It’s almost impossible to overestimate the influence of Chester Bennington on modern rock music.
The Linkin Park vocalist was aged 41 when he passed away yesterday (20th July). It’s hard to think of more important voices in 21st Century rock music. Selling over 70 million albums worldwide, he was a force that played such an important part in crossing over a band that revolutionised alternative music.
Born in Phoenix, Arizona on 20th March 1976, Bennington’s childhood was far from easy, turning to drugs in the wake of the divorce of his parents and sexual abuse from an older male friend. Finding solace in music, he began his musical career singing in his first band Sean Dowdell And His Friends?, later forming Grey Daze with the eponymous Dowdell in the 1990s. By 1998, though, he was ready to quit music, until Jeff Blue, vice president of A&R at Zomba Music, gave him a shot at auditioning as lead singer with another band.
There are no prizes for guessing what happened next. That band became Linkin Park, signing to Warner Bros and releasing the defining album of nu-metal, their debut ‘Hybrid Theory’.
Part of a wave of new acts melding musical styles, theirs touched a nerve in a way few of their peers could, flying straight into the mainstream consciousness. 30 million copies of the record sold within a couple of years of release, with ‘One Step Closer’ becoming an anthem for a generation like few others. Linkin Park weren’t just another band – they were quite probably the biggest rock act on the planet.
They weren’t letting up, either. 2003’s ‘Meteora’, featuring the megahit ‘Numb’, went on to sell another 27 million copies. Their influence only increased when they collaborated with Jay-Z on the ‘Collision Course’ EP, mashing-up their respective material with impressive results.
Outside of his main role, Bennington had other outlets too. In 2005 he formed Dead By Sunrise, who released album ‘Out of Ashes’ in 2009, while he also had a stint fronting Stone Temple Pilots, replacing Scott Weiland as singer in 2013. There was the odd excursion into the world of acting too, appearing in Saw 3D: The Final Chapter and Crank, amongst others.
It’s impossible to separate Chester from the world of Linkin Park, though. By 2017 their influence hadn’t waned, with latest album ‘One More Light’ hitting the top spot in the charts and igniting debate in a way few other bands could. Moving towards a more pop direction, it split opinion amongst rock fans, but proved this was a band unwilling to stand still and repeat the same formula record after record.
“I want people to think that creatively, as artists, these guys have balls,” Chester told Upset earlier this year. “They go where they want. They’re not bound by the rules of what they’re supposed to be in the eyes of onlookers or anything outside. We are Linkin Park, and therefore the music that we make is Linkin Park. That, to me, is very risky. I’d like people to like listening to the record, but also appreciate the danger, in some ways, of what we’re doing and how willing we are to go there without being afraid of it.”
Bennington was found dead at his home from an apparent suicide. He leaves a wife and six children.