Thank you, Chester.

I remember the first time I heard Linkin Park. I was still living at home, watching MTV – back then they did something unheard of now – AIR MUSIC VIDEOS. And I heard this song, this really loud, loud, song. I looked up at the screen and I saw this intense looking young man, with bleach blonde spikes (it was the early 00s..a lot of dudes did that to their hair), brown eyes but with this stare and intensity that has yet been unmatched to me with any other singer. He lip synced, “Everything you say to me takes me one step closer to the edge and I’m about to break.” And from that moment on, I was hooked. He sang everything I was feeling. I was a broke graphic designer, who no one would listen to despite having an education. I was frustrated, angry, disappointed, and done with the world. Truth be told, that’s not too far from how I’m feeling now but that is beside the point. He was angry. I was angry. He was frustrated. I was frustrated. I watched this very very weird conceptual video and waited to see who the band was.

Linkin Park.

My first thought was that they were from DC, because there is a Lincoln Park here, and they just changed the spelling to be cool. But there is pretty much a Lincoln Park everywhere in the US. My bad. I kept watching MTV that night because I KNEW at some point, they’d show the video again (remember, this is when MTV knew that the M stood for “music” in their name). And rest assured, they did air the video again and I watched it. I was fascinated with the visual imagery, and the lyrics spoke to every young person who was just fed up with life, and what little it had to offer. “One Step Closer” was the name of the song. I learned all the words and sang along every time I saw the video. I just couldn’t get over how melodic the song was yet so dark, so heavy. Everything made sense lyrically. And there was no turning back for me. I later did a search for the band, and found the band names online.

Chester Bennington.

He was my everything. His voice was so strong, so hard, and passionate. You could hear the pain in his voice, the anguish, yet sound so gentle at times. I honestly hadn’t heard of any voice like that since Chris Cornell (and yes, I see how creepy this comparison would become). The name of their album was Hybrid Theory. Songs like “Crawling,” “In the End,” “Runaway,” spoke to many people my age – pain, isolation, frustration, and not knowing if there was going to be a light at the end of a very dark – for many extremely dark – tunnel. Listening to Chester’s voice was comforting, even when he was screaming his heart out. The fans got it. They got the lyrics. They got his personality. And so did I. Chester was such a commanding presence on stage. And he got our attention. Each and every time. His music was a way of battling and overcoming his previous demons in life. I had no idea Chester was molested as a kid, and it explained so much behind his actions from that point on (drugs, alcohol, etc). But from where fans were standing, he seemed to have his act together. And the music seemingly proved it. Seemingly, being the main word.

From Hybrid to Meteora, A Thousand Suns, and so on, Chester gave us his all. Some songs were not pretty, and they weren’t supposed to be. They were a way of cleaning out a toxic system that had a negative effect on his life. And fans were along for the ride. For those coping with similar demons, or other demons, Linkin Park and Chester were are saviors. No one else understood, but LP got it. Even though their musical style changed dramatically with this recent album, “One More Light,” the lyrics remained true – fight, battle, tooth and nail if you have to – to overcome things keeping you down. I can respect that, even if the music behind the lyrics sounded like the everyday dance pop you hear on the radio (a bone of contention from old school LP fans like myself). We still loved LP though, no matter what.

Finding out on July 20th, 2017, that Chester Bennington took his own life left me and millions of fans heartbroken, confused, hurt, and pissed. We don’t understand why someone with so much promise and still had a LOT to offer to the music world, took his life. I believe the demons that he fought for SO long, took over and the pain was just much too great to bear. I understand. I’m dealing with quite a few myself. I understand the route to take to end it. But he was so loved, by his wife and family, and the band, and friends, and fans… it’s just hard in that regard to wrap my brain around it. I guess I never really will. Nor will the rest of fans.

So. I hope Chester found peace. I hope he knows he was loved by so so many people. I hope he will watch over not just LP members and his family, but fans too. Because we love him. Always will. He helped us. I just wish we could’ve helped him in return.

RIP Chester. You will always be in our hearts. Your star will most definitely shine bright everywhere.

chester

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Throwback Thursday Album (a few days late): Sheryl Crow’s “Sheryl Crow”

SHERYL CROW LP 1996

 

I haven’t always been a fan of Sheryl Crow.

I’m going to date myself here but when Tuesday Night Music Club dropped, I wasn’t particularly fond of “Leaving Las Vegas.” It was slow sounding, and back then I was still a rap and hip hop head listening to WuTang Clan, Biggie, with the few rock bands that snuck into my tape (yes I was around for tapes) collection – Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M, The Black Crowes, etc. These were all artists that kept me awake, alert, and entertained. And I wasn’t thrilled with Sheryl’s voice overall. The, like most teens my age, “All I Wanna Do” dropped, and I instantly changed my tune towards her. It was fast, funny, and had a great melody. Pretty much pop rock gold, which turned into platinum for her. Followed by “Can’t Cry Anymore” and I was pretty much hooked.

Then her second album, “Sheryl Crow,” finally arrived. I remember vividly ordering the tape from our campus store (which stopped selling cassettes and instead sold cds for EVERY artist) and once it arrived, I was completely blown away with it. She produced it, which back then and now for that matter – for a woman to produce her own music – pretty much unheard of  unfortunately. While Bill Botrell was behind the debut album production, this one was Sheryl. Plus 1. It was filled with just absolute greatness. I can’t say back in 1996 offhand that every cassette I owned was great from beginning to end, but THIS album my dear friends was. Every song to me, was a potential single, and every song had a message, hiding behind the pop rock and the quirky sound effects. The melodies worked extremely well with her voice and the lyrics were simple yet effective. And let’s face it on a “A Change Would Do You Good,” there were hand claps. I’m a fan of the hand claps. More songs need hand claps. That was a no brainer hit.

“If It Makes You Happy” to this day makes me laugh – not in a mean way, but the chorus kills me. “If It makes you happy, it can’t be that bad. If It makes you happy then why the hell are you so sad?” Why does it kill me? Because this chorus reigns true to life to this day, 21 years later. Things that make people happy should make us happy, not sad. If it makes us sad, then we shouldn’t continue to do things that make us sad. It’s just that simple. Plus 2. I also love the fact that while she sings the chorus, it comes completely across as shouting to me – as if she was trying to drive the idea home. I hear ya Sheryl. I hear ya. Even my mom thought this was a hit and she doesn’t like anyone.

Another favorite of mine, “Sweet Rosalyn,” is about a woman who keeps her head above water, working just enough to get by but she needs something to keep her going, to continue the fight, to keep her moving forward as they say. My favorite line is “Well, maybe we all could use a little grace to know when to run and when to stay in one place.” It’s not a long song lyrically, but it still makes an impact with the instrumentation. Between the slide, the dobro, and twangy guitars, I was pretty much sold on this one. Sheryl throws down on this one y’all. Check out this video of it.

 

 

I will always support Sheryl because I remember her fighting with Walmart in regards to the song, “Love is a Good Thing.” For those who don’t know, there’s a lyric about kids who use guns they purchased at Walmart. At that time, it was very true. And Walmart didn’t take too kindly to her statement (despite the stories hitting the news revealing where the guns came from) and removed her album from the stores. She stood firm though, and she didn’t give in. That to me, was completely awesome. And fierce. You rule Sheryl. She wanted it to be known that we need to do something about gun control. She sings it so nonchalantly but in doing so, made a big statement. Plus 3.

The opener, “Maybe Angels” is the song that kicked off my love for this album…the piano in particular. It just sounds so weird with the guitar riff that it fits. So weird. But it fits. And the subject matter about not being able to feel angels, but they are around. “I swear they’re out there, I swear…” It’s a mid tempo toe tapper (Say that FIVE times fast. I dare you. It’s ok. I’ll wait.” She finds angels to be mysterious, but she knows..she has a feeling…that the unexplained..can only be answered by angels. The rockers who have passed away, they’re coming back too. Ok, Sheryl. I believe you.

I won’t go on and on, but this is truly a great album. From beginning to end, it entertains, and you hear something different with each listen. AND she broke the dreaded second album slump AND the “Best New Artist” curse that hits many after winning a Grammy. Thank you Sheryl for releasing a perfect pop gem. My ears thank you as well.

 

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