Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Jay Bennett and Neil Young

Jay Bennett: 1963-2009

From Jay Bennett 1963-2009 - A Final Interview - Glide Magazine by Brian Robbins where Jay Bennett discusses Neil Young's musical influence.

Jay Bennett, the former Wilco multi-instrumentalist, passed away in his sleep on early Sunday morning (May 24, 2009) due to unknown causes. He was 45. Bennett was best known for his work with Wilco, the group for which he wrote and recorded on 1996's Being There, 1999's Summerteeth and 2002's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, as well as the band's Woody Guthrie themed albums with Billy Bragg, Mermaid Avenue and Mermaid Avenue, Volume 2.

Bennett was recently in the news for as he sued Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy for breach of contract stemming from his work for Wilco. The suit came less than two weeks after Bennett publicly revealed that he needed hip replacement surgery which he could not afford due to lack of health insurance.

Brian Robbins spoke with Bennett in late 2008 for a revealing and uniquely written Glide feature that explored Bennett's creative ramblings. Robbins last heard from Bennett around May 6th, just after news of the lawsuit broke. He had been corresponding to Robbins about the hip procedure and appeared as Robbins states - "in good spirits and sweet as ever."

Read on for one of Jay Bennett's last interviews, published in Glide last September 25, 2008.
Suddenly I hear a voice over the wires – is that Jay? No, I don’t think so … kind of a mumbling sing-song … but as it gets louder, I realize it is Jay, walking back to the phone. I begin to make out some words:

"What do you mean

He had bullet holes in his mirrors

He tried to do his best

But he could not

Please take my advice

Please take my advice

Please take my advice

Open up the tired eyes"


“Tired Eyes” from Tonight’s The Night, Neil Young’s fractured 1975 tribute to recently dead friends. If the original wasn’t weird enough for you, you ought to hear Jay Bennett at the tail end of a long awake spell doing a weary Neil Young impression over a speakerphone.


Jay Bennett: Okay, I’m back.

BR: Uhhh … Neil Young?

JB: Oh, (laughs) yeah. I kinda OD’d on Tonight’s The Night while we were working last night. My studio manager was playing it over and over and over. I finally said, ‘Look, I’m going to start weeping or fall asleep or pass out … you’ve got to play something up-tempo here – I’m trying to stay awake and stay focused and that ain’t gonna do it.’ But, hey: Neil Young – beautiful slop, you know? Can’t beat it.

BR: Oh, man – “Heart Of Gold” was the inspiration for my taking up the harmonica when I was a teenager. First time I heard “Heart Of Gold,” I said, ‘I want to do that; I can do that. It can’t be that hard - but it’s perfect.’

JB: Well, that’s the beauty of a harmonica – no wrong notes.
JB: When I sequence, I still sequence in terms of two sides. I still conceptualize it as a record with a side A and a side B.

BR: Really?

JB: Oh, man, I’ve been listening to so much vinyl at the studio lately … we must’ve listened to Nebraska and Tonight’s The Night about a hundred times apiece. It’s great: you’ve got, like, 15 minutes of music to a side – Neil’s records were always short – with an opener and a closer on each side. It really makes the process of sequencing a lot easier if you can define your opener and your closer on side A and side B … then you just have to fill in the gaps. It’s really an easier approach for me.

Full final interview with Jay Bennett on Glide Magazine. Thanks Brian.

In a review of Wilco's A Ghost Is Born it was noted that:
Bennett was a significant creative factor in Wilco, and Tweedy may have needed Bennett to stay focused creatively just as McCartney needed Lennon.
Rest in Peace Jay.
Jay Bennett: 1963-2009

Yes, you're trying to break my heart.

More on other musicians inspired by Neil Young. Also, Tonight's The Night: The deepest and darkest of "Ditch Trilogy" albums.


At 5/27/2009 09:24:00 PM, Anonymous via Champagne said...

Jay was a great musician.

I'm not sure what happened in the end with Wilco had something to do with this.

I pray it turns out he simply died in his sleep. I fear otherwise.

jay, your music will always live on.

At 5/29/2009 12:04:00 PM, Anonymous Ecotonic1 said...

This was an insightful and moving tribute to a gifted artist but bringing the “McCartney needed Lennon” myth was entirely unnecessary.

Praise Jay, but don’t bury Jeff in the while doing it.

At 5/29/2009 12:12:00 PM, Anonymous Ecotonic1 said...

Ah the perils of cross-editing!

I meant of course "bringing the 'McCartney needed Lennon' myth into this was entirely unnecessary" and
"Praise Jay, but don’t bury Jeff while doing it."


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