Linkin Park's first album Hybrid Theory couldn't have a much more fitting name. It succinctly describes the premise that the band has played out over the last two decades and seven studio albums — that far-flung musical genres can be mashed together seamlessly and artistically. While this has been most clearly embodied in Linkin Park's chart-topping fusion of hip-hop and alt-metal, even Chester Bennington's vocals alone showcased a wide range of influences and styles.
Further expressing his diverse taste and technique, the late singer covered songs by numerous artists from across the spectrum of metal, hard rock, industrial, pop, indie and beyond. Those renditions offer us glimpses into the various musical arenas he found inspiring, and into the personal hybrid theory that shaped him as an artist. Below are 10 standout covers that display the range and skill that made so many fall in love with Bennington's voice.
At Ozzfest 2001, Chester Bennington teamed up with Disturbed to take on a cover of one of the groove-metal titan's most famous hits. The rendition is proof of how much fire he was able to imbue his voice with at will. Few can match the intensity that Phil Anselmo could dish out, but Bennington was the right guy for the job.
The electronic strand of DNA that runs through Linkin Park was clearly influenced by Nine Inch Nails' discography. At Rock am Ring 2004, the band decided to give tribute to Reznor and Co. through a vicious cover of the band's 1992 single "Wish." Bennington approaches Reznor's vocal delivery from a different angle than the original, injecting more traditional "unclean" screams and howls into the new take, ending the song with some pretty inhuman growls.
Through his career, Bennington was known to join supergroup cover act Camp Freddy, comprised of musicians including Dave Navarro, Scott Weiland, Matt Sorum and more. For a take on AC/DC's "Highway to Hell," they called upon the Linkin Park singer to help them out on vocal duties, and Slash on guitar. The 2006 performance clearly surprised a lot of fans in the audience, as Bennington was able to slip into a delivery close to what Bon Scott belted out on the original single. It's a nice distillation of how all these rock bands are connected, and a clear example of how AC/DC's influence still resonates with newer artists.
Chris Cornell was one of Chester Bennington's biggest influences as a vocalist, and he got the chance to sing with Cornell at one of the late-Soundgarden frontman's solo shows. Bennington provided a clutch assist on Temple of the Dog's "Hunger Strike," taking Eddie Vedder's original vocal duties during the song's duet sections. It's a poignant performance to watch now considering both singers' fate — the brief embrace they share at the end is especially crushing.
In the wake of 2005's Hurricane Katrina, Mötley Crüe enlisted Chester Bennington for this re-working of their classic ballad "Home Sweet Home" to help raise funds for those affected by the devastation. What resulted was a semi-orchestral take on the original, adding a bevy of string instruments and a choral opening before the band comes in. Bennington knocks it out of the park, oscillating between delicate delivery and pure unadulterated power before Vince Neil comes in.
One of the most surprising covers in Bennington's arsenal was when Linkin Park started to perform pop singer Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" in the early 2000s. The band stripped the song bare, the only instrumentation being Mike Shinoda on piano while Bennington sang. It was a true reinvention of the original, the vocalist imbuing much of himself on the mega-hit and showing the world a new side of this powerful song.
A cover Bennington tackled somewhat frequently was Led Zeppelin's iconic "Whole Lotta Love." In this 2008 video, Bennington joins Slash and the rest of Camp Freddy for a take on the classic-rock jam. He embodies the spirit of Robert Plant's vocal experimentation and the swaggering freedom found on the original track, allowing his voice to do its own thing without worrying too much about where he ended it up — and completely knocking the cover out of the park.
For a brief time in the mid 2000s, Chester Bennington played guitar and sang for a band called Bucket of Weenies, which played a few casual gigs for his Club Tattoo shop. In one of the few recordings, Bennington took on Oasis' hit single "Wonderwall." He plays the song in a faster tempo than the Britpop original, and moves it into more American alt-rock territory.
At another Camp Freddy gig in 2009, Bennington joined up with the covers group to deliver a rendition of the Smashing Pumpkins' 1995 anthem "Bullet With Butterfly Wings." The Pumpkins are a tricky band to cover — in particular, Billy Corgan's unique voice is often a hazard for other artists to overcome. But Bennington sang the song with a lot of heart, swaying it closer to his direction with some particularly fiery chorus deliveries.
On the day of Chris Cornell's suicide, Chester Bennington wrote a eulogy to the Soundgarden singer stating, "You have inspired me in many ways you could never have known. Your talent was pure and unrivaled. your voice was joy and pain, anger and forgiveness, love and heartache all wrapped up into one."
At Cornell's funeral on May 26, 2017, Bennington joined his Linkin Park bandmate Brad Delson to perform a cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" in honor of his fallen friend. Bennington's voice is pained and vulnerable in the song's softer moments, passionate during its louder ones, injecting every single word with the emotions that were coursing through his body. It's not an easy listen, and is especially hard to get through now, but it remains one of his most powerful performances, and a reminder that what he left us can never be replicated.