Jay Bennett, 1963-2009

Personally, I did not know Jay Bennett except for a handful of brief encounters, harking all the way back to that fix-it job referenced in several of the on-line obituaries. I remember talking to this low-key hipster cat with the glasses and unbridled hair at Greg Danner’s former electronics shop on Race Street in Urbana; suddenly, he had split to join that up-and-coming group called Wilco, apparently born out of older bands including something called Uncle Tupelo. The rest was history – at least, until the meltdown (selectively?) documented in I AM TRYING TO BREAK YOUR HEART, when Bennett’s relationship with his band mates bent a little too far in the wrong direction during the recording of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

Is “Puzzle Heart,” the opening track on his subsequent collaboration with my former Octopus co-worker Ed Burch, The Palace at 4am (Part 1), an artful response to that particular break-up? Regardless, Palace remains one of my favorite records released this decade, and Summerteeth is the one Wilco album in my stacks that I play on a regular basis due to the gorgeously swirling pop gumption introduced and engineered by Bennett. I had mixed feelings about his uneven Palace follow-up, The Magnificent Defeat, and have yet to hear the most recent work, but certainly understand to a point what this musician achieved in his brief time on planet Earth.

I don’t know if it has been confirmed publicly what killed him, but I hope that Bennett has befriended a fix-it person up in the sky that can solve what ails him.

~ Jason Pankoke

p.s. As reported last Wednesday in The News-Gazette, a coroner’s report revealed that Bennett perished from an overdose of pain medication.

[Updated 7/1/09, 08:20 a.m. CST]

Click to read: Glide magazine interview by Brian Robbins

Click to read: Jim DeRogatis obit in Chicago Sun-Times

Click to read: Daniel Kreps obit on RollingStone.com

Click to read: Staff remembrances on SmilePolitely.com

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