When you feel you’re alone
Cut off from this cruel world
Your instincts telling you to run
Listen to your heart
Those angel voices
They’ll sing to you
They’ll be your guide back home
Where life leaves us blind
Love keeps us kind
It keeps us kind
When you suffered enough
And your spirit is breaking
You’re growing desperate from the fight
Remember you’re loved
And you always will be
This melody will bring you right back home
Where life leaves us blind
Love keeps us kind
Where life leaves us blind
Love keeps us kind

Fifteen years ago, back in 2002, I sat in a classroom at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). I wasn’t taking any programs or classes there; instead, it was simply where the United Way decided to host its orientation week for the latest group of sponsored representatives. For the next four months, I’d be managing a number of workplace campaigns to raise money for the charity.

As one of the icebreaker activities, we were asked to think of our favorite rock star. The other people in the room then had to guess who it was. I picked Chester Bennington of Linkin Park and no one in the room got it right. To be fair, nearly everyone else there was at least 10 or 20 years my senior. Many of them didn’t know who he was at all.

Linkin Park’s debut album Hybrid Theory was released in October 2000. This was followed by Meteora in March 2003. Both albums were remarkably intense, hitting especially hard with Chester’s “screaming” vocals. For listeners who didn’t really understand, that’s all it was: Chester Bennington screaming at the top of his lungs until he dripped with sweat and turned red in the face.

But these two albums meant a lot more to me, likely because they were released during my university years. I was struggling with my identity and with finding my way in this world, like practically every other student on campus. I felt both angst and helplessness, a burning desire to rage and break things. And listening to Linkin Park helped me work through some of those feelings.

There’s so much more complexity to their music than just screaming. The masterful mix of rap (by way of Mike Shinoda) and rock helped them find audiences and fans from both genres. And we catch a glimpse into their more vulnerable side with “My December” and an acoustic version of “Pushing Me Away.”

The lyrics at the top of this post come from “The Messenger,” off the band’s fourth studio album A Thousand Suns released in September 2010. Despite negative circumstances, like feeling alone, like your spirit is breaking, the message is ultimately positive. Love keeps us kind. Remember you’re loved. In a more intimate performance back in 2011, you can really see the emotion pouring through Chester. He starts singing somewhere around the 1:07 mark.

Just earlier this year, the world lost musician Chris Cornell, best known as the lead singer of Audioslave and Soundgarden. It feels like many artists have suffered a similar fate, either intentionally or unintentionally. From Kurt Cobain to Chris Farley and Robin Williams, it almost feels like some of the world’s best artists come from a place of pain, suffering and internal struggle. Depression knows no bounds. Their craft — whether it’s music, comedy or whatever else — may have served as a coping mechanism. As an outlet for expression.

But sometimes that’s not enough.

Sometimes, the people who are smiling and laughing the hardest on the outside are the ones who are hurting the most on the inside. We just don’t see it. Or we see it too late. It shouldn’t have to be this way. It doesn’t have to be this way. They shouldn’t feel like they need to hide for our benefit.

Chester Bennington’s last post on Twitter (not included retweets) was for a new profile picture. It’s haunting to look at it now, depending on how you choose to interpret the image.

Despite being surrounded by his adoring fans, did he feel alone? Because he’s surrounded by adoring fans, did he feel too much pressure to perform? Like he was no longer in control? We can never know for sure.

I was fortunate enough to attend a Linkin Park concert when they came to Vancouver in 2012. It was hands down one of the best concerts of my life. The energy was infectiously electric. Just watch the video embedded below. It was exactly like that.

Normally with the Sunday Snippet series here on Beyond the Rhetoric, I try not to repeat featuring the same individual more than once. I had previously quoted Chester Bennington in 2014. I hope you’ll forgive me for featuring this talented artist a second time.

May he rest in peace.

Image credit: Drew de F Fawkes, via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)