Born on March 20, 1976, in Phoenix, Chester Bennington was most recognized as the lead singer of Linkin Park, his higher-pitched, emotional vocals balancing out those of main rapper Mike Shinoda. A victim of sexual abuse, Bennington had a childhood that was far from picture perfect, and when his parents divorced at age 11, he turned to drugs to deal with his pain. By the time he was a teenager, Bennington had gotten heavily into cocaine and methamphetamines, supporting his drug habit with a job working at Burger King.
Despite his drug problems, Bennington never forgot his childhood dream of becoming a rock star — he was a huge fan of Depeche Mode and Stone Temple Pilots — and in 1993, he joined local band Grey Daze as the lead singer. The group built a sizable following around the Phoenix area, but Bennington ultimately grew unhappy, and in the late '90s decided to leave over creative differences. He moved to Los Angeles and became the final piece of burgeoning rap-metal act Linkin Park in 1999. (Bennington even came up with the name, changing their moniker from Hybrid Theory.)
After multiple label rejections and gaining a notable local fan base, Linkin Park signed to Warner Bros. and in 2000 released their debut album, Hybrid Theory, which went on to multi-platinum-selling status. The band's visceral mix of rock, rap, and electronics resulted in a slew of hit singles and turned Linkin Park into one of the most popular mainstream rock groups in the early part of new millennium. Likewise, Bennington's often tortured vocals became one of the most distinctive in the alternative rock scene. Six of the band's seven studio albums hit number one, and each of the first three earned multi-platinum status. Outside of Linkin Park, Bennington enjoyed working on a side solo project with producers Amir Derakh and Ryan Shuck, both of Orgy, entitled Dead by Sunrise. Originally slated for a 2006 release, his Linkin Park commitments pushed the release of the album, Out of Ashes, back to 2009.
After the release of Linkin Park's seventh studio album, One More Light, in May of 2017, and just one week before beginning a major American tour, Bennington was found dead at his home in Southern California; he was 41 years old. ~ Corey Apar