The Truth About Chris Cornell's Relationship With Chester Bennington

When it comes to rockstars, Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington are two of the most epic figures to rise to prominence in the last 30 years. The first was the lead singer of both Soundgarden and Audioslave, and the other was the frontman of Linkin Park. The two men made a huge impact on the music world and were well known even outside of the rock genre.

Since the duo had so much in common, it made sense that the two would become friends once they crossed paths, and over a short amount of time, their bond became incredibly strong. But the ways in which the two related to each other were not always positive. An in-depth look into their relationship reveals that though it was great for both of them and their families, they shared painful experiences. Here's the truth about Chris Cornell's relationship with Chester Bennington.

Chester Bennington grew up listening to Soundgarden

Before the two even met, Chris Cornell had already made a huge impact on the life of Chester Bennington because he loved the music from Cornell's band, Soundgarden. In an interview with Metal Hammer, the Linkin Park frontman explained, "I grew up listening to Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Nirvana. I don't think any music scene influenced me as much as the scene that came out of Seattle. There was so much great music that came out of Seattle at that time. So, it was really cool for me to be out there with one of my heroes, and we got along really well."

Groups like Soundgarden inspired Bennington and his bandmates to form Linkin Park, which led to a similar level of fame for the rock stars. Years later, the singer commented more than once about how performing with Cornell — along with the members of other bands he was a fan of as a teen, such as Metallica, Black Sabbath, and Jane's Addiction — were some of the best experiences of his life.

Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington grew close during the Projekt Revolution tour

In 2002, Linkin Park started a new, multi-genre tour called Projekt Revolution, which was continued over several years due to its popularity. Chris Cornell joined the fifth one in 2007, so it was around that time that he was introduced to Chester Bennington. The Linkin Park singer told Metal Hammer, "We'd bring in tons of different acts, and Chris Cornell was on one of our tours. I think this was when we were touring 'Minutes To Midnight.' Anyway, we met then. We got along really well right away."

During Projekt Revolution, Cornell joined Linkin Park on stage for a duet version of "Crawling" with Bennington, among other songs, along with a cover of Temple of the Dog's "Hunger Strike." Bennington also talked about the memorable experience of singing the hit made famous by Eddie Vedder with his new friend and said, "It's kinda funny but my wife would always tease me because when Chris and I would do that song, we would always stare at each other. She'd be like, 'Look at you guys, staring at each other onstage all night!' That was just because of my admiration for him as a person and as a performer, and the friendship we were developing. It was just really special, it was a special time."

Chester Bennington was the godfather of Chris Cornell's son

During the Projekt Revolution tour, Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell grew to be such good friends that they basically became family. Cornell then honored Bennington with a request to signify the strong bond they had formed, as the Linkin Park frontman explained to Metal Hammer, "We stayed in touch and that developed into Chris and Vicky asking me to be the godfather of their son, Christopher. One of my favorite memories of our friendship was the baptism and the christening and taking on that promise to the family. That was really great." Their second child, Christopher Nicholas, was born a few years before in 2005 and was the only son of the couple. Both Cornell and his wife, Vicky, most likely felt that asking Bennington to take on that role was a great way to show how much he had meant to both of them once he entered their lives. 

Bennington deeply enjoyed simply spending time with Cornell. When asked what his favorite memories of their friendship were, he answered, "Obviously, the christening of his son, Christopher, and being invited into the family. That was really special." But he also said, "Definitely the times we had just hanging out — which were very few and far between. Sitting by the pool with the kids, just kinda talking."

The duo's wives were close friends as well

A major factor that cemented the bond between Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell was that not only did they hit it off, but their wives, Vicky and Talinda, also became close so that their families kind of merged. When talking to Metal Hammer, Bennington explained, "I don't know if you've ever had this experience, but sometimes you meet somebody and it's like you've known them forever. And that was really the case between our families." The singer added, "I think if it was just me and Chris talking, hanging out, you know, we would be good acquaintances. But the friendship between our wives, you add that into the mix and things escalate a little bit more!"

Talinda and Vicky were not in the public eye as much as their rockstar husbands, but there are still glimpses into their lives that clearly show they all felt the same way as Bennington. Because some people in this world have a sickening lack of empathy, Vicky endured despicable abuse from trolls online after the tragic passing of her husband. Talinda was quick to support her friend and tweeted (via Alternative Nation), "I'm deeply saddened by humanity. I just came across a stream of people tweeting vile lies about Chris Cornell, his death & his wife. Disgusting. It's crossing a line so deep for me. That's my FAMILY. Show some respect."

Chris Cornell had a lot of respect for Chester Bennington's dedication

It is clear that Chris Cornell was hugely impressed with Chester Bennington for his dedication to their craft. In an interview with Rolling Stone, the Soundgarden frontman was asked about the impact that live music made on his life, and he instantly thought of a performance of Bennington's that inspired him. Cornell said, "When we toured Australia, Chester broke his wrist on like, the third song and then finished the whole set with a broken wrist. That kind of dedication and passion, like, 'This is what I'm doing, this is the most important thing there is, I'm onstage right now.' That affects me."

Like a good friend, Cornell also said things to Bennington that truly lifted him up. The Linkin Park singer gave a great example of this to Metal Hammer that was both funny and heartwarming ⁠— when Cornell told him he'd have to sing the more difficult part of their duet. Bennington explained, "Doing 'Hunger Strike' with Chris, and I had to hit the really high parts. The best compliment I ever got was from Chris. After we did it, he laughed and said, 'Dude ⁠— you're not supposed to be able to do that, man! I made you sing that on purpose so you wouldn't do it as well!' So that was a huge compliment to me."

Chester Bennington introduced Chris Cornell to rock video games

When Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell were on tour together, the Linkin Park frontman was playing "Rock Band" with his wife, Talinda, and Cornell joined in on the fun, even though he had never played the video game before. The Soundgarden singer told Collider, "I played it one time and it was the only time I got to play it. It was in Chester Bennington's dressing room from Linkin Park. He had it and he was like, 'Hey, let's try it.' He was there and he and his wife were playing it and they were both good and having fun with it. I tried to play it and it was kind of fun, but it really is just a video game."

Cornell enjoyed spending time with the two friends that had basically become adopted family but simply did not understand the appeal of music games when someone could just pick a guitar and play real music. So, the rock star was honest and said that he'd prefer to play a game like "Halo" with his buddies instead.

The two were so busy that it was difficult to see each other often

As the lead singers of massively successful bands — Linkin Park, Soundgarden, and Audioslave, along with their numerous side projects — both Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell were not able to spend as much time with all of their friends as they would have liked. But the two men understood this, and the dedication both had to their families was just another thing they had in common that made their friendship even stronger.

In the interview with Metal Hammer, Bennington described the rare yet special times the two were able to hang out and said, "Whenever they were in town we would try to connect — sometimes it was difficult because we're all so busy. Chris and I were similar in many ways in that we had a lot of dear friends, but we didn't necessarily see them all the time, because our personal lives are so busy, and our dedication to our families is so strong."

Both men experienced addiction

One thing Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell shared was their experiences with addiction throughout much of their lives. In 2009, the Linkin Park frontman gave a very candid interview with Noisecreep and admitted, "My life was falling apart in many ways that I was writing about on this record in terms of getting divorced, in terms of diving very hard into alcohol and drugs throughout this process." He also added, "['Crawling'] is probably the most literal song lyrically I'd ever written for Linkin Park and that's about feeling like I had no control over myself in terms of drugs and alcohol."

Similarly, Cornell talked briefly about his addiction issues that really began in his 20s, as he explained to Spin in 2006, "Unfortunately, being a child of two alcoholics, I started drinking a lot, and that's what eventually got me back into drugs. You often hear that pot leads to harder drugs. But I think alcohol is what leads you to everything, because it takes away the fear. The worst drug experimentation I ever did was because I was drunk and didn't care." Cornell got to a better place in 2003, but a shoulder injury got him addicted to a benzodiazepine after he was prescribed Ativan by a physician in 2016.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Chester Bennington was devastated by his friend's death

On May 17, 2017, Chris Cornell tragically died by suicide in a Detroit hotel room. Upon learning the fate of the beloved rockstar, his family was absolutely devastated by the loss. This included Chester Bennington, whose close friendship with Cornell practically made him a member as well.

The Linkin Park frontman was deeply saddened by the loss and wrote a long, heartfelt tribute letter on Twitter that said (via the Associated Press), "Thoughts of you flooded my mind and I wept. I'm still weeping, with sadness, as well as gratitude for having shared some very special moments with you and your beautiful family. 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. I suppose that's what we all are. You helped me understand that." Bennington also added, "I can't imagine a world without you in it. I pray you find peace in the next life. I send my love to your wife and children, friends and family. Thank you for allowing me to be part of your life. With all my love."

The late singer's wife, Vicky, and the Cornell family suspected that the Ativan Chris was prescribed had a terribly negative affect on his actions and that he may still be here if it were not for the drug. Especially after Cornell's death, Bennington was also on the brink of losing the sobriety he managed to maintain for six months (via Far Out Magazine).

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Performing the tribute on Jimmy Kimmel was difficult for Bennington

Linkin Park was already scheduled to perform on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" when Chester Bennington heard the heartbreaking news that Chris Cornell had passed. The singer wanted to honor one of his best friends, but when talking to Metal Hammer, Bennington explained his struggle to get through the show and said, "We were going to play 'Heavy' on 'Jimmy Kimmel' that night, but Chris had just passed so we felt like dedicating 'One More Light' to him would be appropriate. I got to sing through that a few times, break down, cry a little bit, pull myself together."

Although Bennington admitted it was difficult to perform, his bandmate Mike Shinoda revealed to (via Far Out Magazine) that the singer downplayed how hard it was for him. Shinoda said, "When we were doing a soundcheck, Chester couldn't even make it through the song, he was getting halfway through and getting choked up. And even when we did play the whole song, and it was live on TV, or taped for film for TV, he kind of just stopped like towards the end like he missed the last couple lines, just couldn't finish the song".

Chester Bennington performed at Chris Cornell's funeral

Chris Cornell's widow, Vicky, asked Chester Bennington to perform at her late husband's funeral, and the Linkin Park frontman accepted without hesitation. Because of his previous tribute to his friend on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," Bennington felt more emotionally prepared for the performance. The singer really wanted to come up with the best song to honor Cornell, so he prayed for help in making the decision until he chose a perfect option. Bennington explained to Metal Hammer, "I knew from our conversations that he'd been friends with Jeff Buckley and they were close, so I felt that 'Hallelujah' would be a good song. It's my favorite song of all time – I think it's the best song that's ever been written — and of all the versions that have been done, Jeff Buckley's is my favorite. So that was a nice tie, you know, somebody that Chris was close to."

After Bennington's rendition of the popular Leonard Cohen song, Cornell's two daughters, Lily and Toni, also performed to honor their father. It was a heartbreaking event for all of them to take part in, but the singer felt his friend would have liked the way it turned out.

Chester Bennington died by suicide on Chris Cornell's birthday

Only two months after the death of Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington died by suicide as well on what would have been the 53rd birthday of his close friend. Similar to how drugs may have played a role in the tragic passing of Cornell, traces of either MDMA or methamphetamines were found in Bennington's blood, along with a small amount of alcohol.

One silver lining to the horrible tragedies was that through the friendship of the two men, their wives and families became incredibly close and had each other throughout all of the deep sadness. Vicky Cornell wrote on Twitter (via Alternative Nation), "Just when I thought my heart couldn't break any more.....I love you T." Like her mother, Lily Cornell was heartbroken over Bennington's death and tweeted, "I love you so much. Thank you for always being there for me and my family, thank you for being the kindest human being imaginable, and thank you for your legendary voice. there is a gaping hole in the world without you."

Unfortunately, Bennington's widow, Talinda, had to deal with sick people on social media, but Vicky supported her friend just as the other had done for her months before. She wrote (via Alternative Nation), "Sadly, empathize with @TalindaB -cruel, malicious, baseless attacks but 'when they go low we go high!' I love you T!" Talinda responded shortly after, "God gave us our husbands, our babies, and each other. We will always stand back 2 back and heart 2 heart. We travel this road together. I love you." 

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.