By Haley Biermann
A fire needs a space to burn
A breath to build a glow
I've heard it said a thousand times
But now I know
(“Until It’s Gone,” The Hunting Party)
Chester Charles Bennington was born on March 20, 1976 in Phoenix, Arizona. Music called him at an early age. He was inspired by the classic rock sound of Stone Temple Pilots, and dreamed of joining the band someday. His parents divorced when he was 11, and he turned to drugs as a means of escape- marijuana, alcohol, opium, cocaine, methamphetamine, and LSD were among those he abused. He also suffered from bullying in high school, and revealed in an interview that he was a victim of sexual abuse.
I feel it everyday
I feel I made my way
I feel it swell up inside, swell up inside
(“Part of Me,” Hybrid Theory)
Bennington decided to pursue a life as a professional musician. He struggled to find a band he fit into, and almost gave up the dream entirely. As fate would have it, he was offered an audition with Linkin Park members in Los Angeles. Bennington and Mike Shinoda made a spectacular vocal duo, but repeatedly were rejected from record deals. Jeff Blue, who had initially offered Bennington the audition, finally succeeded in helping the band to sign with Warner Bros. Records. Linkin Park released their debut album in 2000, which was certified Diamond in 2005 by the Recording Industry Association of America. It was the best-selling debut album of the decade. The band would go on to release two more highly successful studio albums including Meteora (2003) and One More Light (2017).
Listen to your heart
Those angel voices
They'll sing to you
They'll be your guide
(“The Messenger,” A Thousand Suns)
The singer had one child through his relationship with Elka Brand, and later adopted her other son. He had one child with his first wife, Samantha Marie Olit, who he divorced in 2005. He had a second marriage to Talinda Ann Bentley. He had three children with her, the last of which were twins born in 2011. Bennington co-founded the band Death by Sunrise in 2005, and also fronted the band that had inspired him growing up, Stone Temple Pilots, from 2013-2015.
I wanna heal, I wanna feel what I thought was never real
I wanna let go of the pain I've felt so long
(“Somewhere I Belong,” Meteora)
Bennington suffered from poor health throughout his career, including gastrointestinal problems that called for surgery. In 2007, he injured his wrist jumping off a platform during a show in Melbourne. Despite breaking his wrist, he did not take a trip to the emergency room until the last song was completed. He injured his ankle in 2015, but attempted to work through a tour with crutches and a knee scooter. He was consistently reluctant to allow an injury to pull him away from the stage.
Bennington is known for influencing the hard genre like no artist before him. He was unafraid to let his love for hip hop to ebb its way into punk riffs, and his emotional voice and candid lyrics spoke to millions. BBC's Steve Holden called Bennington the "voice of a generation."
What I've done
I'll face myself
To cross out what I've become
And let go of what I've done
(“In the End,” Hybrid Theory)
Bennington committed suicide on July 20, on what would have been his close friend Chris Cornell’s 53rd birthday. He was the godfather of Cornell’s son, and sang "Hallelujah" at Cornell's funeral. A half-empty bottle of alcohol was the only drug found at Bennington’s home in Palos Verdes Estates, California.
Bring me home in a blinding dream,
Through the secrets that I have seen
Wash the sorrow from off my skin
And show me how to be whole again
("Castle of Glass," Living Things)