Gifted musician passes
away Saturday night in his sleep.
By Fred Mills
“We are profoundly saddened to report that our friend died
in his sleep last night. Jay was a beautiful human being who will be missed.”
Thus read a posting at the Undertow Records website yesterday, echoing the
sentiments of music fans all across America. The Jay in question is Jay
Walter Bennett; Undertow released the former Titanic Love Affair/Wilco member’s
critically acclaimed 2002 solo album
Palace At 4am.
As word got out about the death of Bennett, 45, not too many
details were known other than that Bennett died in his sleep Saturday night and
that no official cause of death was known yet. An autopsy is pending. However, Bennett
had been afflicted with chronic hip pain for some time, the result of sustaining
an injury during a stage dive while performing with Titanic Love Affair, and he’d
been planning on having hip replacement surgery.
In a report filed at the Chicago
Sun-Times, pop critic Jim DeRogatis quoted Bennett’s friend and oftentime
collaborator Edward Burch as saying, “The family is in mourning and is
unavailable for comment at this time… He was an extremely talented musician and
a great person, and I’ll miss him terribly.” Burch added that he’d gotten word
to Wilco through bandmember John Stirratt and the band, on tour in Spain, was “broken
up” about the news.
An official statement from Wilco is forthcoming, although both
Bennett and Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy were in the news recently after Bennett
filed a lawsuit against Tweedy alleging he was owed compensation from his
1994-2001 tenure in Wilco. A falling out between the two men led to Bennett’s
acrimonious departure from the band, and speculation among certain cynical pundits and bloggers
was that Bennett, lacking health insurance, had filed the suit in order to
raise funds to pay for his much-needed surgery.
Bob Boilen of NPR music penned a heartfelt goodbye to
Bennett at the NPR site yesterday. In it, he included a post that Bennett had
made to his MySpace blog in April outlining to fans what he’d been going
through recently with his hip troubles and discussing his forthcoming album Kicking at the Perfumed Air.
“I will continue to stay as active as I possibly can, making
music, and staying in touch with all of you (my friends), as the surgery
approaches, and later, whilst I am recovering,” worote Bennett. “Apologies for
my absence, I honestly do care about staying true to my promise to maintain
open and interactive relationships with all of you “out there,”
wherever you may be.”
BLURT extends our deepest condolences to Bennett’s family,
friends and fans. He will be missed.