Just the other day I was playing cards with my poker buddies when talk fell — as it does with metronomic regularity — to the relative merits of Wilco’s discography. I’ll spare you the details. But at one point someone mentioned they were still waiting for the band to produce “another ‘Misunderstood’.” I knew what he meant. “Misunderstood” is a terrific slab of melancholic, dissonant rock. It’s one of Wilco’s best songs, and was a staple of their live show last time I checked (and, being a huge follower of the band, I check fairly often.) The track also opens 1996’s Being There, which marked a decisive break with the alt-country stylings of their debut and introduced fans to multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett.
Bennett, who died of unknown causes on Sunday at the age of 45, is sadly best known for his acrimonious exit from Wilco, which was documented in the 2002 film I Am Trying To Break Your Heart. But this isn’t the place to discuss the ins and outs of his at times troubled relationship with band leader Jeff Tweedy. Unsurprisingly, Tweedy himself agrees, and yesterday released a statement praising Bennett’s “significant contribution” to the band’s “songs and evolution.” During Bennett’s tenure with Wilco they certainly produced a raft of simply fantastic material, including 2002’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which I would happily put up against any album released in the last ten years. In fact, I could spend all day extolling the wonders of Wilco and the part Bennett played in helping to make so many of them. (He also released a number of fine solo albums, one of which can be downloaded for free here.) But, instead, join me in paying tribute by watching Wilco’s Bennett-featuring rendition of “Misunderstood” below.
JUNE 23 UPDATE: A coroner has determined that Bennett died of an overdose of the painkiller fentanyl, the Associated Press reports. The coroner’s office is continuing to investigate Bennett’s death as an accident.
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