A Place For My Head
Man, this one stung a bit.
I think I’ve realised why. We’ve lost so many idols in the last few years, iconic musicians, actors, celebrities. But I think this is the first time we lost one who was uniquely ours.
Linkin Park were a staple of our generation, the musical foundation for me and some of my closest friends. They spoke to us during our formative, most influential years. They were a rebellious phase of an entire demographic who are probably now relatively well-adjusted 9-5ers with, like, mortgages and dependents and dental insurance.
LP were the first band that I truly loved.
At 10 years old, I was a budding member of the LPU fan club. I owned all their CDs, knew all about the band members, thought I was hardcore for downloading their b-sides on KaZaa. For myself and many people, they were a gateway to heavy music, a journey that has essentially shaped my life. I thought I was edgy as fuck with my XXL t-shirts and sweat cuffs. I thought LP’s lyrics were so personal, so relatable. Somehow they understood me and my devastating first world problems, tapping into raw emotion I didn’t know music could make me feel. It’s clear now that that resonated so well, to so many people across the planet, because they came from a place of real pain. And also because they paired so well with Dragonball Z AMVs.
Listening back now to Chester’s lyrics, it’s harrowing to realise that they weren’t some generic attempt to connect with a marketing executive’s crude construction of an angsty teen. They were a real projection of his own demons. Chester went through the ringer and struggled with childhood abuse, with addiction, with losing one of his best friends just a few weeks ago. He never shook the shadow, but he also he never tried to hide it. Listening to his words now is a pretty clear insight into where he was at mentally, where he always was. People saying that he had nothing to complain about as a successful musician or that he was out of touch are completely missing the point. Instead, we should be asking why it keeps happening to these people that we think have it all. Mental illness doesn't discriminate, and having a massive ranch in California does diddly squat in remedying a chemical imbalance.
LP copped a lot of flak later in their career, not least of all from me. Damned if you stay a nu-metal band, damned if you mature into some kind of dance pop U2. Regardless of your stance on their last, like, 4 albums, it almost seems ridiculous now to chastise a band for growing out of a sound when we all did, too. It’s pretty clear that despite the constant accusation of selling out Chester stayed true to his own desires to make music that was an extension of himself, fuck the naysayers. That’s art if I ever saw it.
I hear a lot that what does it matter? You didn’t know him personally. It has no bearing on your own life, and of course in a lot of ways that is true. But the death of someone who has existed as a constant, background presence in your life, who provided the soundtrack to your most impressionable years, kind of becomes this giant neon reminder of your own mortality and the hell if that doesn't ruin your day. Linkin Park were more than a band to me. They were identity, acceptance and bonding with my best friends. They were childhood memories and oversized cargo pants. I never knew you, Chester, but I hope you knew how many lives you touched.