yet on my shoulders. My biggest issues were the girl I had a crush on not talking to me and me feeling lonely, but when I listened to this album that was being sung by a grown man who had deep struggles, I didn’t feel alone. I was about as emotionally immature as a little boy could be, but these songs allowed me to draw out of me that which I didn’t understand. It’s a practice that this album so engrained in me that I still do it today, as a grown man. I listened to Hybrid Theory again today. It still helps, 14 years later.

So thank you, Chester, for helping an 11-year-old Daniel better understand himself. I’m sorry that the weightier things of the world crushed you, like it has so many before you, but I hope that in your life you knew that you helped make that burden a little bit lighter for so many. You will be missed.

When my time comes, forget the wrong that I’ve done
Help me leave behind some reasons to be missed

You certainly did, Chester.