A voice that seamlessly moved between guttural angst to angelic chorister, and songs and lyrics that are eternally etched in memories, and inked on millions of fans worldwide. Chester Bennington, best known as the frontman of the greatly loved Linkin Park, was found dead at his residence in Los Angeles last week. He was truly a pivotal figure in the 21st Century rock scene.
Linkin Park’s debut album, Hybrid Theory, remains the greatest selling debut album of the 21st century, having sold over 30 million copies worldwide. But beyond commercial success, it’s a record that became the voice of a generation, with millions of fans having singled it out as the album that really got them into music, this music journalist included. Linkin Park released their seventh album, One More Light, only two months ago, and Bennington stood in as singer for Stone Temple Pilots between 2013 and 2015.
Chester Charles Bennington was born on March 20th, 1976 in Phoenix, Arizona to parents who were constantly working — his mother a nurse, and his father a police detective who worked in child sex abuse cases. He became interested in music at an early age, listening to Depeche Mode and Stone Temple Pilots, who he aspired to join one day; an aspiration he would go on to manifest as a reality. He was a victim of sexual abuse himself by an older male, beginning at age seven, and his troubled childhood was compounded by the divorce of his parents by the time he was 11. Bennington sought to cope with all this by abusing marijuana, alcohol, opium, cocaine, methamphetamine, and LSD.
Bennington’s abuse continued for six years — he was afraid of being labelled a liar, or gay, were he to reveal it. This, and his home situation, led him to experience murderous thoughts, and a strong desire to run away. He began drawing, writing poetry and songs as a coping mechanism.
Bennington’s first musical venture was with band Sean Dowdell and Friends?, who would reform as Grey Daze, in 1993. The post-grunge Arizona outfit released three albums, until Bennington left in 1998, and subsequently struggled to find another band. He grew frustrated, and considered quitting music altogether. He had, however, made vital steps within the music industry; Jeff Blue, an A&R, offered Bennington an audition with the future members of Linkin Park. He quit his digital services job and moved his family to California to attend the audition, which meant he had to miss his own birthday party.