Published May 25, 2009News has emerged that former Wilco member Jay Bennett passed away in his Illinois home early Sunday morning (May 24). The cause of death has not yet been revealed. He was 45.
In a post on the Undertow Records website yesterday, Bennett's label said: "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."
An autopsy is being performed, but Bennett had reportedly been experiencing chronic hip pain for some time and was planning to have hip replacement surgery. His injuries were the result of an old stage-diving accident.
While currently touring Spain, Wilco front-man Jeff Tweedy expressed his condolences in a statement. "We are all deeply saddened by this tragedy. We will miss Jay as we remember him - as a truly unique and gifted human being and one who made welcome and significant contributions to the band's songs and evolution. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends in this very difficult time."
Bennett was a core Wilco member from 1994 through 2001, working on the albums Being There (1996), Summerteeth (1999) and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002), as well as the band's Mermaid Avenue collaborations with Billy Bragg. Bennett left the band during the recording of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, a departure that was very publicly chronicled in the 2002 Wilco music doc I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.
After leaving Wilco, Bennett released a handful of solo records, including The Beloved Enemy (2004), Bigger Than Blue (2004), The Magnificent Defeat (2006) and most recently Whatever Happened I Apologize (2008). At the time of his death, he was also working on a new album called Kicking at the Perfumed Air.
As previously reported, Bennett recently made headlines this month after filing a lawsuit against Tweedy for "breach of contract," alleging he was owed unpaid royalties for his work with Wilco and that he was no compensated for his appearance in I Am Trying to Break Your Heart. The suit was said to be for at least $50,000.