Jay Bennett, ex-member of band Wilco dies

May 25, 2009 4:53:37 PM PDT

"We are profoundly saddened to report that our friend died in his sleep ... Jay was a beautiful human being who will be missed," read the posting Sunday on Undertow Music Collective's Web site.

Wilco lead singer Jeff Tweedy said in a statement Monday he was "deeply saddened" by Bennett's death.

Tweedy said Bennett made significant contributions to Wilco's songs and the band's evolution. He said Bennett would be remembered "as a truly unique and gifted human being."

Bennett died at his Urbana home early Sunday and an autopsy was being performed, friend and fellow musician Edward Burch told the Chicago Sun-Times in a story posted online late Sunday.

A cause of death was not immediately available. The Champaign County Coroner's office did not return messages.

Bennett worked as a sound engineer and played instruments for Wilco from 1994 to 2001.

Earlier this month, Bennett sued Tweedy, claiming he was owed royalties for songs during his seven years and five albums with the group.

In the breach-of-contract lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court, Bennett also claimed that he deserved money from the band's 2002 documentary, "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart." The film documents the making of Wilco's album "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot."

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