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VMA 2017: watch Jared Leto’s moving tribute to Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington

“I see his face, which was always smiling.”

Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

Jared Leto paid a special tribute to two of rock’s fallen idols at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards.

In a moving speech, Leto remembered the late Chris Cornell, former lead singer of Soundgarden, and the late Chester Bennington, former lead singer of Linkin Park. Both men were close friends and each died by suicide earlier this year — Bennington on what would have been Cornell’s 53rd birthday.

Leto’s band 30 Seconds to Mars toured with Linkin Park in 2014, and Leto met Cornell while performing at various music festivals during the early 2000s.

“MTV asked me to come here to say a few words about Chester and the late, great, Chris Cornell, two artists I had the absolute pleasure of touring with,” Leto said. He noted the close friendship between the two men, pointing out that Bennington memorably sang a cover of "Hallelujah" at Cornell’s funeral.

“Chester said of Chris, ‘Your voice was joy and pain and anger and forgiveness, love and heartache, all wrapped up into one,’” Leto quoted. He then spoke movingly of his own friendship with Bennington, who he described as “always smiling”:

I think about his heart, which he wore on his sleeve. I think how kindly he treated me, my brother, Tomo, our band. I think about his wife and his six, six incredible children. I think about his family, I think about his band, who were really his brothers, and I remember his voice. At once ferocious and delicate, that voice will live forever.

Leto ended his tribute with a somber but uplifting message: “If there is anyone out there who is watching this tonight, who feels like there is no hope, hear me now. You are not alone.”

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

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