Monday, May 25, 2009

Remembering Jay Bennett of Wilco

REMEMBERING JAY: It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to the great singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett who died yesterday. Bennett will be best remembered as a founder of Titanic Love Affair and as an early and important member of Wilco during that group's formative years (1994 - 2001) before leaving to become a prolific solo musician and a celebrated engineer/producer. During his career, the 45 year-old Bennett, brought a tangible, layered, earthy quality to almost every recording he touched. Because of this, many audiophiles began asking for his return to Wilco... Others just wanted Bennett to take a role in their music whether it was as a studio musician or as a producer.

Jay Walter Bennett

THE BACKSTORY: In some ways the amazing Sam Robert Wilco documentary, "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," was both an end and a new beginning for the band. Prepared to release the important Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (one of the best albums of the modern era), the band found itself in dispute with its label and the creative window appeared to be closing. Warner Brothers did not believe they could market Wilco. Band leader Jeff Tweedy found himself in personal and creative conflict with member Jay Bennett. (And because of this conflict Bennett becomes a polarizing force in the film. [Bennett had a similar vital role in the manufacture of the music of YHF. *credit and praise go to Glorious Noise.])

In an 2008 interview with MOKB (link below), Bennett lamented how he came off in the film (sort of as an internal protagonist.) His future work and deeds help to make the case...."I'm not the dick head portrayed in the Wilco 'documentary,' I will probably spend a lifetime living down the after effects of someone else's creative editing. But, anybody who gets to know me even a little bit will paint you a very different picture. So, I guess one wish of mine would be for the world to know me for who I really am, but that's probably a lot to ask. "

Editor's Note:
Just weeks ago, Bennett filed a lawsuit against Tweedy for the sum of $50,000 due to his lack of compensation for his role in the film and on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The lawsuit came only as Bennett prepared for the hip replacement surgery (Bennett has been suffering through chronic pain and as a full-time musician - he had no health insurance.) According to reports, Bennett died in his sleep following his operation. No additional information has been made available.

My Old Kentucky Blog: 2008 Q&A with Jay Bennett
NPR : Rest in Peace Jay Bennett by Bob Boilen
Captains Dead: Don't Be Sad, I Know You Will Be (Jay Bennett & Jeff Tweedy 1999)
Aquarium Drunkard: Jay Bennett, 1963-2009 (download the YHF demos!)
CYSTSFS: RIP - Jay Bennett


tristanclopet said...

i saw "i am trying to break your heart" 5 years ago. i've seen it probably 8 times since then and i still don't get any closer to figuring out the reasoning behind jay bennett's exit from wilco. very confusing, shady, and ambiguous.

dirkler said...


I think it's actually pretty logical why he left Wilco. Two strong minds in relatively tough times trying to work together to create what they hoped (and became) a masterpiece.

Tweedy IS Wilco really, and I think there just wasn't room for Jay in the co-Wilco role.

I was sad to see him leave but I can understand why.