Chester Bennington – American Singer-Songwriter

by Kristine Bigcas

Chester Bennington was an American singer and songwriter popularly known as the frontman of the famous band, Linkin Park. He has been a part of the band’s success since their first album, Hybrid Theory, in 2000. He was active in the music industry since 1992 until his time of passing in 2017. The widely known songs that any fan will immediately remember about him and Linkin Park are Numb and In the End. He released two more albums with Linkin Park: Meteora and One More Light, released in 2003 and 2017 respectively.

He has also ventured out on his own forming the band Dead by Sunrise that released Out of Ashes in 2009 after four years of being a side project since 2005. He also fronted Stone Temple Pilots and released High Rise in 2013. His work for Stone Temple Pilots was produced by his very own label, Play Pen. On his own, he has contributed movie soundtracks such as System for Queen of the Damned and Morning After for Underworld: Evolution. From 2006-2012, Chester has made cameo appearances in a handful of films. Chester passed away on July 20, 2017, leaving behind a wife and six children. His death occurred a week before the North American leg of his One More Light tour.

Early Life and Family

He was born on March 20, 1976, as Chester Charles Bennington in Phoenix, Arizona. His father was a police officer who focused on sexual abuse cases for children while his mother was a nurse. His parents divorced when he was eleven years old and perhaps one of the contributing factor to this is his father’s double shifts which lessened his time to be with his family. Chester stayed with his father after the divorce. He also has two half sisters and his brother Brian.

As a youngster, Chester tried on different substances such as methamphetamine or crystal meth, LSD, cocaine, alcohol, opium, and marijuana. By the time he was seventeen, his mother took him under her care and kept him grounded at home when she has discovered about his substance abuse. To support his usage, he took a job at Burger King and spent all his income on drugs.

Chester has also encountered sexual abuse from an older male friend. It started when he was only seven years old and  the abuse went on until he was thirteen. It took a while before he revealed it to his father and did not pursue any case. Instead, he channeled his emotions through poems and songs as a way of comforting himself from the trauma of the abuse.

Chester was also bullied in high school. He revealed that “I was knocked around like a rag doll at school, for being skinny and looking different.”

Personal Life

He joined two bands before he became famous with Linkin Park. He was first a part of Sean Dowdell and His Friends? before he started his own band, Grey Daze. While on his first band, he released a self-titled three-track cassette in 1993. He then recorded three albums with Grey Daze from 1993-1997 before quitting the band in 1998.

While with Linkin Park, Chester suffered multiple injuries during performances, preparations, and even outside work. During the making of Meteora, he had a poor health condition that forced him to miss recording sessions and other work commitments he had to attend to.

He also had multiple surgeries, including one in 2003 when he suffered gastrointestinal problems that resulted to abdominal pains. He had to cut short his filming in Prague for the music video of his song Numb and returned to the US to get an immediate surgery. After he recovered, he continued filming in Los Angeles instead. In 2007, he had injured himself while performing in Melbourne. He broke his wrist and was only allowed to be taken to the hospital after he finished the rest of the show. His hand had five stitches afterward for his broken wrist.

Aside from those instances, he also had surgery in 2011 while on tour and had to cancel their final show to make way for his operation. He also incurred a basketball injury to his ankle in January 2015. Despite the injury, he still tried to perform with just crutches and a knee scooter. He received a couple more stitches for this and had to cancel the remaining tour during that time so he could recover properly.

Wives and Children

Chester has been married twice and has a total of six children. His first child is Jaime, born on May 12, 1996. Jaime’s mother is his then girlfriend Elka Brand. He decided to adopt her other son, Elijah, and the whole process was completed in 2006. Before the adoption was finalized, Chester had already married, divorced, and married again two other women. All the women who gave birth to his kids remain civil and friends to this day.

Samantha Olit

He first married Samantha Marie Olit on October 31, 1996. They met when he was still in Grey Daze. He was still with him when he auditioned to be a part of Linkin Park, which was called Xero back then. They welcomed their first child Draven Sebastien Bennington on April 19, 2002. Although they tried to work things out in their marriage, both she and Chester had decided to divorce in 2005. After they divorced, she had become a life coach and organized her own burlesque dance troupe handled by SAM Records.

Talinda Bentley

Shortly after his divorce with Samantha, he married Talinda Ann Bentley in 2006. She was a former model for Playboy Magazine. They first met each other in 2004 after being introduced to each other by another musician Ryan Shuck. Their relationship started in December and fell quick enough for each other, they moved into one house ten days later. During their union, they welcomed three kids: Tyler Lee and twin girls Lila and Lilly.

Chester shared his experience of undergoing a divorce while struggling to break through in the music world with a small band. He narrated: “My divorce was one of the worst and best things to ever happen to me in my life. Everything I had worked so hard for was gone after we were through. Everything! I was wiped out and it was tough on my ego to let go of all of that. I went from living in a huge house to a tiny apartment in Santa Monica. I was so drained and bitter during that time.But I eventually learned from it and moved on.” He then credited his second wife, Talinda, for helping face his demons. He proudly said that he knew that “she was the one” when they met for the first time. They were together for 12 years before he passed away.

He often shared photos of him and his wife on Instagram. He even penned a song inspired by her. His song, Give Me Your Name was released in 2005 with Dead by Sunrise and was just one of his music for Talinda. On Instagram, he wrote the poem:

Her eyes are like the arrows Shot from Cupid’s bow Her smile like the canyons I’ve fallen deep below Her voice is like the sparrow That takes away my soul Her fingers like the silky yarn That keeps my body warm Her words are like a howlin wind Movin through the trees.Her hair is like a field of flowers Blowin in the breeze Her hands are like a mothers song That put my heart at ease Her kiss is like a bright white shadow brings me to my knees And if I’d never prayed before A servant she has made I bow down at her temples door And pray that I be saved For I am just a lowly man.All I’ve touched I set a blaze And she is like the endless ocean Washed over me in waves Forgiving all that I’ve abandoned And mends my aching heart She hangs her flag there high upon That broken marble arch Where once there was a great empire Stretched to the dark Defeated with one single blow My armies cease to march.

A week after his death, Talinda finally released her statement. On a TwitLonger post, she has shared:

One week ago today, I lost my soulmate and my children lost their hero-their Daddy. We had a fairytale life and now it has turned into some sick Shakespearean tragedy. How do I move on? How do I pick up my shattered soul? The only answer I know is to raise our babies with every ounce of love I have left. I want to let my community and the fans worldwide know that we feel your love. We feel your loss as well. My babies are so young to have lost their daddy. And I know that all of you will help keep his memory alive. He was a bright, loving soul with an angels voice. And now he is pain free singing his songs in all of our hearts. May God Bless us all and help us turn to one another when we are in pain. Chester would’ve wanted us to do so. Rest In Peace, my love. Always, Mrs. Talinda Bennington

Music Career

Chester’s journey to stardom wasn’t a walk in the park. After his dragging ventures with two smaller bands, he made his audition for Linkin Park in 1999. This was a big move for him since his previous band Grey Daze was based in Phoenix while Linkin Park was based in Los Angeles. The band was constantly rejected by different labels. Despite that, they were still able to gather a small fan base for themselves.

They were then signed by Warner Bros. that produced their 2000 album Hybrid Theory. This started his big break in the music industry. The album became a multi-platinum hit and was even given the diamond recognition. The audience loved the rock and rap combination of their music which helped them become one of the mainstream rock groups of the generation. All but one of their albums were given multi-platinum recognition.

He has also explored projects as a solo act. In 2005, he co-founded Dead by Sunrise but their debut album took four years to release due to his commitments with Linkin Park. Nevertheless, Out of Ashes was released on October 13, 2009. Prior to that, they also sang four songs on the 13th-anniversary party of Club Tattoo, a tattoo parlor owned by Chester’s friend and ex-bandmate Sean Dowell. Chester has been supporting the club ever since due to his love and passion for tattoo art.

After Scott Weiland left Stone Temple Pilots in February 2013, Chester took his place as the lead singer in May of the same year. His first single with the band was Out of Time which was released on May 19, 2013. They released their EP on October 08, 2013 and titled it High Rise. Although being a part of Stone Temple Pilots was one of his lifelong dreams, he has still decided to part ways with them formally due to his original commitment to Linkin Park. Chester left Stone Temple Pilots in 2015.

Flim Appearance and Other Work

Not only did he do well with music, but he had his moments in the acting world. He had small roles in Crank and its sequel Crank: High Voltage, Saw 3D, and in Artifact. Aside from that, he had collaborative works with other artists like Santana, Young Buck, and his good friend Chris, Cornell. He also produced the debut EP of Hellflower.

Death

Chester stunned the world on July 20, 2017, when news of his death spread. He was found lifeless and hanging through a belt by his bedroom in Palos Verdes Estates, California. At the time of his death, only his housekeeper and driver were around because his family was away. No later than 9:00 A.M. on July 20, his housekeeper found him and informed his driver who made a 911 call. Entertainment gossip site TMZ posted the dreading conversation of the driver and the operator. Investigators found a half-drank bottle of alcohol in his room but not a trace of illegal substance.

Coincidentally, his death falls on the 53rd birthday of his Chris Cornell. He and Chester have spent a good amount of time together on tour and have bonded greatly. He was even the godfather of Chris’ son.

It is said that Chester took Chris’ death on May 18, 2017, the hardest. Chris also took his life away by hanging himself. On the private funeral service held for Chris, Chester sang Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. He also posted an emotional message for his friend on social media a few months before died:

I dreamt about the Beatles last night. I woke up with Rocky Raccoon playing in my head and a concerned look on my wife’s face. She told me my friend has just passed away. Thoughts of you flooded my mind and I wept. I’m still weeping, with sadness, as well as gratitude for having shaped some very special moments with you and your beautiful family. You have inspired me in many ways you could never have known. Your talent was pure and unrivaled. Your voice was joy and pain, anger, and forgiveness, love and heartache all wrapped up into one. I suppose that’s what we all are. You helped me understand that. I just watched a video of you singing ‘A day in the life’ by the Beatles and thought of my dream. I’d like to think you were saying goodbye in your own way. I can’t imagine a world without you in it. I pray you find peace in the next life. I send my love to your wife and children, friends and family. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life. With all of my love. Your friend, Chester.

The first to confirm Chester’s death was his fellow Linkin Park vocals and friend, Mike Shinoda. On Twitter, he wrote “Shocked and heartbroken, but it’s true. An official statement will come out as soon as we have one.” The band then canceled their North American leg of the One More Light Tour after Chester died. The group released an official statement a few days after his death. The letter goes:

Dear Chester,

Our hearts are broken. The shockwaves of grief and denial are still sweeping through our family as we come to grips with what has happened.

You touched so many lives, maybe even more than you realized. In the past few days, we’ve seen an outpouring of love and support, both public and private, from around the world. Talinda and the family appreciate it, and want the world to know that you were the best husband, son, and father; the family will never be whole without you.

Talking with you about the years ahead together, your excitement was infectious. Your absence leaves a void that can never be filled—a boisterous, funny, ambitious, creative, kind, generous voice in the room is missing. We’re trying to remind ourselves that the demons who took you away from us were always part of the deal. After all, it was the way you sang about those demons that made everyone fall in love with you in the first place. You fearlessly put them on display, and in doing so, brought us together and taught us to be more human. You had the biggest heart, and managed to wear it on your sleeve.

Our love for making and performing music is inextinguishable. While we don’t know what path our future may take, we know that each of our lives was made better by you. Thank you for that gift. We love you, and miss you so much.

Until we see you again,
LP

Reports from different sites state that a private ceremony is going to be held for him with only family and friends allowed to join. It will then be decided on how fans can also pay a proper tribute to him. Initial reports of him being buried beside Chris Cornwell at Hollywood Forever Cemetery is also being reconsidered due to the place being too public. As of the time of writing, no final decisions have been made about his funeral service.

Legacy

Chester Bennington left a legacy to both teens and adults who grew up with Linkin Park. His “higher-pitched” voice with “emotional” vibe added more spirit to the songs he sang with the band that was positively appreciated by listeners. He influenced the budding musicians that followed his footsteps in heavy metal, rap-rock, and emo genre. In fact, he was dubbed by Steve Holden of BBC to be the “Voice of a Generation.”

In the Journalist, it was written that “His cleanly articulated tales of emotional struggle gave millions the sense that someone understood them, and the huge sound of his band around him magnified that sense, moving listeners from the psychic space of their bedrooms into an arena of thousands of people who shared their pain.” William Goodman even said that Chester, along with his good friends Chris Cornell and musician Scott Weiland, “helped define a generation of the hard rock sound, who were tied together artistically and personally.” Ironically, both he and Chris died in the same way while Scott died due to an accidental overdose of alcohol, cocaine, and MDA.

In his honor, Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas made a special memorabilia case for him. According to reports, the case has a Ve’cel By Chester Bennington stage-worn shirt. On their website page, the hotel posted a photo of the memorabilia with the caption “Celebrating the life of a legendary musician…from Hybrid Theory to One More Light and everything in between, your memory will live on for decades to come. Rock in peace, Chester Bennington.

Net Worth

Seven weeks before his death, Chester purchased a $2.5 million estate which has five bedrooms and four bathrooms. It is said that he made sure his family “were set for life before he died.” He was only 41 years old at his time of death with about $30 million net worth.