✋ I AM THE CHANGE ~ with an open letter in honor of the late, great, Linkin Park frontman

Photo by: Adam Knowles / Blue Gorilla Pictures

The energy that’s transmitted between the voice of a singer and a microphone is one of great force. Considering the potential environment, embodied emotional impact, and people facing the stage, it’s fair to call the potential unmatched.

I have never seen someone channel that power with such raw intent like Chester Bennington. Running up both of Bennington’s wrists were tattoos resembling flames. When I think of the late, great, Linkin Park singer, who would have been 42 years-old today, I envision the image of Bennington squeezing the microphone with both hands, a slight bend at the waist, head tilted down, but still towards the crowd, eyes closed — and a roar leaving his mouth, hitting the mic, catching fire down his arms, and then broadcasting through the PA to wide array of adoring fans accepting the song with open arms. To me, those wrist tattoos served a purpose. They were both symbolic and complimentary to how Bennington tapped into his soul, and ripped away his intensity. Gracefully, he then threw it back out into the world. I say “gracefully” — an operating word here, as a juxtaposition because Linkin Park music was categorically heavy, and Bennington’s singing was laced with melodic screams. But he had the ability to control the levels at which his message was delivered in a fascinating manor. He owned his perspective, and as a result he controlled the audience singing back every word.

Photo by: Adam Knowles / Blue Gorilla Pictures

Somewhere I belong. What a three-word phrase. It’s a question, a statement, a thought and a journey all rolled into one. For Linkin Park, it was the lead single off 2003’s Meteora. It was also the quintessential Chester Bennington song. It starts as a melodious wave in it’s infancy — gliding, and just about to swell…1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4…for 23 seconds. Live, this intro was the time where Bennington would collect himself, pace around the stage, breath in and…boom, the wave breaks, the guitars kick in and the song sends you on your way via a dynamic partnership between Bennington and Mike Shinoda. Then, at the bridge, Bennington has his moment. He takes over — starting with “I will never know myself until I do this on my own,” and ending with “I’ll find myself today.” But in between those lines lies “I will never feel anything else until my wounds are heeled.”

Pause for moment.

Bennington had his demons and he had is struggles. He had some personal experiences many in the world could relate to and traumas that many could not. He had the ability to tap into those demons, turn them into honest songs, and then share them openly. In music, he did not run or hide from anything. He was fierce in his lyrics and delivery — “In the End”, “One Step Closer”, “Crawling” “Numb”, “Faint”, “Breaking the Habit”, “Heavy”… the list goes on. He turned his pain into art using every ounce of electricity he had. This is where Bennington was a pure artistic genius.

Back to “Somewhere I Belong”. In form of a question — it’s one we all ask. As a destination — it’s one we all want to be at. The question is — how do you get there? In 2003, here was “Somewhere I Belong” front and center, from a band that had everyone’s attention, coming from a singer that like many of us, maybe didn’t know the answer. He was courageous enough to lead the army of those willing to search. In the march with Bennington at the helm, you work backwards. You know the feeling you want, you know the importance of “overcoming” to get there, and you know you need face yourself head-on to start. All of this is addressed in the song. There’s hope. There’s one more light that can get you through the shadow of the day to ultimately feel, like you’re close to something real.

Furthermore, “Somewhere I Belong” and Bennington, let you know that you are not alone. Speaking of pioneers, Talinda Bennington and Vicky Cornell are currently illuminating “you are not alone” with tremendous efforts of activism. From #MakeChesterProud to #FuckDepression to Change Direction to the Addiction Policy Forum, to Keep the Promise, these strong women have set out to make a difference, so everyone feels comfortable getting to where they belong.

Photo by: Adam Knowles / Blue Gorilla Pictures

I had the great opportunity to see Linkin Park live twice. The first was in 2003 at K-Rock’s Claus Fest in New York. Given it was a radio holiday show, there were multiple bands from the mainstream rotation on the bill. Linkin Park headlined. Not knowing what to expect, I was completely mesmerized. When I think back to that performance the word that comes to mind is “movement.” A movement unfolded before me, and as I mentioned regarding Bennington’s control — he and the boys had the crowd in lockstep like no one else that night. They sang every word in unison. They swayed together, …sang, cried, danced, loved and laughed together. All of this because of Linkin Park’s music. Like the sixth song in the set suggested, they knew that for the time being they were right where they belonged.

The second time was at 2008’s Projekt Revolution tour in New Jersey. “This is my favorite part of the night right here,” said Bennington as he made a guest appearance on stage with Chris Cornell to perform a “Hunger Strike” duet. Cornell then returns the favor during Linkin Park’s set with “Crawling”. The word for me that night was “smile”. I saw both artists do it quite a bit. They were infectious and contagious. Especially when they were together, and both caused a beautiful wave to occur, staying true to the tour’s purpose. Cornell from atop a hill overlooking the venue, and Bennington from atop the monitors by his microphone stand, locking hands with people in the front row during various show moments. Remember my point on the transmission of energy? I could’ve sworn these peoples’ heads were going to explode (and they would be fine with it) from the energy Bennington was giving off.

So where does this leave us now?

Well…

Dear Chester,

“When this began,
 I had nothing to say 
 And I’d get lost in the nothingness inside of me
 (I was confused)
 And I let it all out to find that I’m not the only person with these things in mind.”

Make Chester proud…. I know as you see these marches, the efforts of “voice” and changing direction take place that you must be beyond proud. Your fans… they want to heal, they want to feel what they thought was never real, they want to erase all the pain til it’s gone. Please know, that through all of this — your legacy, your songs, your bandmates and your wife’s incredible efforts, your community is coming together. And that’s somewhere they belong.

Thank you.

PS ~ please say hi to Chris for me.

Art by: Carlos Vargas
  • To find out more about 320 Changes Direction, what you can do, and how you can make a difference on helping with depression visit ChangeDirection.org




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