When Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington passed away in 2017, it left a wound that will never heal. Revealed to have been the result of suicide, his family, friends, and fans were left reeling at the news, perplexed at why one of the most iconic frontmen of our time would choose such a path. Compounding the pain is the fact that before all else, Bennington was a great man, and who followed the example of heroes such as Kurt Cobain, leading by example and invariably kind.
Fred Durst, the frontman of controversial nu-metallers Limp Bizkit, offered a concise account of Bennington’s character when speaking to Billboard. He said that the Linkin Park man “had a way of making anyone he spoke to feel heard, understood and significant. His aura and spirit were contagious and empowering. Often those types of people have so much pain and torture inside that the last thing they want is to contaminate or break the spirit of others… As real and transparent as our conversations would be, he was always the one projecting light on the shadows”.
One of the most notable points of Bennington and Linkin Park’s career was the collaborative EP Collision Course that they released in 2004 with hip-hop legend Jay-Z. Whilst the body of work was smattered with memorable moments, the highlight is ‘Numb/Encore’, the EP’s lead single, a mash-up of the hit singles ‘Numb’ by Linkin Park and ‘Encore’ by Jay-Z.
When on the promotional tour for his album 4: 44 in September 2017, Jay-Z stopped by the UK’s BBC Radio 1 for an interview and a performance in the Live Lounge, and it was during his performance that he paid tribute to his late friend Chester Bennington.
The first part of his tribute to Bennington came when he performed ‘Numb/Encore’, and said prior to launching into the track, “I dedicate this song to Chester”. The intimate setting allowed for a considerably weighty performance of the song, and in the latter half, the rapper bowed his head when Bennington’s verse was played, an emotional sight.
After the performance, Jay-Z spoke to Clara Amfo about Bennington’s death, and explained that he hoped the tragedy would be the start of a much wider discussion about mental health. “Hopefully his death serves as a wake-up call. Mental health is a real thing,” he said. “You never know what people are going through … Money or fame doesn’t mean anything if you’re not happy inside.”
“A lot of people, we go on and we don’t deal with what’s happening to us,” he continued. “Especially if you’re a performer like that. You just start numbing yourself. You just become numb. He’s singing it. You just go and get bigger audiences and things like that and you move further away from yourself.”