By Kory Grow [RollingStone]
Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington died of an apparent suicide by hanging Thursday morning, according to The Associated Press. Police in Palos Verdes Estates, in Los Angeles County told TMZ that the singer’s body had been discovered just before 9 a.m. The singer was 41. A representative confirmed the death to Rolling Stone.
“Shocked and heartbroken, but it’s true,” Bennington’s fellow Linkin Park vocalist Mike Shinoda said on Twitter. “An official statement will come out as soon as we have one.”
Bennington’s screamed and emotional vocals provided a gritty counterpoint to co-frontman Mike Shinoda’s raps on the group’s nu-metal hits like “In the End” and “One Step Closer.” He sang the poppy melodies on the band’s recent hit “Heavy,” which featured singer Kiiara and reached Number Two on Billboard’s Hot Rock Songs chart and Number 11 on the Top 40. In addition to working with Linkin Park, he also fronted Stone Temple Pilots between 2013 and 2015 and the supergroups Dead by Sunrise and Kings of Chaos.
Linkin Park were a breakout hit when they released their debut, Hybrid Theory, in 2000. Its blend of rap, metal and electronic music propelled it to Number Two on Billboard, and the RIAA has subsequently certified it diamond, signifying sales of more than 10 million copies. With the exception of 2014’s The Hunting Party, which debuted at Number Three, each subsequent Linkin Park release would claim the Number One spot. Over the years, they’ve proven themselves to be a malleable act, focusing more on electronic music sometimes and harder rock at others, and even teaming with Jay-Z on the platinum-selling Collision Course EP in 2004 and Steve Aoki on the remix release A Light That Never Comes in 2014. Their most recent LP, One More Light, came out this past May.
Bennington was born March 20th, 1976 in Phoenix, the son of a police officer. He had a rough childhood and was molested and beaten up by an older friend beginning around age seven. “It destroyed my self-confidence,” he told Metal Hammer. “Like most people, I was too afraid to say anything. I didn’t want people to think I was gay or that I was lying. It was a horrible experience.”
When he was 11, his parents divorced and he was forced to live with his father. He eventually discovered drugs, taking opium, amphetamines, marijuana and cocaine alongside alcohol. After a gang broke into a friend’s house where he was getting high and pistol-whipped his friends, he ditched drugs in 1992, though addiction would creep back into his life later. He subsequently moved to Los Angeles, where he auditioned for the band that would become Linkin Park.
The band had formed as Xero in Agoura Hills, California in 1996, the brainchild of Shinoda, guitarist Brad Delson, bassist Dave Farrell, drummer Rob Bourdon and turntablist Joe Hahn. After Bennington, who had been fronting the Phoenix alt-rock band Grey Daze, replaced original vocalist Mark Wakefield, who’d left in 1998, Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory lineup was set.
Hybrid Theory came at the peak of the nu-metal explosion and quickly dominated the Billboard chart, thanks in part to heavy MTV airplay. The singles “One Step Closer,” “Crawling” and “In the End” all charted high on the mainstream rock chart, and “In the End” also crossed over to the pop chart, reaching Number Two and becoming gold-certified.
Their 2003 follow-up, Meteora, was also a swift Number One, thanks in part to the success of the platinum single “Numb,” which featured Bennington screaming about feeling turned off to the world. Their success led to a high-profile 2004 collaboration with Jay Z, Collision Course – another Number One, platinum release that found them fusing their “Papercut” to his “Big Pimpin'” and “One Step Closer” to the rapper’s “99 Problems.”
At the time of Linkin Park’s early success, Bennington slipped back into addiction. “The tours we did in the beginning, everybody … was either drinking or doing drugs,” Shinoda once told The Guardian. “I can’t think of any that were sober.” By the end of the 2000s, though, Bennington was celebrating his sobriety and using it as fuel for his music. “It’s not cool to be an alcoholic — it’s not cool to go drink and be a dumbass,” he told Spin in 2009. “It’s cool to be a part of recovery. … Most of my work has been a reflection of what I’ve been going through in one way or another.”
Linkin Park’s 2007 album, Minutes to Midnight, found them moving away from the aggression of their earlier nu-metal releases. Co-producer Rick Rubin helped them focus more on classic rock with shades of U2. The risk made for the hits “What I’ve Done,” “Bleed It Out” and “Shadow of the Day,” all of which were certified platinum and multi-platinum.
In 2005, Bennington had put together Dead by Sunrise, a side project of songs that he felt didn’t fit Linkin Park’s style. “They were darker and moodier than anything I’d come up with for the band,” he told Metal Hammer. “So I decided to work on them on my own.” The band’s lineup also featured members of Orgy and the Street Drum Corps, and their debut, 2009’s Out of Ashes, reached Number 29 on the Billboard chart.
Linkin Park continued to blend atmospheric rock with electronics on the Rubin co-produced A Thousand Suns, released in 2010, and Living Things, released two years later. Despite the shift in sound, though, they were able to carry out the unlikely feat of claiming the Number One position on both the mainstream rock and alt-rock charts with 2012’s “Burn It Down,” on which Bennington sang full-throated and clear-voiced.
In 2013, he joined Stone Temple Pilots after the band fired frontman Scott Weiland. They put out the EP High Rise that year and toured frequently over the next two years. He decided to leave the band in 2015 to devote his time to Linkin Park and to his family. “I got to create and perform with one of the greatest rock bands of our generation, that had so much influence on me growing up,” he said at the time. “With the amount of time STP deserves, in addition to being in Linkin Park, and with the needs of my family, one of them always seems to fall short.”
The Hunting Party, in 2014, found them veering back toward harder rock to less commercial success. On their most recent album, this year’s One More Light, they were exploring full-on pop. “Heavy,” which features Bennington trading catchy verses with 22-year-old singer and songwriter Kiiara, had only made it into the middle-half of the pop chart at the time of the singer’s death, though the album had debuted at Number One. The band had recently performed the album’s title track, “One More Light,” on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in tribute to Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, who had died of a suicide by hanging earlier this year. “Who cares if one more light goes out,” he sang. “Well, I do.” Linkin Park were slated to kick off a tour in support of
Bennington was married and had six children from two marriages.