Jay Bennett certainly was not very flattering in I Am Going To Break Your Heart. The constant bitching, ill advised comments (“easy rockers” remains my favorite), and obvious attempts at asserting control of the band just didn’t present itself well in the documentary.
You get the impression that the person most surprised when he eventually got sacked from Wilco was Jay himself. The rest of the band and everyone watching the movie could see it coming and, at some points, welcomed the event when it eventually happened.
Yet lately, there are some Wilco fans that began to consider the band’s output sans Jay and making their feelings known that they would like him back in the fold. The argument? That everything since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot has not been up to that album’s lofty heights, therefore, his presence-as divisive as it was-is needed if the band every is to return to the brilliance they once had.
It’s an interesting thought and one that I have agreed with.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked A Ghost Is Born-particularly what it stood for-and I thought Sky Blue Sky was a smart, subtle record. As good as those albums were, they weren’t great like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Summer Teeth were. Those two releases challenged the listener, often not revealing their appeal until after repeated listens. And after two brilliant albums in a row, you began to miss those moments after two good albums in a row.
Yes, I would cite Jay as a big reason why those records came out so fantastic.
Recently, Jay sued Jeff Tweedy claiming unpaid royalties during his tenure, an event that surely would erase any possibility of a reunion just yet. In realistic terms, that lawsuit probably put the notion of a reconciliation years away.
Sadly, Jay Bennett passed away today, making any news of a reconciliation or reunion an impossibility. He was 45.
Bennett stated that he needed those royalty funds to assist with paying for hip replacement surgery. Evidently, he had been living in pain for several years and was looking forward to a life without it after the surgery was completed. I don't know if the surgery created complications that cut his life short.
His passing may have indeed presented him with an opportunity to be pain free-admittedly not in the manner that he was seeking-but for many fans, the pain is just now beginning as a result of this tragic news.