Tragedy has unfortunately struck the world of Alternative Rock once again today. Chester Bennington, the versatile, charismatic vocalist of Linkin Park has passed away at the age of forty-one. The news come as a shocking blow to his legions of fans as well fans of Linkin Park, arguably the most successful rock outfit of the twenty-first century.
Coming on the heels of the still-so-fresh passing of Chris Cornell earlier this year, this comes as yet another heartbreaking end to one of rock’s most iconic figures.
Without a doubt, Bennington will be best remembered for his ground-breaking, genre-bending work with Linkin Park. Through seven studio albums, including 2017’s Billboard Top 200 chart topping One More Light, Bennington and his Linkin Park bandmates set the bar and pushed the boundaries of what a rock band could be, could sound like and could accomplish.
Coming in second is Bennington’s short, yet powerful tenure as the lead vocalist of Stone Temple Pilots. The task of replacing one of alternative rock’s greatest frontmen, Scott Weiland, to most would seem an insurmountable if not even sacrilege. But for a talent like Bennington, stepping into the shoes of one his own idols was nearly seamless.
Bennington had long cited Stone Temple Pilots, and particularly Scott Weiland as one of his greatest inspirations. Bennington’s personal relationship with Weiland, as well as the rest of the band, Dean DeLeo, Robert DeLeo and Eric Kretz began back in 2001 when Stone Temple Pilots and Linkin Park toured on that years Family Values Tour. No one knew it then, but the seeds for further collaboration were born on that very tour.
Bennington and Weiland shared many tragic similarities. When Weiland was 12 years old, he was raped. He wrote in his book Not Dead & Not For Sale that a “big, muscular guy, a high school senior … [who] rode the bus with me every day to school … invited me to his house.”
“The dude raped me. It was quick, not pleasant. I was too scared to tell anyone.”
The unidentified, older student warned Weiland not to tell or he would “never have another friend in this school.”
“‘I’ll ruin your fucking reputation.'”
“This is a memory I suppressed until only a few years ago when, in rehab, it came flooding back,” he reportedly wrote. “Therapy will do that to you.”
In an interview, Chester Bennington revealed that he suffered sexual abuse from an older male friend when he was 7 years old. He was afraid to ask for help because he did not want people to think he was gay or lying, and the abuse continued until the age of 13. The abuse and situation at home affected him so much that he felt the urge to kill and run away. To comfort himself, he drew pictures, and wrote poetry and songs. Later, he revealed the abuser’s identity to his father, but chose not to continue the case after he realized the abuser was a victim himself.
Weiland and Bennington both found quick success with their bands. After the classic Stone Temple Pilots and Linkin Park lineups were established, each band released their debut studio albums and found immediate commercial success, with STP’s Core in 1992, and Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory in 2000.
Weiland and Bennington gained their most important similarity in 2013. After a rollercoaster reunion following STP’s six-year breakup, old tensions and demons as well as a mild reception to the band’s eponymous sixth album, led to Weiland’s permanent removal from the Stone Temple Pilots fold. It was at that years KROQ Weenie Roast in May that the remaining members of STP took the stage fronted by Bennington. It was a few days later they again performed together. This time debuting a new song, “Out of Time”.
Bennington’s chameleon-like ability to cover a massive amount of vocal ground came to full display. Relying less on the rapping-screaming styles he rose to fame with on early Linkin Park albums, Bennington displayed an uncanny ability to fit into the STP sound. He didn’t copy Weiland. He more than held his own. Doing more than justice to classic STP songs “Plush”, “Sex Type Thing” and countless others.
It seemed a no-brainer that Bennington and the remaining members of STP would collaborate on a full slab of new music. That very collaboration came in the form of the High Rise EP, in 2013. The EP featured the “Out of Time” whch became an instant smash, climbing all the way to number one on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart.
There was a lot of love and even more respect between Bennington and the members of Stone Temple Pilots. In an interview with Rolling Stone in 2013, guitarist Dean DeLeo said of the addition of Bennington to the fold, “It just came about very harmoniously. I don’t want to use the ‘s’ word – serendipitous – but it really was. Very natural.”
The feeling was mutual on the behalf of Bennington as well. In a separate Rolling Stone interview, Bennington remarked, “….I have the chance to write songs with two of my favorite songwriters that have ever written, Robert and Dean. Writing songs with these guys, that’s something I can check off my list of shit to do.”
The chance to work with your idols was not lost on Bennington. He handled it with a mix of class, enthusiasm, and respect to the man he replaced. Even that man, Scott Weiland bore no ill will towards Bennington. Weiland spoke to Rolling Stone about how he believed that Bennington did not join his former band in a “spiteful” way. Instead aiming his discontentment at his former bandmates for choosing to move forward without him.
In regard to his history and relationship with Weiland, Bennington was clear that he wanted no part of any of the behind the scenes drama between the former band members. As he stated to MTV in 2013, “Oh yeah. I made that real clear from the beginning,” he laughed. “I told them ‘Nope. I want no part of that.” Bennington was all class. He chose not to slander or betray his idol. Rather serve on the alter of his legacy to keep the band and his presence present in their music.
The music-match-made-in Heaven lasted into the end of 2015 when amicably, Bennington retired his post of Stone Temple Pilots front man to re-engage all of his focus to his first love, his truest form of artistic expression, Linkin Park. While short lived, the marriage of Bennington was no doubt a highlight and a kick in the ass to the world of rock music.
Out of respect for the music, the legacy, and the remaining members of Stone Temple Pilots felt that he could not commit the needed time and effort that the band deserved. As a fan first and foremost, it was truthfully a selfless act that while it may have been a dream come true, he wanted the band to be able to be at their maximum ; and he did not want to be the cog responsible for holding them back.
He successfully carried on the legacy of the band and continued to make surprise appearances with the Deleo members in the following years. Earlier this year, Bennington joined the Brothers Deleo and Kings of Chaos in April of this year to play a slew of covers as well as STP’s “Sex Type Thing”. Continuing to share their mutual love and appreciation of their music; and each other.
Bennington provided the masses of STP fans with an opportunity to continue seeing this band in high form on the live stage. He could undertake the massive legacy, the massive history and completely own it. But on this day, it’s that sentiment that truly is heartbreaking. Bennington provided so much joy, so much excitement, so much music for so many people.
While Scott Weiland was still alive during Bennington’s tenure with STP, Weiland tragically passed shortly after that era of STP ended. Now, less than two years later, we find ourselves mourning this great loss.
For Stone Temple Pilots, the loss of Bennington serves as another in a long line of tragedies. To this point, the band has had two lead singers and tragically, now both have passed on. STP are not the only band to lose a front man. Just see Soundgarden, AC/DC and Alice in Chains. But to lose two? That’s almost unheard of. It’s a lot to endure. And the circumstances behind of each’s passing. For Stone Temple Pilots, it seems the deck is almost stacked against them.
Since Bennington’s departure from STP, they have been headstrong in their desire to find a new, third singer to help carry on the legacy of the band. The latest rumors surrounding the search for a new singer have pointed to Jeff Gutt, known for appearing on the X Factor.
Perhaps someone else, maybe someone as inspired By Bennington as he was by Weiland could step in and help continue the life and legacy of Linkin Park. But right now, that isn’t what’s important. What matters is that yet another great musician, a great person, a great father, is no longer with us. Six children will now grow up without their father. A wife has lost her husband. Linkin Park fans who have relied on the music and lyrics of this juggernaut of a band to make sense of their own lives will now live on without one of their heroes.
A true tragedy in every sense of the word. Perhaps Chester Benning will now be reunited with his recent fallen friend Chris Cornell; and the idol he once so fearlessly stepped in for.
Chester Bennington. March 20th, 1976- July 20th, 2017.