Chester Bennington, the ferocious lead singer for the platinum-selling hard rock band Linkin Park, was found dead in his home near Los Angeles on Thursday. He was 41.
Brian Elias, chief of operations for the Los Angeles County coroner’s office, confirmed the death, in Palos Verdes Estates, and said it was being investigated as a possible suicide after law enforcement authorities responded to a call shortly after 9 a.m.
Bennington, who was known for his piercing scream and free-flowing anguish, released seven albums with Linkin Park. The most recent, “One More Light,” arrived in May and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart. The band was scheduled to start a tour with a concert July 27 in Mansfield, Massachusetts.
Mike Shinoda, one of Linkin Park’s founders, spoke on behalf of the group in a tweet. “Shocked and heartbroken,” he wrote, adding that the band would issue a statement.
Bennington also performed in a side project, Dead by Sunrise, and joined Stone Temple Pilots as its lead singer after the band split with vocalist Scott Weiland in 2013.
In May, he responded to the suicide by hanging of his friend singer Chris Cornell in a note he shared on social media. “I can’t imagine a world without you in it,” he wrote. “I pray you find peace in the next life.” (Bennington also performed Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” at Cornell’s funeral. Cornell would have turned 53 Thursday.)
A week later, he posted a series of positive tweets, including one about being artistically inspired: “Feeling very creative this last week. I’ve written 6 songs and I’m happy with all of them. Just getting started.” He added the emoji for the devil-horns hand gesture.
But Bennington had been open about his struggles with drug and alcohol addiction, which had fueled many of his biggest hits with Linkin Park.
“I have been able to tap into all the negative things that can happen to me throughout my life by numbing myself to the pain, so to speak, and kind of being able to vent it through my music,” he said in a 2009 interview with the website Noisecreep. “I don’t have a problem with people knowing that I had a drinking problem. That’s who I am, and I’m kind of lucky in a lot of ways cause I get to do something about it.”
On “Crawling” — one of the band’s defining singles from its debut album, “Hybrid Theory,” which went on to sell more than 11 million copies in the United States — Bennington sings: “There’s something inside me that pulls beneath the surface/ Consuming, confusing/ This lack of self-control I fear is never ending.”
The song, he said later, was “about feeling like I had no control over myself in terms of drugs and alcohol.”
“That feeling,” he added, “being able to write about it, sing about it, that song, those words sold millions of records, I won a Grammy, I made a lot of money.”
Still, as the group’s career progressed, Bennington was adamant that he would remain transparent in his music about his personal ups and downs. The recording studio, he told Rock Sound, “is not a safe place for me to be unless I’m doing what I need to do — taking care of myself, being real, being open, getting it out, taking all the steps to make myself whole.”
“If it wasn’t for music I’d be dead,” he added. “One hundred percent.”
Chester Charles Bennington was born March 20, 1976, in Phoenix, Arizona, the youngest of four children. His mother was a nurse and his father a police detective prone to pulling double shifts. Bennington described his childhood as unhappy, citing his parents’ divorce when he was 11 and frequent molestation by an older friend, beginning when Bennington was “about 7 or 8” and continuing until he was 13.
“It destroyed my self-confidence,” he said of the abuse in an interview with Kerrang! magazine in 2008. “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.”
Bennington found solace in writing angst-filled poetry, in drawing and eventually in music; he cited Stone Temple Pilots and Depeche Mode as two of his earliest influences. As a teenager, he started his first band, Grey Daze, and gained something of a local following in the wake of the grunge explosion.
At 23, Bennington was married and working in an unfulfilling job when a music industry acquaintance sent him a demo by the band Xero, featuring Shinoda, a California rapper and songwriter interested in mixing hip-hop and rock sounds.
“I never pretended I could carry the vocals on my own,” Shinoda told Kerrang! “I had these great melodies in my head, and I couldn’t get them across. I wanted to find someone who could do them justice.”
After he auditioned an array of vocalists, he gave the job to Bennington, who had already recorded himself singing over the band’s early work. Together they became Linkin Park.
“Hybrid Theory” was released by Warner Bros. Records on Oct. 24, 2000, at the peak of the teen-pop mania fueled by Britney Spears and ‘N Sync. Despite its rougher edges, the album’s raw emotion and radio-ready hooks found a mass audience — and a fair amount of critical derision — as part of the growing nu-metal boom led by acts like Korn and Limp Bizkit.
Bennington’s worldview could be bleak and his lyrics self-lacerating, but his honesty and the steeliness of his vocals on tender subjects bred fierce loyalty in the band’s listeners.
Although the band was popular among the headbangers of Ozzfest and the annual “Family Values” tour, it never shied from its pop sensibilities, as Bennington shifted easily between belting and growling. “In the End,” with his soaring chorus, reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2001.
Linkin Park pushed even further into the rap and pop realms on its 2003 follow-up, “Meteora,” which sold 4 million copies, and even collaborated with Jay-Z on the platinum mash-up album “Collision Course” the next year. The band’s latest album, “One More Light,” features Pusha T and the grime rapper Stormzy and uses songwriters who have written for Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez.
Bennington said that his sobriety had faltered throughout his rise to fame, pointing to his divorce in 2005 as a catalyst for his drinking. In a radio interview last year, he recalled going to counseling with other band members in 2006.
“I knew that I had a drinking problem, a drug problem, and that parts of my personal life were crazy,” he said, “but I didn’t realize how much that was affecting the people around me until I got a good dose of ‘Here’s-what-you’re-really-like.'”
Bennington married Talinda Bentley, a schoolteacher and former model, in 2006. In a Wired article the next year, he revealed that he and his wife had been victims of an aggressive cyberstalker who had gained access to everything from their Social Security numbers to their social plans. The experience was deeply unsettling, leading Bennington, who was famously open and available to his fans, to withdraw. “It sparks the sort of anger you don’t normally experience,” he told Wired. (Devon Townsend, the woman who had tormented Bennington and his family, was sentenced to two years in prison in 2008.)
In addition to his wife, he is survived by six children.
Despite his years of turmoil, Bennington was optimistic in interviews during the lead-up to the new Linkin Park album this year.
“Where I’m at right now in 2017 is as far on the opposite side of the scale to where I was at this time in 2015," he told Rock Sound. "I literally hated life and I was like, ‘I don’t want to have feelings.' And now I’m like, ‘Bring it on!'”