R.I.P., Jay Walter Bennett (1963-2009)

There’s not much that I can add to the chorus of voices across the internet who have weighed in on this weekend’s tragic death of musician Jay Bennett.

Like many others, I was a fan of Jay’s music, both as a member of Wilco as well as his solo career.  Indeed, Jay’s most recent solo album, Whatever Happened I Apologize (download for free here), remains one of my favorite underappreciated albums of the last few years, and his first post-Wilco project with musician Edward Burch, The Palace at 4am (Part 1) (buy here), will almost certainly place somewhere on my “best of the decade” list when I sit down to make it at the end of the year.

I’ll always have one lasting memory of Jay, from one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen – Wilco’s show at Irving Plaza in New York in early 1997 (the so-called “deli tray show”). For my money, the lineup that played that night – including Jay and drummer Ken Coomer – will always be my favorite configuration of the band, as it represented the band at its down and dirty “rock and roll” peak. And as if to highlight the rock-ingness of the show, at one point during the set Jay brought out a double-necked guitar and proceeded to just completely bring the house down with an incredible solo.

The image of Jay, with dreadlocks flying, and a huge smile on his face as he shredded away, is one that will stay with me for a long time to come.  You’ll be missed, Jay.

Here are two of my favorite Jay songs:

Jay Bennett and Edward Burch, “Puzzle Heart”
Jay Bennett, “How Dull They Make The Razor”

And here is what is possibly my favorite song ever written by Jay, and one that sounded great both sung by Jay (on The Palace at 4am (Part 1)), as well as by Jeff. Here’s the Wilco version, so that we can all remember just how the great the pairing of Jay and Jeff was for a time.

Wilco, “Venus Stop The Train” (from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot sessions)

Monday 25 May 2009 at 2:56 pm by Steve

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