Chester Charles Bennington (March 20, 1976 – July 20, 2017) was an American singer and songwriter best known as the frontman for the rock band Linkin Park, lead singer for Dead by Sunrise and also fronted Stone Temple Pilots from 2013 to 2015.
Bennington first gained prominence as a vocalist following the release of Linkin Park’s debut album, Hybrid Theory, in 2000, which became a huge commercial success. The album was certified by the Recording Industry Association of America in 2005, as one of the best-selling debut album of the decade. Linkin Park’s following studio albums continued the band’s success.
Chester Bennington was ranked 46 in the Top 100 Heavy Metal Vocalists by Hit Parader.
Chester was born on March 20, 1976, in Phoenix, Arizona. His mother was a nurse and his father a police detective who worked with child sex abuse cases and took double shifts. Bennington took an interest in music at a young age, with bands like Depeche Mode and Stone Temple Pilots as his early inspirations. He dreamed of becoming a member of Stone Temple Pilots, which he later achieved.
Bennington’s parents divorced when he was 11 years old, and his father gained custody of him. After the divorce, Bennington started abusing marijuana, alcohol, opium, cocaine, methamphetamine and LSD.
He revealed, in an interview, that he had suffered sexual abuse from an older male friend when he was seven years old and was afraid to ask for help because he did not want people to think he was gay or lying, so the abuse continued until the age of 13. The abuse and situation at home affected him so much that he felt the urge to kill people and run away. To comfort himself, he drew pictures and wrote poetry and songs. He later revealed the abuser’s identity to his father, but chose not to continue the case after he found out that the abuser was a victim himself.
He was also physically bullied in high school and said, “I was knocked around like a rag doll at school, for being skinny and looking different.”
At the age of 17, he moved in with his mother, and was banned from leaving the house when his mother discovered his drug activity.
Eventually, Bennington was able to overcome his drug addiction, and went on to denounce drug use in future interviews. During one Linkin Park tour, he started drinking heavily but in 2011, he said he had quit, noting, “I just don’t want to be that person anymore.”
Early acts and Grey Daze
Bennington first began singing with a band called Sean Dowdell and His Friends? They released an eponymous three-track cassette in 1993. Later, Sean Dowdell and Bennington moved on to form a new band, Grey Daze, a post-grunge band from Phoenix, Arizona. They recorded three albums; Demo in 1993, Wake/Me in 1994, and …no sun today in 1997. Bennington left Grey Daze in 1998, but struggled to find another band.
Bennington was frustrated and almost ready to quit his musical career altogether when Jeff Blue, the vice president of A&R at Zomba Music in Los Angeles, offered him an audition with the future members of Linkin Park. Bennington quit his day job at a digital services firm and took his family to California, where he had a successful audition with Linkin Park, who were then called Xero. He managed to record the song for his audition in a day, missing his own birthday celebration in the process. Bennington and Mike Shinoda, the band’s other vocalist, made significant progress together, but failed to find a record deal. After facing numerous rejections, Jeff Blue, now a vice president of A&R at Warner Bros., intervened again to help the band sign with Warner Bros. Records.
On October 24, 2000, Linkin Park released their debut album, Hybrid Theory, through Warner Bros. Records. Bennington and Shinoda wrote the lyrics to Hybrid Theory based on some early material. Shinoda characterized the lyrics as interpretations of universal feelings, emotions, and experiences, and as “everyday emotions you talk about and think about.” Bennington later described the songwriting experience to Rolling Stone magazine in early 2002, “It’s easy to fall into that thing – ‘poor, poor me’, that’s where songs like ‘Crawling’ come from: I can’t take myself. But that song is about taking responsibility for your actions. I don’t say ‘you’ at any point. It’s about how I’m the reason that I feel this way. There’s something inside me that pulls me down.”
Bennington primarily served as Linkin Park’s lead vocalist, but occasionally shared the role with Shinoda. All Music Guide described Bennington’s vocals as “higher-pitched” and “emotional”, in contrast to Shinoda’s hip-hop-style delivery. Both members also worked together to write lyrics for the band’s songs.
Dead by Sunrise
Bennington co-founded Dead by Sunrise in 2005 with Orgy and Julien-K members Amir Derakh and Ryan Shuck. They made their live debut in May 2008, performing four songs at the 13th anniversary party for Club Tattoo in Tempe, Arizona.
They released their debut album Out of Ashes on October 13, 2009.
Stone Temple Pilots
In February 2013, Stone Temple Pilots parted ways with long-time lead singer Scott Weiland. The band recruited Bennington to replace Weiland in May 2013. On May 18, 2013, Bennington took the stage at KROQ’s Weenie Roast with the band. The setlist included original Stone Temple Pilots songs, as well as their first single with Bennington on vocals called “Out of Time”, which debuted on May 19, and was available for free download. It was later announced by Chester and the band in an exclusive KROQ interview that he was officially the new frontman of Stone Temple Pilots and discussed the possibility of a new album and tour. On May 19, 2013, the band released a free download of their first single, “Out of Time” that features Bennington via their official website. The song “Out of Time” is featured on their EP High Rise, which was released on October 8, 2013.
Bennington reflected on joining Stone Temple Pilots, stating, “Every band has its own kind of vibe. Stone Temple Pilots has this sexier, more classic rock feel to it. Linkin Park is a very modern, very tech-heavy type of band. I grew up listening to these guys. When this opportunity came up, it was just like a no-brainer.” Bennington stated in interviews that singing lead vocals in Stone Temple Pilots was his lifelong dream. He left the band on good terms due to his commitments with Linkin Park in 2015
Chester Bennington died by hanging, the Los Angeles County coroner has confirmed.
He was found in the bedroom of his house, by his housekeeper at around 9:00 a.m. PDT on July 20, 2017 and while a note has not been found, the death is being treated as a suspected suicide.
Shinoda confirmed his death on Twitter, writing, “Shocked and heartbroken, but it’s true. An official statement will come out as soon as we have one.” Bennington’s death occurred on what would have been Chris Cornell’s 53rd birthday. Cornell, who was a close friend of Bennington, had also died of suicide by hanging two months prior (see our post on Chris Cornell here) . Mike Shinoda noted that Bennington was very aggrieved when the band performed “One More Light” in his honor, where he could not finish singing the song, be it in rehearsal or live recording. Bennington sang Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” at Cornell’s funeral. He was also the godfather of Cornell’s son Christopher
Family and close friends celebrated his life Saturday 29 July at a private service in Los Angeles, while fans across the globe organized over 300 band-endorsed memorials. The private service was held at South Coast Botanical Garden in Palos Verdes Estates.
Ted Stryker of KROQ led the service, and Bennington’s Stone Temple Pilots band mates Robert and Dean DeLeo, Kings of Chaos drummer Matt Sorum, Damon Fox, and Jimmy Gnecco teamed up for a powerful rendition of “Amazing Grace”.
If you need help:-
In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.
In the UK, contact the Samaritans on 116 123.
In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14.
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