Chester Bennington of Linkin Park dies at 41

Chester Bennington, the lead singer of the Los Angeles hard rock band Linkin Park, led the sextet to become one of the biggest acts of the 2000s, its mix of guitars and hip-hop defining the ensuing years in rock.

The act’s debut, “Hybrid Theory,” reportedly sold more than 10 million copies in the U.S. alone. The group was signed to Warner Bros., and its beat-driven sound — when paired with heavy guitars and the dual vocals of Bennington and rapper Mike Shinoda — was long a force on rock radio.

Bennington died Thursday morning of a suspected suicide in Palos Verdes Estates. He was 41.

His death was confirmed to The Times by the Los Angeles County coroner. The group has yet to release an official statement, but co-founder Mike Shinoda wrote on Twitter that he was “shocked and heartbroken, but it's true.”

Warner Bros. Records CEO and Chairman Cameron Strang said in a statement that “Chester Bennington was an artist of extraordinary talent and charisma, and a human being with a huge heart and a caring soul. Our thoughts and prayers are with his beautiful family, his band-mates and his many friends. All of us at WBR join with millions of grieving fans around the world in saying: we love you Chester and you will be forever missed.”

Kevin Weatherly, KROQ-FM’s program director, said that “KROQ, Chester and Linkin Park have been together since Day 1 … Chester and Linkin Park headlined many of our shows over the years, entertaining audiences and pushing the boundaries of music along the way. We are without words to describe how terribly saddened we are today. RIP friend, KROQ will miss you.”

Bennington helped drive the group to mega-stardom with its 2000 debut, which combined heavy metal and hip-hop with angsty melodic choruses on songs such as “Crawling” and “In the End.”

The follow-up, “Meteora,” was a worldwide hit as well. The group was a powerhouse in rock music throughout its career, and released a new album, “One More Light,” in May. It debuted atop the Billboard album charts.

Bennington was born in Phoenix and joined the Agoura Hills-based group in the late ’90s. After years of struggling to win a record deal, they became instant superstars with “Hybrid Theory.” With videos in constant MTV rotation, they led a legion of bands pairing hard rock, electronic music and hip-hop that defined a particular moment in music.

The group released a 2004 collaborative album with Jay Z, “Collision Course,” and Bennington would later front Stone Temple Pilots between 2013-15 and a side project, Dead by Sunrise.

In lyrics and interviews, Bennington had always been frank about his struggles with addiction, and said he was sexually abused as a youth.

“I think it's a lot more common than people think. If you look at it, there's almost two different types of kids these days in this country. There's kids who are really together and then there's, like, train wrecks,” Bennington told The Times in 2004.

"I think people don't get told enough that they have the power to make themselves feel better. So if you can do that as much as possible. ... I think that's a positive thing, and I think we do that with our music. I think that's why a lot of kids relate to it, whether they've got their [stuff] together or whether they're messes. ... I'm both those things myself."

Warner Bros. Records’ then-Chairman and CEO Tom Whalley told The Times in 2004 that Linkin Park “represent[s] what we all miss in rock music. What we loved about bands in what we think of as the golden age of rock music was that each record took on a new dimension, and you would follow that band through those dimensions, and you would become a fan of whatever they're trying to do next."

In 2014, Bennington told The Times that he was frustrated with what he saw as the anemic state of mainstream rock. "We see a void," the singer said, with too much "safety rock sold as edgy alternative music." In the days before his death, he posted about his band collaborating with U.K. grime artist Stormzy and young pop singer Kiiara.

Bennington was friends with Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell, who committed suicide in May. Bennington performed “Hallelujah” at Cornell’s memorial service at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Thursday would have been Cornell’s 53rd birthday.

In an open letter to Cornell after his death, Bennington wrote: “Thoughts of you flooded my mind and I wept. I’m still weeping, with sadness, as well as gratitude. … Your voice was joy and pain, anger and forgiveness, love and heartache wrapped up into one.”

Bennington is survived by his wife Talinda Bennington and his six children.

august.brown@latimes.com

For breaking music news, follow @augustbrown on Twitter.

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UPDATES:

2:05 p.m.: This article was updated with more details throughout.

This article was originally published at 1 p.m.

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