No matter how popular Linkin Park got, Chester Bennington managed to retain an artistic aura by balancing accessibility and gut wrenching emotion. His vocals could make an otherwise mundane track skyrocket with intensity and relatability. If not for his presence in the band, whether they would have reached the heights they did is doubtful. One could spend days finding all the memorable moments from his discography, but I narrowed things down to these specific tracks based on how Chester constructed each of their identities.
A Place for my Head
Though it’s at the bottom from my more objective reasoning, this track has a special place in my heart for getting me to love Linkin Park again. I jumped off the bandwagon as soon as I jumped on it and wrote them off as played out and immature, but hearing this song reminded me of what I love about this band. Though it features some of the Mike Shinoda’s best word play on Hybrid Theory, Chester’s delivery becomes the real take away. The Live in Texas DVD version of the song accentuates his contributions as he sends its emotional impact into outer space. I dare you to listen to the last minute of it without getting chills.
Lying from You
Another great live song, this track retains the structure people expect from Linkin Park, — rapping in the verse, singing in the chorus and screaming in the bridge. As a much more melodic record than the debut, Meteora required more of Chester as a vocalist than his first time around. This track proves he was more than capable of rising to the occasion, switching registers easily and holding incredibly high notes. The fact this song translates so well live further clarifies how consistent Chester can be with his vocal acrobatics.
Waiting for the End
A Thousand Suns saw Linkin Park wholeheartedly depart from nu metal and even rock in general, a decision many longtime fans gave them flack for. However, “Waiting for the End” stands an argument for this album’s merit. In this poppy environment, Chester flexes his knack for harmony as he follows Shinoda’s flow and takes a more ethereal singing style. The debate as to whether this stylistic shift was for better or worse will probably last forever, but Chester’s vulnerability and nuance on this track keep this and many tracks on the album afloat.
This particular track resonates much more deeply in the wake of Chester’s suicide. As the heaviest track off of the decidedly more accessible Minutes to Midnight, it showcases the self-hatred lurking underneath a lot of his lyrics. It was also the first time he broke his no-swearing code in favor of a primal expulsion of negativity. Even today, the mid-song breakdown holds up as one of the most visceral moments in modern music — especially that final scream. I remember rewinding back to the drop multiple times when I first heard it, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. In retrospect, hearing Chester scream “PUT ME OUT OF MY MISERY” over and over carries infinitely more weight. It stands as a raw look inside of his inner turmoil and the cathartic nature of his delivery.
As one of Linkin Park’s most beloved songs, “Crawling” features some of Chester’s most heartfelt lyrics. People can call him melodramatic and childish all they want… his words resonated with millions of people, and his passing demonstrates once and for all that he meant it from the bottom of his heart. With regard to songwriting, Chester hit a high he has seldom reached since. Though simple and catchy, Chester’s words reflected his struggles in a way one can only call timeless. On what turned out to be the last shows of his career, Linkin Park stripped the song down to just piano and voice — showing how intense the song could be with just bare essentials.
Whether shredding his vocal cords or emphatically crooning, Chester Bennington always wore his heart on his sleeve, effectively transcending his status as “the singer of Linkin Park” and becoming a force in of himself. His death signifies a dire loss for several generations — a voice for millions… the foundation for multiple movements.