I remember waking up in the wee hours of the morning of 21 July 2017 (still 20 July in the U.S.), feeling tired as usual and scrolling my Facebook feed in bed, when the terrible news greeted my half-open eyes. Chester Bennington from Linkin Park was dead. Chester was no more. I let out a cry, noooooo, and was immediately wide awake and couldn’t stop bawling my eyes out.
The day passed in a blur as I floated around with swollen eyes and a broken heart. I remember going to the hospital that evening to see my best friend recovering from an operation, and feeling the weight of mortality on my entire soul.
I guess I’ve been through this grieving cycle many times now but obviously nothing can ever prepare you for the feeling of shock and emptiness to learn of the passing of artistes whose voices accompanied you through the long days and the short years. I remember the sadness of losing Layne Staley of Alice in Chains in 2002. I was too young when Kurt died, but I grew up internalizing everything that he was. In a way, grief is something so personal that you really have to experience it and deal with it in your own way. This is definitely not the same as losing a close family member but you know what I mean – you’ve grown up with their voices in your head so much it’s like they are a part of you.
I grew up with a lot of music and it basically shaped most of my teenage years and bands like Linkin Park allowed my siblings and I to scream and shout and sing, with zero regard for what the adults thought. I, for one, was the super rebel in the family, often getting into screaming matches with my parents, and one of my retreat strategies was of course to go back into my room, slam the door and blast my angry music as loud as my stereo system could go. It drove my parents insane but inside my own cocoon of pain and anguish, I found love, peace, happiness, creativity and a way of self expression.
My brother, in particular, was a major Linkin Park fan, and in general rap music played a big role in his formative years as it also helped him develop linguistic skills and polished articulation. For me, Chester and Linkin Park was a very fresh sound, so raw with emotions but packing so much melody and force too. All the boys in the class were obsessed with the band, along with Limp Bizkit and Blink 182 and Green Day and all the rest of it. I was much more experimental in that I was diving deep into the whole range of alternative rock at the time and going back in time as well, but there was never any doubt at all that I always felt and heard the pain – the raw pain – in Chester’s voice.
I loved Stone Temple Pilots lots and was heartbroken when Scott Weiland died. I remember Nadine and I used to jam ‘Plush’ so much at her place, and we would have a really good time. Scott’s ex-wife’s post in Rolling Stones was, however, a sobering reminder of how we never really had him – he was lost a long time ago. I read his memoir last year – “Not Dead And Not For Sale” – and it offered a glimpse into his psyche and life, but was hardly a tell-all into who he really was and the extent of the struggles he was facing. It was a guarded fortress from a darkness only he knew.
We don’t want to downplay Scott’s amazing talent, presence or his ability to light up any stage with brilliant electricity. So many people have been gracious enough to praise his gift. The music is here to stay. But at some point, someone needs to step up and point out that yes, this will happen again – because as a society we almost encourage it. We read awful show reviews, watch videos of artists falling down, unable to recall their lyrics streaming on a teleprompter just a few feet away. And then we click “add to cart” because what actually belongs in a hospital is now considered art. (https://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/scott-weiland-s-family-dont-glorify-this-tragedy-20151207)
With the passing of Scott Weiland, Chris Cornell and Chester, it feels like we have lost that crisp, clear alternative rock guitar sound and strong, powerful vocals that defined, at least for me, that era of late 1990s and early 2000s. Today’s music sounds nothing like that – for goodness sake, most of the bands today can’t even play their own instruments. To make matters worse, Chester also fronted Stone Temple Pilots from 2013-2015 – it’s like heaven just can’t get enough of their good voices.
Rest in peace, my sweet angels.