As the vocalist for Linkin Park, Chester Bennington gave a voice to anyone who felt they were a square peg in a round hole. His talent was indisputable and his distaste for pigeonholing well known – fittingly, his legacy has been recognised by artists as diverse as the genre-straddling US singer blackbear, Japanese rock group One Ok Rock and UK MC Stormzy. Born on 20 March 1976, the singer was just 41 when he committed suicide by hanging, on 20 July 2017, but his influence continues to pervade all areas of music, from rock to electronica and hip-hop, as truly befits a genre-blind artist that paved the way for so many others to follow.
Bennington took his own life on what would have been Chris Cornell’s 53rd birthday. The Soundgarden vocalist and grunge pioneer had hanged himself just two months before, and Bennington was said to have struggled with the loss of such a close friend. His performance of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah at Cornell’s memorial, at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, on 27 May 2017, was regarded as one of his most moving. It was also his last.
The voice of a generation
Chester Bennington’s own influences were an eclectic mix that ran from Soundgarden to US punks Misfits, indie heroes Arcade Fire and industrial pioneers Nine Inch Nails. The singer even acknowledged Madonna as an influence, crediting the Queen Of Pop for being one of the reasons he became a musician. As frontman of Linkin Park, Bennington himself became recognised as one of the greatest rock vocalists of his generation, a technically gifted singer whose three-octave vocal range could travel from low bass G to tenor G.
Throughout his career, Bennington maintained this vocal prowess, though his lyrics were just as important as his voice – if not more so. Releasing six albums in almost two decades with Linkin Park, from one of the best debut albums of all time, 2000’s Hybrid Theory, to 2017’s One More Light, the singer never sacrificed his individuality or shied away from discussing difficult topics close to his heart.