“How Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington gave my generation a voice when we needed it most”

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Sarah Biddlecombe
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If my teenage years were to be given a soundtrack, it would undoubtedly be Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory.

Released in 2000 when myself and other millennials across the country were on the cusp of tipping into adolescence, the album quickly became a touchstone for all the emotions, angst and hellish hormonal changes that puberty presented to us.

A lyrical Bible that guided all of us through this prickly, frustrating period, it eloquently put words onto the feelings we couldn’t yet articulate and reminded us that we were not alone – at a time when we undoubtedly needed it the most.

So when I heard the news that the band’s frontman, Chester Bennington, had passed away at the age of 41, it felt like something crucial had been snatched away from me – and in a weird way, it has.

Despite not knowing Bennington personally, or having even seen him perform live, the emotional impact of his music on my life cannot be understated. It was his voice that I – and many, many others – turned to in moments of confusion and despair, heartache and anguish, fury and rage.

His songs weren’t just something to put on at the end of a bad day – what his music gave us was much more specific than that. At times when it felt like no one in the world could possibly understand how we felt, it was Bennington who offered us a lifeline, expertly shuffling our scattered emotions into a more recognisable formation.

I saved up to buy the album on CD when I was 12 years old and would play it obsessively on my Sony CD Walkman. When it became scratched and worn from overuse, I burnt new copies from our family computer and briefly saved it to a minidisc,. And, when I finally got my own laptop, I downloaded a much-cherished digital version, too.

I could write an entire essay on the most impactful lyrics in Hybrid Theory.

“I find the answers aren’t so clear / Wish I could find a way to disappear / All these thoughts they make no sense / I find bliss in ignorance,” Bennington sings in One Step Closer, expertly describing that drowning feeling of having no idea what you’re doing – but knowing that you’re doing it wrong.

On Numb, I found respite from my habit of constantly comparing myself to others – and finding myself wanting: “By becoming this all I want to do / Is be more like me and be less like you… And I know I may end up failing too / But I know you were just like me with someone disappointed in you.”

And it was on Papercut that I finally found a voice for my inability to stop letting negative thoughts flood into every aspect of my life: “But I know just what it feels like / To have a voice in the back of my head / Like a face that I hold inside / A face that awakes when I close my eyes.”

I know that I am not the only person who found comfort in Bennington’s words: shortly after his untimely passing was made public, people began taking to Twitter in their droves.

All of them were desperate to pay tribute to the man whose music helped to shape so many of us:

I haven’t listened to Linkin Park’s music in over a decade, but I’ve had it on repeat since I heard the news about Bennington last night.

Even now, I know every word, and the exquisite anguish that is so palpable in his voice has taken me right back to being a furious 14-year-old.

I don’t know how I would have made it through those uneasy, formative years – or even if I would be the person I am today – if it hadn’t been for the 12 precious songs he recorded for Hybrid Theory.

And I hope that the power of his music will forever be Bennington’s lasting legacy to us all.

Images: Rex Features