When Chester Bennington died on July 20th, it sent a shockwave through the music world. Although there seems to have been a lesser number of deaths in the music world this year compared to last, they have been no less painful. The fact that he died by suicide is tragic, and should not come with any sort of stigma, or lessen his greatness and accomplishments. As a singer, musician, and icon in the rock world, in many ways, he served as the distinctive voice of the millennial generation, in a way few others have.
Chester was born in Phoenix, Arizona and from an early age used music, art and poetry to escape a tough upbringing dotted by being the child of divorce and a victim of abuse and bullying that defined his art, and helped many others in the future. Leaving Arizona to audition for and eventually join the band that would become Linkin Park in 1999, finding a home outlet for both the budding vocalist and the nascent band seeking to find the missing element to their sound.
When Hybrid Theory (Warner Brothers) hit in 2000, Linkin Park immediately established itself as a chart-topping, second wave of Nu-metal champion. Even the most successful bands of their scene at the time such as Korn, Deftones, System Of A Down, and Limp Bizkit didn’t capture the public imagination as fast, or had a bona fide hit record like Linkin Park did. Chester’s, emotional, vulnerable, yet totally relatable vocal performance was one of the key features of the band.
Bennington’s soaring natural vocal range, sensitive delivery, and ability to emote with authentic rage, and made him a magnetic force musically and helped carry many of LP’s signature songs on Hybrid Theory, its follow-up Meteora, Minutes To Midnight and other releases such as ‘One Step Closer’, ‘In The End’, ‘Crawling’, ‘Papercut’, ‘Numb’, ‘Somewhere I Belong’, ‘Faint’ and many more. In addition to their début album selling over 27 million copies, the band would go on to record many hits and create pop culture milestones, beyond just nu-metal or rap-rock. Together the band amassed over 70 million in sales and are one of the most pirated bands in history. Chester’s voice helped elevate their sound to pop music levels of catchiness, but by continually experimenting with other musical styles. By constantly breaking barriers and collaborating with legendary artists from Jay-Z to Steve Aoki, the group raised the consciousness of rock and metal universally. They also served as a gateway to fans to find other musical styles such as electronica, hip-hop, and EDM.
Bennington also served a successful stint as the lead vocalist of Stone Temple Pilots, replacing one of his heroes, Scott Weiland, for three years and recording one charting EP, High Rise (Play Pen), and performing on several tours with the band. He also had another release with his side project Dead By Sunrise, with members of Orgy and Julien-K.
Along with co-vocalist/rapper Mike Shinoda, Bennington’s lyrics were a touchstone to a generation, tapping into millennial angst and pain, but also promoting empowerment, survival, and self-love. His willingness to share openly his most personal traumas both in music, and in public made him a beacon of hope to many who had never found a way to articulate those feelings. Since so much of music is escapism and fantasy, and Chester bravely discussed real issues in a public way, in essence, he passed the mic to all of his fans to come forward and do the same.
Rest in Peace Chester.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please seek immediate help:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Available 24 hours every day