R.I.P. Jay Bennett 1963-2009

It was only three weeks ago we reported Jay Bennett's claim against his former bandmates in Wilco for breach of contract and unpaid artist's royalties. Now those claims and any disputes between him and Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy seem like a distant and irrelevant side note in the story of Bennett's life. Jay Bennett passed away Sunday morning in Urbana, Illinois. He was 45 years old.

Edward Burch, a friend and musician who collaborated with Bennett on the 2005 album The Palace at 4 a.m., spoke to the Chicago Sun Times on Sunday. "Early this morning, Jay died in his sleep and an autopsy is being performed. The family is in mourning and is unavailable for comment at this time."

Bennett was a member of Wilco from 1994 through 2001, and worked very closely with Tweedy for the creation of the albums Being There, Summerteeth, and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Bennett's departure from the band, during the recording of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, was documented in the 2002 film I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.

Yesterday morning, Tweedy commented through band publicist Deb Bernardini via the following 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."

R.I.P. Jay Bennett 1963-2009