Chicago Sun-Times
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Sad coda to the Tweedy/Bennett Wilco partnership

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As reported by my Sun-Times colleague Lisa Donovan, multi-instrumentalist and producer Jay Bennett is suing his former collaborator in Wilco, bandleader Jeff Tweedy, for breach of contract and unpaid artist's royalties.

Other reports have noted that the suit seeks $50,000 in damages, and part of the dispute focuses on Bennett not being paid for his role in the documentary film "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart."

Bennett contributed to five Wilco albums during his seven years in the band, though his biggest impact was on the orchestral pop of "Summerteeth." Since his well-documented and acrimonious split with Tweedy, Bennett has followed a similar direction in his solo work and recorded other bands. But times have been tough, especially of late: Bennett does not have health insurance, and according to a recent post on his MySpace blog, he is gearing up to have hip replacement surgery. He writes, in part:

I still don't know exactly when my surgery will be, but I have learned a good deal about the procedure, and that has helped to make me MUCH less fearful. The double dose of anxiety caused by the pain, and the quite natural fear of the invasive surgery itself, really had me in its grip for a while, but now it only comes in waves. Once I am able to get a down payment of sorts together and actually have the surgery performed, I have been told that I then have only about six to eight weeks of physical therapy before I should be operating at approximately 80% capacity---these types of joint replacements have come light years in the past five years or so. The way I look at it, I'm functioning WAY below 80% right now, so what do I have to lose? Except a limp, some pain, some anxiety, and some weight. In many ways, I'm really looking forward to it, and wish I could go in tomorrow.

UPDATE: The lawsuit has been posted here. And Tweedy released the following statement to Paste magazine:


"I know exactly as much as everyone else does. I've read the news and I honestly have no idea what these claims are based on. It was such a long time ago. Aside from everything else, I'm being sued for not paying someone for appearing in a movie I didn't produce. Go figure. I am truly sad it has come to this. I am equally convinced, however, that I have done nothing wrong and that this will be handled fairly and swiftly."

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19 Comments

Good job Dero... finally, someone in the Chicago media is reporting on the root of this lawsuit. Normally, this would hardly qualify as "news" but since this is a "headline" in both newspapers in a major market....

Poor Jay is not very active in music anymore (yes, I know he had a free download album last year) and is now dealing with the American nightmare of needing a major surgery while living with no insurance. So what does he do?... sue his former employer (and yes, Jeff Tweedy and Tony Margherita were his "Employers") eight years after the fact.

Actually, the amount claimed is $50,001.00.

Without having read the brief, my guess is that he's asking for damages of at least $50,0001.00 and that number is an estimate generated by his attorney in order to file the claim in the Law Division, rather than Chancery or Civil.

I have no idea whether Bennett's claims are true or not, but if Tweedy did indeed withhold his share of royalties, then he deserves every penny. His contribution to the band produced some beautiful music which still hold up to this day. Summerteeth is an amazing accomplishment, and no doubt would have been a completley different album if not for his input.

I never understood the Bennett-bashing by some Wilco fans. True, he does come off a bit like a grown baby in the doc, but certainly no worse then Tweedy. As far as the timing of the suit and his upcoming operation, well, it's obvious what he's trying to do, though I assume if he wins or settles the case with Tweedy, whatever he splits with his lawyer will come nowhere near covering the cost of an operation.

The suit actually seeks damages "in excess" of $50,000, which is nebulous but the minimum to file this type of claim.

I hope Jay gets the money. He did a lot of the creative heavy lifting for Wilco, and that band has suffered from Bennett's absence--their latest efforts are mostly full of forgettable filler, and while they've been elevated to a more popular status in the music world, I think they're *still* riding off the success of YHF.

Health problems or not, Jay needs money and it sounds like Tweedy and the band's mgmt wasn't acting fairly. If Jay rightfully deserves the cash, none of us have any reason to say this is a case of sour grapes. Give the guy his due.

Even if no one can say it is a case of sour grapes, it is very difficult to make the statement that "the band's mgmt wasn't acting fairly" withou also knowing the facts. i would refrain from making such statements until such things become a bit more clear!

I have no idea if he is due the money or not, but if they didn't get his permission to use his performances in the doc, he might have a case.

The doc made him look like a clown and seemed pretty one-sided. As Jay was an integral part of Wilco when they were at their creative best, it's a pity it has come to this.

I guess there's no chance of him rejoining and replacing the talented but so snoozy Nels anytime soon.

well, if you've actually kept up on the reports, you'll understand that Wilco or Tweedy did not produce the film, and had nothing to do with obtaining permission/releases or even financing the film. if bennett is seeking damages from the film, he needs to sue the producers and not the band. check facts before speaking.

RIP, Jay

Rest my friend.

Rip Jay. We had a house full of guests tonight, and all were shocked when we heard the news. I stayed up and listened to Being There on vinyl and feel a little better. Those shows at the Riv, Lounge Ax, etc changed my life and I can't thank you enough. Those who think the "new Wilco" is best are confused and clueless. Sober, Jam Band nonsense to say the least. If Jeff doesn't cancel the show in Europe and come home for this, he sucks even more than I thought, and I will NEVER buy another record.

If Jeff doesn't cancel the show in Europe and come home for this, he sucks even more than I thought, and I will NEVER buy another record.

Let me get this straight: Tweedy should cancel a EUROPEAN show(s) because a guy from his band, who left EIGHT years ago, died? So the curreent bandmembers, club-owners and workers and various other music-industry types can go without getting paid? Do you think Wilco has any contractual obligations to keep on this EUROPEAN tour? It's called "work" and sometimes you have to go even when you don't want to. Try to remember that before you go off the deep end.

RIP, Jay. That's a tough way to go out of life in pain and angry, but we will remember you for your joy and accomplishments.

I'm proud to say that I saw Wilco while Jay was still in the band, 4 times.

I haven't bought a Wilco album since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Nuff said.

Rest in Peace, Jay.

RIP Jay... your solo stuff is great. It's too bad a lot of people never new your music past Wilco. Your influence on Wilco was tremendous and in a lot of ways, you made Tweedy into the accoustic artist he is today, doing his solo shows. He never could of done them without you back then. I remember you playing piano at the early louge ax shows with him and it was really amazing. It's sad that things had to end like this. I hope your in a better place.

RIP, Jay.

Folks, this is a sad story and an obituary of sorts. Name calling, speculations, and inuendo gets no one anywhere.

Let it go. Jay will be missed. Wilco is an incredible band and has been since the beginning. This change. People change. Jeff, John, and the rest will be hurt about all the events. They are responsible men and good people. Give them some credit for being decent human beings.

Put on a copy of "Summerteeth" and relax knowing we have it forever.

I understand Jay had tried to settle this dispute out of court for years-he would either get no response or have a beer with Tweedy without any real conversation and a promise to discuss these issues later which never happened.

Well said, Paul . . . people can be so bitter . . . let's just look at the reality - of the band, events, and of what has happened to a great man & musician. It's time to let go of the negativity and just let him rest in peace, and let the members of Wilco mourn, as I'm sure they are. How can anyone think they are so inhuman as to not care, no matter whether they cancel a show/tour or not? Sometimes the reality of life and responsibilities get in the way . . . that doesn't mean that people don't care. Let's all have some heart ourselves. RIP Jay.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on May 5, 2009 9:51 AM.

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