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In Memoriam: Jay Bennett by

Most of you are probably aware by now that Jay Bennett, formerly of Wilco, passed away this weekend. Bennett’s people sent out what I thought was a really nice email, remarking on his life, his passions, and also his troubles with his former band mates. I’ve decided to post it to the blog:

Our good friend Jay Walter Bennett left us this weekend. As news hits the wires so instantaneously these days, we thought it was important to share some thoughts about our friend and brother before any rumors got out of hand.

First, let it be known that Jay was in a really good place these past few years. He had returned to the area he loved–the “Twin Cities,” Champaign-Urbana–and resurrected his studio, Pieholden Suite Sound, with the assistance of many dear friends and allies. Jay had been busy making music. He recently had released an intimate record entitled “Whatever Happened I Apologize,” and he was looking forward to wrapping up his new work, “Kicking at the Perfumed Air.” Proud of finishing a trilogy of records, including “Bigger Than Blue,” “The Beloved Enemy,” and “The Magnificent Defeat,” Jay loved the balanced yet ironic album titles. He was also looking forward to engineering and releasing Titanic Love Affair’s previously unreleased record, as well as starting work on “The Palace at 4 a.m. Part II,” the follow-up to his post-Wilco debut with Edward Burch. “Jay the Academic” had also reemerged, pursuing his umpteenth degree at the University of Illinois, and he was thrilled to be t aking graduate classes again.

As many of you may be aware, Jay had finally found the courage to put his Wilco issues out into the public forum. After a long, four-year process (and therefore very much unrelated to his impending hip surgery), formal filings against Wilco were finally initiated. This task was very emotional for Jay. He was a “lover,” and this confrontation was not easy for him. With the exception of his final period in Wilco, Jay looked back on his time in the band with great fondness and pride. While he was dismayed that some people may have formed a narrow perception of him via the “documentary,” all who truly knew him understood that with most entertainment media, editing is usually constructed for dramatic effect and presents only a small part of a larger, more complex reality.

So, please spend some time this week engaging in Jay’s favorite passions: listen to a Nick Lowe album, watch some Mythbusters on Discovery, play Warren Zevon’s “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner,” rent Pay It Forward (one of his favorite movies), write a song with the TV on and the sound off, and focus on how Jay always concluded his communications:

“Love, Jay.”

Here’s Bennett with his band prior to Wilco, Titanic Love Affair, “Planet Strange”:

Wilco with Bennett, “Misunderstood”:

Jay Bennett solo, “My Little Wicked One” (just audio here):

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