Friday, May 29, 2009

Jay Bennett, R.I.P.

Jay Bennett, ex-Wilco, has been dead for days now. It's kinda shaken me up a tad. I admit to minimizing his impact on Wilco's music in the past, as I wrote a year ago in this music forum thread:
Been a fan since Being There, wasn't too into A.M (or Uncle Tupelo for that matter, whose final tour I caught). Bennett was a great addition to the band as a sideman and production assistant. Left to his own devices he puts too much crap into the mix, as is evident on his unlistenable solo albums. Palace at 4 AM is brilliant, but consider that it was done again with a collaborator (Edward Burch) and with some co-writes from Tweedy. As for the live band, I've seen every tour since BT, and none have disappointed. However, since cleaning up Tweedy has taken on a more relaxed, affable stage presence, and the latest outfit does the best ensemble/jam thing of any. Any time I saw them with Bennett he acted like the superior rock-star prick, spotlight stage left, thank you.

I'm a big Wilco fan, they may rank second only to the Kinks as my top act ever. I've been revisiting the Bennett-era albums, not that I don't play them anyway, but in particular this week. Just now I popped on their first post-Bennett release, A Ghost is Born, which gives a better assessment of what he brought to the party when you don;t hear his contributions. Simply put, the man was a musical master, a pop architect. It is undeniable that his contributions to Wilco took them from pretty-good alt-country territory to best band going right now. Yes, he was a little ADD in his approach, and may have cluttered things up a bit when left to his own devices. He may have been hard to deal can Tweedy be. None of that overshadows his impact on some of the greatest records recorded in the past twenty years. And Jay's solo/collaborative record with Edward Burch (Palace at 4 AM) is a lost pop masterpiece.
Cause of death is still unknown, but anyone dying at 45 is a shame. Live every day as if it were your last, one day it will be. And try to make nice with those you have loved, because one day you may not be able to say "I'm Sorry".

An Outtake from I am Trying to Break Your Heart, Jay's tune "Cars Can't Escape":

The Jay composition "My Darling" from Session at W. 54th:

Jay's contributions the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

21 Reasons Why Jay Bennett Should be Back in Wilco

R.I.P. Jay.....