Chi Ling Dai Cheng (July 15, 1970 – April 13, 2013) was an American musician and poet, best known as the bassist for the American alternative metal band Deftones. His career ended in 2008, when he was involved in a serious automobile crash in Santa Clara, California. After the crash, he remained in a semi-comatose state before dying of a cardiac arrest in April 2013. After Cheng’s hospitalization, Deftones friend Sergio Vega became the band’s full-time bassist, having previously filled in for Cheng.
Early life and education
Cheng was born in July 1970 in Stockton, California, to Jeanne and Yin Yan Cheng. His father, a prominent Stockton cardiologist, was a Chinese immigrant. Cheng graduated from Tokay High School and attended California State University in Sacramento, enrolling in 1989. He worked on campus, wrote poetry, and played with his band Deftones during the course of his education
Cheng was studying English at Sacramento State when he joined Deftones. He would continue on as a poet and spoken word artist through his career with the band, often recording the spoken word with the intent for release later. He also authored an anthology of poetry titled The Bamboo Parachute, which was released in 2000 as a spoken word album. Cheng gave proceeds from the CD to various charities and to buy musical instruments for kids in the Sacramento area.
Cheng was a practicing Buddhist and maintained an interest in Taoism and Shamanism. In addition to his conversion to Buddhism during his university years, he also became a vegetarian.
Cheng had one son, Gabriel Cheng, from a previous marriage.
Automobile crash and coma
Cheng was seriously injured in an automobile crash in Santa Clara, California, on November 4, 2008. Cheng was traveling with his sister, Mae, when their vehicle flipped three times after hitting another car going 60 mph. Cheng, who was in the passenger seat, was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the vehicle. Mae was wearing a seatbelt and sustained minor injuries. She attended to Cheng, holding his head until two off-duty EMTs, who happened to have their medical equipment, rendered aid. They were able to insert a tube into Cheng’s throat to help him breathe until the ambulance arrived, an action that doctors later said helped him survive. The crash left Cheng in a coma.
In February 2009, Deftones announced that they would perform as scheduled at the Bamboozle Left music festival in April, with their friend Sergio Vega (formerly of Quicksand) filling in for Cheng on stage. Vega has since performed and recorded regularly with Deftones, including on the 2010 album Diamond Eyes, Koi No Yokan and its follow-up Gore.
On April 26, 2009, Cheng was readmitted to ICU following a near-fatal septicemia infection;] he survived the infection following treatment and was released from ICU about a week later. Following the release, a rumor started to spread in early May that Cheng had awakened fully from his coma but this was denied on oneloveforchi.com, stating that Cheng is in a semi-conscious state. On August 18, Cheng underwent surgery to replace a bone flap in his skull that had been removed after the crash, in order to relieve intracranial pressure.
Oneloveforchi.com was created in March to help raise funds for Cheng and his medical expenses, where fans can donate to help towards an initial target of $20,000 (later raised to $50,000, $100,000 and then again to $500,000 in 2010). It is also a place where fans can read personal blogs and comments from the Cheng family, and record a message that will be played to Cheng to further speed his recovery. In late April, PETA announced that 20% of the income from a “Happy Families, Not Happy Meals” T-shirt designed by Chi would go to the One Love for Chi foundation. There was also a “Get well soon” card on MySpace for Cheng that fans from all over the world can sign by posting comments. Fans and some rock celebrities have posted comments, including Sonic Youth, Thursday, The Used, Ill Niño, and Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst.
On April 27, Shepard Fairey put three signed copies of his Obama inauguration posters up for auction on eBay, with the proceeds of the auction going to the One Love for Chi Foundation.
Long-time friend and fellow bassist Fieldy of Korn recorded an instrumental song along with other musicians. All proceeds were donated to Chi’s family.The song, titled “A Song for Chi”, was released for free via digital download on its official website where donations to Cheng and his family are also accepted. A few months later, in October, Răzvan Rădulescu (aka DJ Hefe) of the Romanian nu metal band Coma released a compilation album titled From Eastern Europe with Love, featuring bands from Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Republic of Macedonia, and Serbia – the proceeds from the sale of the album also went to the One Love for Chi foundation.
Deftones played a two-night benefit show on November 19–20 at Avalon in Hollywood. Proceeds went to the Chi Ling Cheng Special Needs Trust.[ Guests included Far, Cypress Hill, Rodleen Getsic, Ben Kenney, Greg Puciato, Rick Verrett, Tommy Lee, Mike Shinoda, P.O.D., Mark McGrath, Xzibit, Robert Trujillo, Rocky George and Mike Muir (Suicidal Tendencies), Dave Lombardo, Alexi Laiho, Daron Malakian, Shavo Odadjian, John Dolmayan, and Max Cavalera.
In May 2010, Chi Cheng began showing significant signs of improvement, and was able to track individual people with his eyes, occasionally make worded responses, and slightly move his hands. Chino Moreno stated that the Cheng family would be paying a doctor with the International Brain Research Foundation who is experienced in the field of coma and trauma patients, using funds raised through the oneloveforchi website, to use an experimental medicine to bring Chi out of his coma-like state. The treatment had an 84% success rate In May 2011, Cheng began undergoing rehabilitation and additional operations in New Jersey.
On February 7, 2012, it was reported that Cheng was in a partially conscious state, having the ability to move his legs on command; however, he was unable to move independently or speak in sentences. Two days after being released from the hospital, in June 2012, Cheng was diagnosed with pneumonia and rushed to the ICU. On July 4, Cheng was released from the ICU and was undergoing recovery at his home.
On April 13, 2013, website oneloveforchi.com reported that Cheng had died when he fell into a cardiac arrest after he was rushed to a hospital. According to a statement issued by his mother, Jeanne Marie Cheng, the morning of April 14, 2013, he was taken to the emergency room of a Sacramento area hospital around 3:00 a.m. PST when Jeanne recalls that her son’s “heart just suddenly stopped.” Whether his condition of pneumonia (first recorded back in June 2012) was related to his death is still unknown. Upon arrival, Cheng was pronounced dead. Jeanne Cheng addressed her son’s fans across the world with an impromptu letter.
Our dearest Family, (April 14, 2013)
This is the hardest thing to write to you. Your love and heart and devotion to Chi was unconditional and amazing. I know that you will always remember him as a giant of a man on stage with a heart for every one of you. He was taken to the emergency room and at 3 am today his heart just suddenly stopped. He left this world with me singing songs he liked in his ear. He fought the good fight. You stood by him sending love daily. He knew that he was very loved and never alone.
With great love and “Much Respect!” Mom J (and Chi).”
- The Bamboo Parachute (2000)
- Adrenaline (1995)
- Around the Fur (1997)
- White Pony (2000)
- Deftones (2003)
- Saturday Night Wrist (2006)
- Live at the Fillmore by Dredg (2006)
In popular culture
- Korn has a song titled “Chi” from their second album Life Is Peachy (1996), which is named after Cheng.
- Dredg dedicated their 2009 album The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion to Cheng, who had previously been a special guest on Dredg’s 2006 live album Live at the Fillmore.
- Far frontman, Jonah Matranga, has stated that the title track “At Night We Live” from their 2010 album, is inspired by a dream he had, shortly following a hospital visit to see Cheng.
- In November 2013 The Cheng family, friends and volunteers started the seatbelt awareness program called Buckle Up For Chi www.buckleupforchi.com Their goal is to raise seatbelt awareness and usage. To bring more awareness to traumatic brain injuries, also known as T.B.I. 100% run by volunteers. They can be found through.social media via Facebook group, Instagram and Twitter.