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.

Early life

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 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.

Bennington was a fan of the Phoenix Suns,Arizona Cardinals, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Arizona Coyotes.

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.

Death

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.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 died of 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.