Some people are walking quote machines. I have a friend who can sing every word to every Disney song for no good reason. Some minds just work that way. But I'm pretty much that guy who, in a sing-along, belts out a handful of words from the chorus then fades, humming in the background. So, when I had to sing a full song from memory, any song of my choosing, in front of a busload of my new teammates and coaches, I thought I was going to puke.
It was my freshman year of college, and one of the rituals for all the incoming lads on the soccer team (besides getting our heads shaved and eating wings so hot you had to sign a waiver to buy them) was to perform a song by heart on one of our bus trips.
We were on the way home from U Penn in Philadelphia, and I had avoided the stage in the previous trips, but I knew I wasn't going to make the seven hour ride without getting the call to the front of the bus. What the hell would I sing?
I thought I knew "Tiny Dancer" pretty well, I had only watched Almost Famous a dozen times. But I also have a terrible voice. No way could I do Elton John without looking like a tone-deaf moron. A few Beatles songs came to mind, my dad had raised me on them, but nothing there I could do front to back. Andy did a Disney song. Jon, a Creedence rendition. The lights were on me next. For a moment I thought of going up and doing "Mary had a little lamb" just to be a troll, but I probably would have gotten tossed off the bus for that shit.
Then it came to me in a wave. The band of my middle school years. The group I carried around in my CD Walkman to and from school for 9 months straight. The guys that hit my misdirected teenage angst right in the nuts. That turned me on to rap-rock, rap proper, then back to rock. And the lyrics that burned a hole in my memory without me even knowing it, rushing in just a few minutes before my call up: Linkin Park - In the End.
I made my move to the front of the bus. The coaches on my right and left. Seniors just a few rows back ready to shit on me. I took a breath. "One thing, I don't know why," I began in my best Mike Shinoda rendition, and proceeded to shred that verse, each word flowing out of my acapella like I had written it. And by the time I got to Bennington's chorus, the lads joined in:
I tried so hard And got so far But in the end It doesn't even matter I had to fall To lose it all But in the end It doesn't even matter
That memory was jogged a few days ago after the news of the late frontman's passing. 20 college boys and 3 coaches banding together in a Chester Bennington sing-along (actually the coaches weren't singing but it sounds better that way) in a bus somewhere between Philadelphia and Providence.
And in those lyrics something else was jogged: the pain that frontman carried with him since before their first album and into his last day. Better eulogies have come, and will continue, I'm sure. So here's just another memory in the ether. Thanks for a lot more than your records, Mr. Bennington.
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