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But in the end, despite the massive success and the endless support from family, friends and fans, it didn’t even matter.
Bennington was found dead at his home in Southern California’s Palos Verdes Estates on Thursday morning. He had reportedly hanged himself and authorities are investigating his death as a suicide.
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Today would have been Cornell’s 53rd birthday.
Bennington, a native of Phoenix, was the last original member to join the band that would become Linkin Park in 1999. Shinoda and guitarist Brad Delson were friends from high school in Agoura Hills, Calif., and they initially formed a group called Xero with drummer Rob Bourdon, DJ Joseph Hahn, bassist Dave “Phoenix” Farrell and singer Mark Wakefield.
But Wakefield didn’t work out and, thanks to an introduction from a record exec, they found Bennington, who got the call that a band named Xero needed a singer on his 23rd birthday. Then there were called Hybrid Theory for awhile, but eventually they passed that on to their first studio album (Farrell wasn’t part of the recording but he returned in time for the tour) and became Linkin Park.
“He really was kind of the final piece of the puzzle, and he brings vocal talent that, when we were looking for a second vocalist, we didn’t see anything close to his talent in anybody else,” Delson later reflected to Madison.com about Bennington.
Linkin Park released its seventh studio album, One More Light, on May 19—and a brand-new music video for “Talking to Myself” just premiered today.
Delson talked about their decision to throw style to the wind for the new release and just go with the stories that were pouring out of them at the time and think about production later.
“We worked with vocals, lyrics and melodies first. We almost completed a full song every single day,” he told Music Radar in April. “We wrote about 70 songs and they were all very naked and stripped, barebones.” As always happens when bands seem to change M.O.s, which Linkin Park has enjoyed doing from album to album over the past 17 years, or go for a poppier sound, as they did on One More Light, critics and fans noticed. And Bennington brushed aside the constant comparisons.
The singer acknowledged prior interviews in which he’d indicated he had been a victim of sexual abuse by an older male friend as a kid. He clarified to the magazine, “It was like, [I’d be asked questions such as] ‘There’s a lot of songs about depression, fear and paranoia. Are you just making it up?’ And I said no.”
“No one in my family molested me,” he added. “It was people who were around me. Coming from a broken home, it was easy to fall into thinking, ‘This is OK.'” He started abusing drugs and alcohol at 13. “I was a lot more confident when I was high. I felt like I had more control over my environment when I was on hallucinogens or drinking.” (In 2014, he told Kerrang! that thinking about the horrible things going on at that time, particularly the abuse, made him “shudder.”)
He’d continue to battle addiction for the rest of his life, as is the case with so many who suffer from that illness.
In 2009, he and his band Dead by Sunrise (a side project he formed in 2005) released their debut album Out of Ashes in 2009. At the time Bennington confirmed that songs such as “My Suffering” were definitely inspired by his own experiences.
“I don’t drink. I choose to be sober now,” he continued. “I have drunk over the last six years, but I just don’t want to be that person anymore.”
Even more candidly, he said on The Pulse of Radio, “I lived on alcohol. It was either beer, or Jack and Coke, or Jack Daniels in a pint glass with ice. And then it got to the 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 was where my life went.”
Meeting his second wife helped pull him out of a period of “absolute self-destruction,” he told Bullz-Eye.com in 2009 while promoting Out of Ashes. “I don’t know when to stop when I’m in that mode. I’ll go through a gallon of Jack Daniels and down some antidepressants in one night and keep on going. I just hated my life at one point. I loved my band, career and friends, but when I got home from tour, I couldn’t deal with stuff. I would just begin drinking.”
Shinoda told Metro magazine in 2014 that the guys in the band were 100 percent behind Bennington when it was clear he needed help.
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“If we had started writing in 2015, when I personally was just like, ‘f–k the world,’ then I would’ve been in there singing songs like, ‘F–k the World,'” Bennington told FaceCulture in an interview he gave alongside Shinoda that was posted online June 1. “I still have lyrics in my phone. One of my songs is called ‘I Hate the World Right Now.’ That’s literally the punchline, the whole chorus.”
The finished product, however, “is really a good representation of where we are now as opposed to anything else, yeah.”
Shinoda acknowledged that Bennington’s injury felt like more than a broken leg. “Broken life,” the singer interjected. “A little bit of broken spirit, yeah,” Shinoda agreed.
“A lot of the residual stress” made it into the album, Shinoda continued. “It shows up a lot in the song ‘Heavy,’ you know. One thing leads to another, which leads to another, and all this stressful crap is happening to you—and that’s true for anybody…It’s hard to have an optimistic outlook.”
There’s no mention of Cornell, who died May 18, the day before One More Light was released, so it’s possible this interview was conducted beforehand. Cornell too had battled alcoholism and depression, and while he had a more complicated relationship with fame (loved the fans, wrestled with the scrutiny and other pitfalls) than his friend did, like Bennington he funneled his angst into his music. They both had no choice but to write songs and play.
Bennington added, “For me, I’m such a fan I think that’s the most important aspect of why I do what I do and how I do it. I’ve got to play with a lot of guys that I’ve grown up loving; I get to sing on stage with Chris Cornell, I got to play with Metallica and Black Sabbath, and I’ve performed songs with Jane’s Addiction, members of Guns n’ Roses, did the Doors’ 40th anniversary with the Doors and Perry Farrell onstage—I’m just like, “What world do I live in, ’cause this can’t be real?'”