Bob Dylan sang ‘the answer my friend, is blowing in the wind.’ But when it comes to suicide, it only leaves behind a bunch of unanswered questions.
Once upon a time, cable TV was our only source of entertainment and the only sources of new music were Channel V and MTV. At the turn of the decade, there used to be a show called the Billboard top 100 which was hosted by a very pretty VJ called Asha. It aired every Saturday at 8 pm and for the longest time, it was the only peek we got into the latest in pop, rock and hip-hop.
The year was 2001. One day, a song broke its way into the top 100. It featured 5 guys who looked like they were high on many things and angry with everything, venting all their anguish out in a video where there were in some sort of a tunnel. It was dark and angry, but it was different.
The song was One Step Closer and that was my introduction to Linkin park.
The same album spawned a few other hits like Crawling, Papercut and In the end . The lyrics were dark and the music was hard and soon, Linkin Park t-shirts were the coolest thing on college campuses.
Their second album Meteora was less raw and featured one of my favourite song of theirs, ‘Breaking the Habit’. If they had been written off as one hit wonders, their second record met was as much critical acclaim and commercial success as their first, a rarity by most standards.
Linkin Park were here to stay.
Over time, Linkin Park, it seemed, were done with riding on pure angst. Minutes to midnight in 2007 was a lot more somber and mature, but the lyrics still spoke of finding one’s way out of darkness. They were no longer a fixture on our playlists, having been relegated to the nostalgia of a not so distant past. Unlike bands like Limp Bizkit who got stuck in 1999 and tried unsuccessfully to step into the future recreating a sound that was past its sell-by-date, Linkin Park were still relevant. Like us, even Linkin Park was growing up.
The lyrics were still hard, but the music had mellowed down.
It was a while since I had listened to their music and when I first heard their new record, One More Light, it was sounded like a pop album, a far cry from when they began, Chester Bennington’s soaring and searing vocals piercing your eardrums. But the tone of the lyrics hadn’t changed much. They still spoke of alienation, being lost and battling demons.
The lyrics hadn’t really mellowed, but their sound had.
Over the years, Linkin Park have sold millions of records and won over billions of fans. One would have assumed that fame wealth and an iconic status are strong enough dams to keep away feelings of helplessness and inadequacy. As it so happens, whenever a catastrophe strikes, one looks for answers in the quest for a conclusion, some closure and finality. People are reading into lyrics, coming to their own conclusions, wondering why no one saw it coming. The truth is, you will never see it coming. And the second and more discomforting truth is, there will never be an answer, only a string of unanswered questions that look like they will be answered one day.
As someone whose life has been affected by the suicide of someone close, the only thing I can think of whenever a Chester Bennington or a Chris Cornell commit the unthinkable is that at least they left behind some fantastic music for us to remember them by. Millions of people whose lives are affected by suicide are only left with questions and memories, both of which are endless. It’s like crossing a desert and being consoled for a while by a mirage. The endless desert will loom again.
While Chester Bennington fought his battles alone, his death will be mourned by millions. Countless others will fight and lose their battles in anonymity, leaving behind more questions than answers. For them it’s the beginning of a battle with no end. On this sad day, spare a thought for them too.
And, thank you for the music, Chester Bennington.