Singer-songwriter, producer, and ex-Wilco guitarist Jay Bennett passed away in his sleep on Sunday, May 24. He was 45. Bennett was a gifted musician and studio technician who helped Wilco realize their musical aspirations on several key albums, from the traditional roots rock of Being There to the lush, pop orchestrations of Summer Teeth and the avant-garde sonic experiments of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. He was also a key contributor to the Mermaid Avenue albums, in which the band, along with Billy Bragg, wrote new music to freshly discovered Woody Guthrie lyrics. In addition to playing lead and rhythm guitar for Wilco, Bennett was also an accomplished keyboardist. He co-wrote the following Wilco songs: “Shot in the Arm,” “Ashes of American Flags,” “Kamera,” “I’m the Man Who Loves You,” “Poor Places,” “Pot Kettle Black,” “Radio Cure,” “War on War,” “My Darling,” and “Cars Can’t Escape.” After his ouster from the band in 2002, Bennett released four solo albums. At the time of his death, he was readying a fifth, Kicking at the Perfumed Air.
Earlier this month, Bennett filed suit against Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, claiming he was still owed royalties for his contribution the band. Tweedy released the following statement on Monday:
“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.”
He will be missed.
Read a 2008 interview and download Bennett’s 2008 Whatever Happened I Apologize here.
Some great videos of the man in action can be found here.