On July 20th, 2017, singer, Chester Bennington, committed suicide. Bennington rose to prominence in 2000 as the lead singer of Linkin Park. The band’s debut album, Hybrid Theory, was the perfect distillation of alternative rock, nü metal, and rap, and went on to sell over ten million copies in the U.S.
Subsequent albums—including 2003’s Meteora and 2007’s Minutes to Midnight—solidified the band’s sound and cemented their status as America’s favorite hard-rock band. Bennington played a key role in the band’s success, his striking vocals acting as the perfect foil to Mike Shinoda’s MC-skills.
Despite Linkin Park’s success, Bennington’s personal life was embroiled in chaos. Sexually abused by an older male friend, and the product of childhood divorce, he fell into alcohol and drug addiction at an early age. As an adult, he was plagued by health issues, including a recluse spider bite during OzzFest 2001, a hatial hernia that sidelined him in 2003, and a shoulder injury that required surgery in 2011. Even with all his fame and fortune, he couldn’t catch a break.
It’s heartbreaking to imagine the demons Bennington battled, but I hope he’s finally found peace. To commemorate his talent, here’s a look back at five of his most impressive vocals:
Crawling—Linkin Park: “One Step Closer” was Linkin Park’s introduction, and “In the End” became the massive single, but “Crawling” provided Hybrid Theory’s most stunning vocal. Utilizing a familiar ‘90s alt-rock sonic template, Bennington delivered deceptively quiet verses before detonating in the throat-shredding chorus. Despite being a literal pain for Bennington to sing live, “Crawling” marked Linkin Park first step towards world domination.
Numb—Linkin Park: Built around an unforgettable keyboard-synth hook, “Numb” is the ultimate outsider anthem. Bennington’s searing vocal raged his frustrations in the verses (“Every step that I take / is another mistake to you”) before exploding in the cathartic chorus, with a generation of disaffected youths finally finding their voice when he screamed, “All I want to do / is be more like me / and be less like you.”
Shadow of the Day—Linkin Park: One of Linkin Park’s best ballads found Bennington surprisingly restrained. Stripped of the rap and electronica elements they built their empire on—and borrowing liberally from U2’s “With or Without You”—the track’s sparse production perfectly showcased Bennington’s sweet vocals in this delicious lullaby of a song.
Waiting For the End—Linkin Park: Later Linkin Park singles suffered from the law of diminishing returns, but “Waiting For the End” is their mid-period masterpiece. The soaring, alt-rock power ballad is best remembered for Shinoda’s impassioned reggae-inflected verses (including the epic line, “the hardest part of ending is starting again”), but Bennington’s crystal-clear chorus provided the bedrock from which Shinoda soared.
Crawl Back In—Dead By Sunrise: While writing for Minutes to Midnight, Bennington found some of his songs were too dark and personal for Linkin Park. Rather than tossing them aside, Bennington formed a side-project, Dead by Sunrise, with members of industrial-rock group, Orgy. Sadly, the super-group’s lead single, “Crawl Back In,” is generic post-grunge rock, but the conviction of Bennington’s distinct vocal saves it from the bargain bin.