Vale Jay Bennett
Sad news yesterday about the death of the brilliant and multi-talented Jay Bennett. Most famous for co-writing and playing guitar on Wilco’s second, third and fourth albums, Summerteeth, Being Thereand Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, the latter part of Bennett’s career was often overshadowed by the circumstances surrounding the breakdown of his relationship with Wilco frontman, Jeff Tweedy and his subsequent dismissal from the band (a process documented in some detail in the documentary, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.
Despite the ongoing acrimony between Bennett and Tweedy – most recently Bennett commenced proceedings against Tweedy for breach of contract (an action complemented by the incredibly sad claim that he was taking the action because he needed hip replacement surgery he could not afford) – in the years after leaving Wilco Bennett went on to record five critically acclaimed solo albums, and was apparently working on a sixth at the time of his death. And, their continuing success notwithstanding, it has been difficult not to feel his absence has robbed Wilco of the edginess that lent the pop wizardry of those earlier albums its brilliance.
Details about Bennett’s death are a little sketchy, but according to a statement issued by his friend and collaborator, Edward Burch, “Jay died in his sleep and an autopsy is being performed. The family is in mourning and is unavailable for comment at this time”. Tweedy also issued a statement, saying, “We are all deeply saddened by this tragedy. We will miss Jay as we remember him – as a truly unique and gifted human being and one who made welcome and significant contributions to the band’s songs and evolution. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends in this very difficult time”.
A couple of clips featuring Bennett from I Am Trying to Break Your Heart can be seen below, The New York Times and The Guardian both have obituaries, and in The Chicago Tribune Greg Kot has compiled a (very) brief guide to the best of Bennett’s work. Bennett’s delicate and beautiful fifth solo album, 2008’s Whatever Happened I Apologize, is also available as a free download from www.rockproper.com.