The sad news of Jay Bennett’s passing made the rounds at the Play or Pose benefit at The Highdive on Sunday night, and the first band, The Outnumbered, confirmed it by giving Bennett a special mention on stage. The former Wilco band member and longtime Champaign-Urbana musician was 45 years old. The timing of his death, just prior to a reunion of so many of his peers in the local music scene, added a sad tinge to a festive affair.
Pitchfork and The Chicago Sun-Times have both written about Bennett’s death. He apparently died in his sleep in his Urbana home on the eve of May 23 or the morning of May 24 and the cause of death is not yet known. Bennett attended school at the University of Illinois and played in C-U bands Titantic Love Affair and Steve Pride & His Blood Kin before joining Wilco. Since leaving Wilco in 2001, he had recorded a few solo records as well as an album with Edward Burch. Earlier this month, Bennett made headlines for filing a lawsuit against his former bandmate Jeff Tweedy.
Bennett will be remembered as an extremely gifted guitarist and an incredible musician who had his hand in many interesting records over the past 20 years, including Wilco’s Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Titanic Love Affair’s 1991 self-titled major label release.