The world was struck a terrible blow this year when it learned of the tragic death of Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park. Every death is a tragedy, of course, but this one felt so much worse. He was a hugely successful musician with hordes of loving fans across the world. Where did it all go so wrong? From his childhood to the final days, we chart the tumultuous life of this great personality - and a big clue to this terrible loss...
One Of The Biggest
No rocker or emo can forget the lasting impact of Linkin Park, the leaders in nu-metal and a stadium rock band like no other. Their legacy and their popularity are both simply indisputable. They were, to put it plainly, one of the biggest bands of all time. And so much of it was down to the raw emotional lyrics and musicianship of one man: their leader, Chester Bennington.
Their rise to fame was a story like so many others, filled with rejection and desperate struggle. Their music was unclassifiable; no label would sign them on. When finally, one man - Jeff Blue, working for Warner Music - took the chance, they instantly shot to fame. Their debut album, Hybrid Theory, was released in 2000 and would go on to sell 30 million copies worldwide - almost unheard of for a "niche" genre.
Fifteen years on, on July 20th 2017, the world woke to a piece of singularly awful news. Chester Bennington, now 41 years old, had taken his own life at his home in Palo Verde, California. The housekeeper found his body hanging from his bedroom door. After decades of struggle with depression and substance abuse, it looked like life had taken too much of a toll.
A Troubled Childhood
The seeds for Chester's horrific suicide were sown from a very early age. Born in Phoenix, his parents had a very rocky relationship and divorced when he was 11. This acrimonious split - documented in the lyrics of Hybrid Theory - was the beginning of a spiral into alcohol, marijuana, opium, and LSD abuse for the young Chester.
Although he tried to find solace in his burgeoning poetry and musical skills, life seemed determined to tear Chester down. From the age of seven until 13, he was sexually abused by an older male friend, something he didn't reveal until much later on. His father was, ironically enough, a detective specializing in cases of sexual abuse, but he himself didn't learn the truth until Chester told him later.
Relentlessly bullied at school and sliding deeper and deeper into drug abuse, Chester's life as a teenager and young adult seemed destined to tear him apart. Things only got worse, until he finally decided to take his music career seriously and work hard at success. After a string of unsuccessful bands, he joined Linkin Park (then called Xero) and turned the band into a chart-topping success. But his substance problems were never far behind.
His First Marriage
For the first time in his life, Chester was starting to find happiness. He married Samantha Marie Olit, an old girlfriend, in 1996, and the marriage seemed to be perfect. But the strain of Linkin Park's early success started to widen the cracks, and they divorced in 2005. He went from "living in a huge house to a tiny apartment in Santa Monica" and found himself increasingly lonely and isolated. But then the unthinkable happened...
In 2006, Chester met former Playboy model Talinda Bentley. From the moment they met he knew it was true love, and the couple moved in together within only a week and a half of meeting. He was right about it being true: they remained married, deeply in love, for almost 12 years more - until Chester took his own life.
To the outside viewer, Chester looked like he had it all: money, fame, and a beautiful, loving wife. He also had a big family: a son named Jaime with a girlfriend in 1996; Jaime's half-brother Isiah, who he adopted later; another son called Draven with Samantha; and three more children - Tyler, Lilly, and Lila with Talinda. They all adored him, and he them. But something changed...
Losing A Friend
On May 17th, 2017, Chris Cornell, the lead singer for classic bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, also committed suicide. It was a terrible blow for Chester, and seemed to bring back all the darkness in his life. They had been very close friends for years, and their bands had toured together constantly. From that point on, Chester couldn't hold himself together. He would break down during sound checks and be unable to complete songs in concert. And on July 20th, which would have been Chris Cornell's 53rd birthday, Chester took the final leap. Another shining star winked out forever.
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