CHICAGO - Former Wilco member Jay Bennett is suing lead singer Jeff Tweedy in Cook County Circuit Court, claiming Tweedy owes him money from the band’s 2002 documentary and royalties on songs written during Bennett’s seven years with the group.
Bennett was part of the Chicago-based band from 1994 to 2001, the breach-of-contract suit states, and worked as a sound engineer and performed instruments on the albums “Being There,” “Summerteeth,” “Mermaid Avenue,” “Mermaid Avenue Vol. II” and “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.”
The suit argues that “as a recording musician in Wilco, Bennett is entitled to compensation for his services rendered in the form of continuing and perpetual artist royalty payments from” Tweedy.
It concedes that Bennett was paid during his years in the group, but only in “infrequent partial payments” equivalent to 15 percent of the band’s income from sales and performances.
Bennett claims Tweedy did not compensate him for his appearance in “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” which documented the creative process behind “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” in 2000 and captured a scene of Tweedy and Bennett bickering over the mixing of “Heavy Metal Drummer.”
The suit argues that Bennett was never paid for his role and that Tweedy “never obtained the necessary releases for the use of Bennett’s performance in the film.”
It was unclear if Tweedy was a producer on the project, as the suit claims.
Bennett left Wilco in August 2001.
“It was time for Jay to move on and have a bigger role in making his own music,” Tweedy said at the time. “Jay has been a huge part of the last three records, but it just became more obvious to us that he didn’t have the same enthusiasm for being a part of the band. It took a lot of bravery on both parts to make this happen, and we moved past any hard feelings really fast.”
The lawsuit asks for damages of at least $50,000.