Linkin Park's Chester Bennington Dies At 41

By Keri Blakinger 07/21/17

News of Bennington's death was met with an emotional outpouring from fans, bandmates and loved ones.

Chester Bennington

Chester Bennington, the Linkin Park lead singer whose personal turmoil and battles with addiction informed so much of his music, was found dead of an apparent suicide Thursday in his California home. He was 41.

“Shocked and heartbroken, but it’s true,” bandmate Mike Shinoda wrote afterward on Twitter. “An official statement will come out as soon as we have one.” 

The Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner responded to reports of an apparent suicide at the rap-rock vocalist’s Southern California home just after 9 a.m. Thursday, according to the Washington Post. The death investigation is still ongoing. 

The Arizona native became a part of the SoCal music scene in the late '90s, but skyrocketed to fame with the massively successful 2000 release Hybrid Theory. The genre-bending album solidified Linkin Park’s place in the nu-metal world as well as its high perch on music charts, with such haunting popular hits as “In the End” and “Crawling.”

The screaming vocalist was famously friendly with Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, who died by suicide in May. Afterward, Bennington played “Hallelujah” at Cornell’s funeral.

“Your voice was joy and pain, anger and forgiveness, love and heartache all in one,” Bennington wrote on Twitter after his friend’s death. “I can’t imagine a world without you in it. I pray you find peace in the next life.”

Thursday would have been Cornell’s 53rd birthday. 

The son of a nurse and a police detective, Bennington was born in Phoenix in 1976, according to the New York Times. But years of molestation cast a dark cloud over his childhood, a trauma that pushed him into brooding poetry and drawing and, finally, to music.

In his early teens, Bennington began using alcohol, cocaine, LSD and other drugs, according to E! News

“I was a lot more confident when I was high,” he said. “I felt like I had more control over my environment when I was on hallucinogens or drinking.”

But by the mid-'90s, he’d put down the hard stuff before the start of his first marriage. As the band gained popularity, though, Bennington fell back into destructive habits, particularly in the aftermath of his 2005 divorce. 

"I lived on alcohol," he later said. "It got to a point where my wife said to me about seven months after we got together, she goes, 'I don't think there's been a day since I've known you that you haven't drank.' And I was like, 'What are you talking about? That's crazy!' As I'm drinking a Jack and Coke. That's where my life went."

But by 2006, his bandmates had had enough—and Bennington had a moment of clarity.

"I did some counseling with the guys, and they really opened up and told me how they felt,” he said. “I had no idea I'd been such a nightmare. I knew that I had a drinking and drug problem, and that parts of my personal life were crazy, but I didn't realize how much of that was affecting the people around me until I got a good dose of 'here's-what-you're-really like.'”

Afterward, Bennington bounced back, continuing to make tough music about tough times.

“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 told Noisecreep in 2009. “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.”

He is survived by a wife and six children—and throngs of adoring fans who poured out their grief online. Some wrote that his songs helped them in their own struggles with addiction and dark times. Others refused to believe the news and shared their shock. 

“Song of the day: NUMB – LINKIN PARK,” tweeted singer Rob Thomas.

“Oh dear God,” wrote One Republic. “Massive RIP to Chester Bennington of @linkinpark this BREAKS OUR HEART.”

“No words,” wrote Imagine Dragons. “So heartbroken.”

But it wasn’t just musicians who weighed in. Ohio governor and former presidential candidate John Kasich offered his thoughts online as well. 

“I’m still a big fan of @LinkinPark. Met Chester in Columbus & he was kind enough to call my daughters on the phone,” Kasich wrote. “This is a sad day.”

If you or someone you know may be at risk for suicide, immediately seek help. Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.