Chester Charles Bennington was born on March 20, 1976, in Phoenix, Arizona. 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 early inspirations, and dreamed of becoming a member of Stone Temple Pilots, which he later achieved. Chester 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, Chester 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.
Chester 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.” Chester 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.” Chester 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. Chester Bennington died of 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.
- March, 20, 1976
- Phoenix, Arizona
- July, 20, 2017
- Palos Verdes Estates, California
Cause of Death
- suicide by hanging