The death of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington last night came as a massive shock. Not only does it come months after the death of Audioslave / Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, also by suicide, but also mere months after Linkin Park released new material.
Celebrity suicide is not something I enjoy writing about. It isn’t something I feel is easy to cover. But there are lessons to be learned from Chester’s death.
How is it that a man who enjoyed massive success and satisfaction in his private and personal life felt lonely and afraid? More than anything, it’s clear that mental health is an ongoing battle, a relentless to-and-fro, in which past achievements and personal milestones may be of little lasting consequence.
It’s been pretty grotesque watching the media blitz over the last twenty four hours. Watching endless Linkin Park lyrics quoted and presented as some longstanding evidence of faltering mental health. LP wrote about self-hatred all the time, and self harm too, sometimes explicitly (‘Crawling’).
The band took inspiration from these ideas of regret and angst; it’s why everyone loved them when they were angsty teens themselves. Bennington’s writing was not a cry for help and to frame it as such is, in my view, totally disrespectful.
Their latest album One More Light was not well received, not least by this publication. Of course, these harsh opinions are being dialled back in the wake of the death of Bennington.
I think the situation calls for honesty: if you hated the guy’s work when he was alive, changing it now is such a dishonest compliment. Respect Chester, a likable guy who defined a generation, whatever you may think of Linkin Park. But don’t pretend there were ‘warnings all along’, and don’t feign a newfound love of his work.
Chester, you shall be missed.