Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Losing a Life Friend

When I was a kid, Mom and Dad started me with the classics—the music they loved. Donna Summer, The Bee Gees, Gary Wright, Bread, The Moody Blues, Michael Jackson, Harry Chapin and the list goes on and on. Real vinyl records we played over and over, a fair few of which I knew all the words to. As I grew older, of course, I developed a love for artists not necessarily loved by my parents (some were, though; Mom is still a solid 3 Doors Down fan). In the eighties, it was Debbie Gibson and New Kids on the Block. I’ll never forget meeting Debbie backstage on her first tour. I had a perm, rose-framed glasses and tons of baby fat. Debbie had her signature black hat and a smile that could solve world hunger.

When the nineties rolled around, and high school with it, I got in to the grunge scene. Like most of my friends, baggy jeans and a loose flannel over a band t-shirt was my go-to. The Jim Morrison tee I bought from my favorite record store? Yeah. Probably wore that one at least once a week; twice, if I could get away with it. We spent free time in class talking about Nirvana, Soundgarden, Green Day, Portishead, Sneaker Pimps and some of the oldies but goodies: The Beatles and The Doors. In fact, a close friend of mine had a special place in his heart for Strawberry Fields Forever; it reminded him of his crush, the girl who’d smile at him in passing, but save her heart and attention for the jocks.

Her loss. He’s a successful writer now with a wife and a gaggle of gorgeous kids.

At the end of this era, in 1999, as boy-bands began to make a comeback and Britney Spears took over mainstream radio, I saw a video on MTV (back when they still had music videos—I know, right?) by a band I’d never heard. A lone piano led into a rap solo, which unfurled into a secondary voice, a tenor so chillingly smooth I remember leaning forward in my seat. The set looked like it had sprung from an online role-playing game. Gray, cracked ground gave way to distant mountains. Large gargoyle-like statues rose high into the air, and on the summit of one was the band. The lead singer, that hypnotizing tenor voice I kept hearing, was a slender boy with cropped, bleached-blond hair and a lip ring. Not what I would have imagined had I heard that voice on the radio, before seeing its owner on television.

That boy in 1999 was Chester Bennington, the song was In the End from the Hybrid Theory album, and the band is Linkin Park.

I won’t go into detail about all the ways their music impacted my life. It did, and that’s all that matters. Because from that moment on, I listened to everything by them I could get my hands on. I’ve written scenes to it, driven to it, showered to it, cleaned house to it, sat and leaned back my head and done nothing to it. They’re that kind of talent. Yes, when Chester took his life, I cried. I cried when Michael Jackson died, too. He was my childhood. He reminded me of good and bad times, and moving forward to new experiences. In a way, we grew up together, even though I had never once laid eyes on either of them, Michael or Chester, in person.

I chose to write this post, one, and perhaps a little selfishly, for myself and, secondly, for any of you who might’ve felt your heart clench at the news that Chester had taken his life. Because there are those out there who think it’s silly to mourn someone you’ve never met; someone you didn’t really know. But how can someone’s childhood be silly? It’s their childhood. Our life journeys are just that—ours. And if a part of that somehow gets chipped away…yeah, it hurts. While Chester took the lead vocals for Linkin Park, my husband and I met, fell in love, got married, lost a child, had another, and watched yet another graduate. We bought a house. I published multiple books. Gained and lost employment. I’ll never be able to watch Transformers without hearing their anthem, What I’ve Done, in my head. Or get through the lyrics of Crawling without remembering my best friend nearly took her life when that song was popular. Chester and Linkin Park were and are a part of my life’s journey.

And I feel quite blessed for that.

Rest in peace, sweet prince. Thank you for the time you gave us.

Peace, Love and Junior Mints,


1 comment

Bonnie said...

I still jut can't. He was so talented but the demons were too powerful.

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