Born on March 20, 1976, in Phoenix, AZ, Chester Bennington is 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 gig working at Burger King. Despite his drug problems, however, 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 up as the lead singer of the local band Grey Daze. The band built a sizable following around the Phoenix area, but Bennington ultimately grew unhappy with the group and decided to leave in the late '90s over creative differences. He then moved to Los Angeles and became the final piece of burgeoning rap-metal act Linkin Park in 1999. (Bennington came up with the name, changing their then-moniker from Hybrid Theory.)
After multiple label rejections and gaining a notable local fan base, Linkin Park signed to Warner Bros. and released their debut album, Hybrid Theory, in 2000, which went on to attain 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 oft-tortured vocals became one of the most distinctive in the alternative rock scene. He had married his first wife Samantha on Halloween 1996, and in April 2002 they welcomed son Draven, their first child together, into the world. (The couple later divorced in 2005.) 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. The project is rumored to feature Bennington handling not just singing on the album, but also guitar, keyboard, and programming. Originally slated for a 2006 release, his Linkin Park commitments pushed the release of Dead by Sunrise's as yet untitled record back to late 2007 or 2008. ~ Corey Apar, Rovi
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