Sunday, May 24, 2009

Jay Bennett Done Gone, At the Age of 45

Jay Bennett, best known as the former multi-instrumentalist of Wilco, has passed away just this past day. While I wrote earlier about the guy being kind of a big prick about suing Jeff Tweedy, this is still a major blow to not only the Wilco camp but to generally musicians everywhere. He was a consummate musician, multi-faceted in what he could do, as a composer, an arranger, and a musician. The guy could play any instrument you threw at him. That rarely ever happens.

When you consider modern bands today, you never really think anyone goes. When Johnny Cash died, while a distressing event no one was particularly surprised. The guy had as full of a career as any man could hope to experience. But so many have had their lives cut short. Jay Bennett is one of them. He was only 45. While perhaps in the scheme of "popular music" he might as well have been on life support, in the "regular music world" you still have 30 years on you if you're good. Hell, look at Bob Dylan.

But this guy hasn't left that shabby of a record either. Titanic Love Affair, and probably most notably his Wilco contributions. Being There was a great record that Jay was involved in. But probably his crowning achievement in music came with Summerteeth, virtually holing himself into some strange world with Jeff Tweedy, crafting some surreal pop that is both expansive, mindblowing, and just damn good. He even contributed "My Darling" to the record, which is one of the more underrated songs in the catalog.

Of course, everyone knows what happened during the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot sessions, but his probable douche-ness should not detract from him as a person. Jay Bennett was a perfectionist, and perhaps he and Tweedy just didn't agree anymore on what their vision was (as opposed to Summerteeth). The film obviously puts him in bad light, but the word is that the man was generous and a nice man to be around.

I have put on Being There and am working through Summerteeth as I write this. I plan to put on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and then his last show with Wilco (2001.07.04 for all you keeping track) to honor this man. One of the few consummate musicians of his era.

Rest in peace, and may God bless your soul, Jay Bennett.

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