Kurt Cobain. Chris Cornell. Chester Bennington. Each of them left behind very different marks on music: Cobain’s grunge sound defined an era and birthed a distinct subculture; Cornell’s vocal range and raw lyrics are aspirational to many singers and songwriters; and Bennington’s angst-filled ballads gave teenagers something to relate to. But one thing all three greats had in common? Their own struggles with mental health.
It’s especially disheartening when we lose artists to mental health struggles, because they’re often the ones who have gotten us through our own dark times. Whether we want to admit it or not, there’s a very real stigma surrounding mental health. Take Kanye West, for example. Last year, he was hospitalized for having a “psychotic breakdown” on tour while people on Twitter made jokes about his rants and mental state. When Kid Cudi bravely penned a letter about his battle with antidepressants, some people couldn’t get enough of the diss track Drake allegedly wrote in response.
It’s a shame we don’t talk about mental health more openly. We lie to our bosses about taking sick days or make up excuses to get out of social events because the thought of interacting with others is exhausting. This is why music holds a special place for many — it’s the one outlet and form of expression that’s entirely real. Listening to our favorite songs provides an escape and allows us to make sense of feelings that often aren’t articulated in daily conversations.
Music has the power to change the conversation on mental health. Whether you’re a rock ‘n’ roll lover or hip-hop head, artists connect with fans across a wide variety of genres. Here are a few songs that demonstrate the incredible capability music has to heal and help us feel understood.