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. He was also the lead singer for Dead by Sunrise and 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 commercial success. The album was certified Diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America in 2005, making it the best-selling debut album of the decade, as well as one of the few albums ever to hit that many sales. Linkin Park's following studio albums, from Meteora (2003) to One More Light (2017), continued the band's success.
Bennington formed his own band, Dead by Sunrise, as a side project in 2005. The band's debut album, Out of Ashes, was released on October 13, 2009. He worked on new material with Stone Temple Pilots in 2013 to release the EP High Rise on October 8, 2013, via their own record label, Play Pen. He was widely regarded as one of the top rock vocalists of the 2000s. Hit Parader magazine placed him at #46 on their list of the "100 Metal Vocalists of All Time". He also appeared in cameo roles in several films, including Crank, Crank: High Voltage and Saw 3D.
Chester Charles Bennington was born on March 20, 1976, in Phoenix. His mother was a nurse, while his father was a police detective who worked with child sex-abuse cases and took double shifts. Bennington took interest in music at a young age, citing bands Depeche Mode and Stone Temple Pilots as his earliest inspirations, and 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.
At the age of 17, Bennington moved in with his mother , and was banned from leaving the house when his mother discovered his drug activity. He worked at a Burger King before starting his career as a professional musician. He was physically bullied in high school. In an interview, he said, "I was knocked around like a rag doll at school, for being skinny and looking different."
Eventually, Bennington was able to overcome his drug addiction, and would go on to denounce drug use in future interviews. During one Linkin Park tour, he started drinking heavily. In 2011, he said he had quit, noting, "I just don't want to be that person anymore."
In an interview, Bennington revealed that he had suffered sexual abuse from an older male friend when he was seven years old. He was afraid to ask for help because he did not want people to think he was gay or lying, and 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 realized the abuser was a victim himself.
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. The band 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.
Bennington co-founded Dead by Sunrise in 2005 with Orgy and Julien-K members Amir Derakh and Ryan Shuck. Dead by Sunrise made their live debut in May 2008, performing four songs at the 13th anniversary party for Club Tattoo in Tempe, Arizona.
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.
Bennington had a child, Jaime (born May 12, 1996), from his relationship with Elka Brand. In 2006, he also adopted Brand's other son, Isaiah. He married his first wife, Samantha Marie Olit, on October 31, 1996. They had one child together, Draven Sebastian (born April 19, 2002). Bennington's relationship with his first wife declined during his early years with Linkin Park, and they divorced in 2005. In 2006, he married Talinda Ann Bentley, a former Playboy model with whom he had three children: Tyler Lee Bennington (born March 2006) and twins Lilly and Lila (born March 2011).
Bennington and his wife were harassed by a cyberstalker named Devon Townsend (not to be confused with Canadian metal musician Devin Townsend) for almost a year. Townsend was found guilty of tampering with the couple's email, as well as sending threatening messages, and was later sentenced to two years in prison.
Bennington was a tattoo enthusiast. He had done work and promotions with Club Tattoo, a tattoo parlor in Tempe, Arizona. Club Tattoo is owned by Sean Dowdell, Bennington's friend since high school. They played together in two bands.
In a January 2011 interview, in response to the 2011 Tucson shooting, Bennington said, "There's a non-violent way to express yourself and get your point across—regardless of what you're saying or what your point is. In a free society, people have a right to believe whatever they want to believe. That's their business and they can speak their mind... but nobody, even in a free society, has the right to take another person's life. Ever. That's something that we really need to move beyond."
Bennington was plagued with poor health during the making of Meteora, and struggled to attend some of the album's recording sessions. In the summer of 2003, he began to suffer from extreme abdominal pain and gastrointestinal issues while filming the music video for "Numb" in Prague. He was forced to return to the United States for surgery, and filmed the remainder of the music video in Los Angeles.
Bennington sustained a wrist injury in October 2007 while attempting to jump off a platform during a show in Melbourne at the Rod Laver Arena. Despite the injury, he continued to perform the entire show with a broken wrist, before heading to the emergency room. He received five stitches.
In 2011, Bennington fell ill again, and Linkin Park was forced to cancel three shows and reschedule two from the A Thousand Suns World Tour. Bennington injured his shoulder during the band's tour in Asia and was advised by doctors to have immediate surgery, cancelling their final show at Pensacola Beach, Florida, and ending their tour.
Bennington injured his ankle in January 2015 during a basketball game. He attempted to cope with the injury and perform with the aid of crutches and a knee scooter. Linkin Park later canceled the remainder of their tour to allow Bennington to undergo surgery and recover.
Bennington committed suicide by hanging at his home in Palos Verdes Estates, California; his housekeeper discovered his body around 9:00 a.m. PDT on July 20, 2017. Mike 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". On July 21, Brian Elias, the chief of operations for the office of the medical examiner-coroner, confirmed that a half-full bottle of alcohol was found at the scene, but no other drugs were present. The band announced that they had canceled the North American leg of their One More Light Tour following Bennington's death and that tickets will be refunded.
Bennington's death occurred on what would have been Chris Cornell's 53rd birthday. Cornell, who was a close friend of Bennington, had also committed suicide by hanging two months prior. Shinoda noted that Bennington was very emotional when the band performed "One More Light" in his honor, where he could not finish singing the song, be it in rehearsal or in a live performance setting. Bennington sang Leonard Cohen's song "Hallelujah" at Cornell's funeral. He was also the godfather of Cornell's son Christopher.
Bennington's funeral was held at South Coast Botanic Garden in Palos Verdes, California on July 29. In addition to his family members and close friends, many musicians who toured or played with Linkin Park were also in attendance. The service also included a full stage for musical tributes.
Bennington filmed an episode of "Carpool Karaoke" with James Corden for The Late Late Show a few weeks before his death. Corden stated he will allow Bennington’s family to decide whether the episode will air.
Althea Legaspi of Rolling Stone wrote: "Bennington's voice embodied the anguish and wide-ranging emotions of the lyrics, from capturing life's vulnerable moments to the fury and catharsis found in his belted screams, which he would often move between at the turn of a dime."
Talking about his favorite bands and influences, Bennington mentioned Alice in Chains, Arcade Fire, Circle Jerks, Descendents, Deftones, Jane's Addiction, Metallica, Ministry, Minor Threat, Misfits, The Naked and Famous, Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Refused, Skinny Puppy, Soundgarden and A Tribe Called Quest.
Several publications have commented on the music legacy Bennington left with the bands and projects he worked in. Writing for Billboard, Dan Weiss stated that Bennington "turned nu-metal universal," as he was "clearly an important conduit for his far-ranging audience". The New York Times' Jon Caramanica commented that Bennington's ability to "pair serrate rawness with sleek melody" separated him from other contemporary singers, and also from the artists he was influenced by. Caramanica noted, "He was an emo sympathizer in a time when heavy metal was still setting the agenda for mainstream hard rock, and a hip-hop enthusiast who found ways to make hip-hop-informed music that benefited from his very un-hip-hop skill set". As Bennington acquired influences from industrial and hardcore punk acts, the journalist believed this was the factor that made Linkin Park survive the "rise and precipitous fall of the rap-rock era," calling the musician "a rock music polymath". Mikael Wood of Los Angeles Times argued, "Perhaps more than Linkin Park's influential sound, Bennington's real artistic legacy will be the message he put across—the reassurance he offered from the dark".
BBC's Steve Holden called Bennington the "voice of a generation", saying his voice was arguably Linkin Park's greatest asset. Jonathan McAloon of The Daily Telegraph commented, "Bennington’s death will have an impact on many millennials because his voice was the sound of their millennium". Writing for The Guardian, Ben Beaumont-Thomas noted "Bennington’s decision to sing clearly and openly was therefore more radical than he is given credit for, and indeed more socially valuable". The journalist continued to discuss Bennington's impact, commenting, "His cleanly articulated tales of emotional struggle gave millions the sense that someone understood them, and the huge sound of his band around him magnified that sense, moving listeners from the psychic space of their bedrooms into an arena of thousands of people who shared their pain". James Hingle echoed this sentiment, writing for Kerrang! he said that Bennington "was one of the most honest vocalists out there when it came to his mental health". In the same topic, William Goodman from Billboard said Bennington and fellow musicians Chris Cornell and Scott Weiland "helped define a generation of the hard rock sound, who were tied together artistically and personally".
The Straits Times' music correspondent Eddino Abdul Hadi stated Bennington was an inspiration to many artists in the Singapore music scene. Editor Calum Slingerland from Canadian Exclaim! expressed, "[H]is influence has been felt in the worlds of rock, metal, rap, and beyond".
In 2005, Bennington appeared on "Walking Dead", the lead single from turntablist Z-Trip's debut album Shifting Gears. Bennington also made a surprise guest appearance during Z-Trip's performance at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 2005. He also joined Alice in Chains and performed the song "Man in The Box" at KROQ's Inland Invasion Festival in 2006. Bennington performed with Kings of Chaos during their six-show 2016 concert tour.
|2001||Stone Temple Pilots||"Wonderful (Live)"||The Family Values 2001 Tour|
|2002||Chester Bennington||"System"||Queen of the Damned soundtrack|
|DJ Lethal||"State of the Art"||N/A|
|2004||Handsome Boy Modeling School featuring DJ Q-bert, Grand Wizard Theodore, Jazzy Jay, Lord Finesse, Mike Shinoda, Rahzel & Chester Bennington / Tim Meadows||"Rock N' Roll (Could Never Hip Hop Like This) (Part 2) / Knockers"||White People|
|2005||Z-Trip||"Walking Dead"||Shifting Gears|
|Mötley Crüe||"Home Sweet Home" (remake)||N/A|
|2006||Chester Bennington||"Morning After (Julien-K Remix)"||Underworld: Evolution (soundtrack)|
|Mindless Self Indulgence||"What Do They Know? (Mindless Self Indulgence Vs. Julien-K & Chester Bennington Remix)"||Another Mindless Rip Off|
|2007||Young Buck||"Slow Ya Roll"||Buck the World|
|2008/2010||Chris Cornell||"Hunger Strike (Live at Projekt Revolution 2008)"||Songs from the Underground|
|2010||Santana featuring Chester Bennington & Ray Manzarek||"Riders on the Storm" (The Doors cover)||Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time|
Bennington made a cameo apperance in the 2006 film Crank as a customer in a pharmacy. He later appeared as a horse-track spectator in the film's 2009 sequel, Crank: High Voltage. Bennington also played the role of the ill-fated racist Evan in the 2010 film Saw 3D: The Final Chapter.
Bennington was working with Church on developing an upcoming television show, Mayor of the World, with executive producer Trip Taylor.
|2009||Crank: High Voltage||Hollywood Park Guy|||
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