Former Wilco member dead


Jay Bennett, former member of Wilco, solo artist, and studio musician, died Sunday at the age of 45.

"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."

So go the official remarks of Wilco, Jay Bennett's former band mates, collaborators, combatants, and friends, currently touring Europe. For 7 years, Jay Bennett was their guitarist, netting songwriting credits and performing live with them. On Sunday morning, Jay Bennett died suddenly in his sleep. He was 45 years old.

Wilco performing "Misunderstood" live, with Bennett on guitar.

Bennett was a multi-instrumentalist, a guitarist so talented he became a hotly pursued studio performer after being released from Wilco. He was a gifted engineer, a stubborn visionary, and an incisive songwriter.

In 1991, Bennett founded Titanic Love Affair, a moderately successful rock outfit that released three albums through the 90s.His name didn't become household material, however, until his time in Wilco, which began in 1994 and lasted nearly a decade, until tensions escalated during the recording of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

Bennett was a consummate perfectionist with precise visions for the band's sound, and when Wilco began to favor the engineering of producer Jim O'Rourke, tensions between Bennett and Tweedy began to rise, so that, immediately upon the release of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Bennett was released from the band.

He pursued a solo career for much of the 2000s, releasing albums of self-exploration that, while being adept and engaging, never escaped the gravitational field of his former band. There was an unsightly lawsuit that Bennett filed against Tweedy, a hip injury that threatened to devastate the uninsured Bennett, but the 2000s also saw him contributing as a studio guitarist to works by Sheryl Crow and Blues Traveller.

No cause of death has been named by Bennett's family.