News in Review: Pearl Jam, Wilco, Black Sabbath, The White Stripes, Koko Taylor

First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2009, Volume 16, #6

Written by John Metzger

Fri June 12, 2009, 06:30 AM CDT


Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament Assaulted

Pearl Jam - Pearl Jam / self-titled

When he drove his rented Jeep Commander to the rear entrance of Atlanta’s Southern Tracks Recording Studio on the afternoon of April 27 to collaborate with producer Brendan O’Brien on Pearl Jam’s forthcoming endeavor, it seemed as if it would be a normal day at work for bass player Jeff Ament. As he and a member of the group’s staff were parking the vehicle, however, they were assaulted by a trio of men who were dressed in black, wearing masks, and carrying knives. The windows to the Jeep were smashed and roughly $3,000 in cash and $4,320 in equipment were taken. Ament attempted to escape from the scene, but he was chased by one of the thieves, who proceeded to push him to the ground, which caused him to suffer head lacerations. Ament’s passport subsequently was taken. The incident was captured by a security camera, but as of yet, no suspects have been taken into custody.

Former Wilco Member Jay Bennett Found Dead

Wilco - Summerteeth

On May 24, shortly after filing a lawsuit against his former bandmate Jeff Tweedy over unpaid royalties, Wilco’s Jay Bennett was found dead at his home in Urbana, Illinois. He was only 45, and although he died in his sleep, the cause of his death is unknown. Bennett had joined Wilco in 1994, and during his eight-year stint with the outfit, he had helped to define the group’s sound, particularly on Summerteeth and Mermaid Avenue, Volume 2. After being fired from Wilco in the wake of the contentious recording sessions for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Bennett continued to write and record new material, but he struggled to gain much attention for his efforts. At the time of his death, Bennett was trying to scrape together the funds to pay for hip replacement surgery, a factor that likely influenced his decision to file the suit against Tweedy. He also was in the process of crafting his fifth solo effort Kicking at the Perfumed Air.

Former Black Sabbath Mates Fight over Name

Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath / self-titled

Ozzy Osbourne has filed a lawsuit against his former bandmate Tony Iommi over the rights to use Black Sabbath’s name. In papers recorded with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Osbourne claims that he is entitled to 50 percent of the profits generated from any products or concert tours bearing the Black Sabbath moniker. Osbourne contends that Iommi had no authority to obtain sole ownership of the group’s name. When Osbourne walked away from Black Sabbath in 1980 in order to pursue a solo career, he was replaced by Ronnie James Dio. In the suit, Osbourne stated that the outfit’s paltry sales after he left the band provide proof that he was an integral part of its success.

Meg White Marries Patti Smith’s Son

The White Stripes - Elephant

Does anyone still care whether Jack and Meg White are siblings or former spouses? Maybe now that Meg White has married Jackson Smith, the son of rock icons Patti and Fred Smith, the whole matter can be forgotten and put to rest. The nuptials were held in the backyard of Jack White’s Nashville home as part of a double-wedding ceremony that also found Jackie Lawrence, bass player for The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, tying the knot with Jo McCaughey.

Koko Taylor Dead at 80

Koko Taylor - Queen of the Blues

Koko Taylor passed away on June 3 at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where she was recovering from surgery to repair a gastrointestinal hemorrhage. Taylor was 80, and in recent years, she has been forced to curtail her heavy performance schedule due to an array of health problems that came to head after she suffered a heart attack in 2003.

Frequently known as the "Queen of Chicago Blues," Taylor’s long legacy dates back to 1962, when she first met Willie Dixon. He soon became her mentor and biggest fan. Dixon brought Taylor to the attention of Chess Records. Backed by guitarist Buddy Guy, she proceeded to record the signature version of Dixon’s Wang Dang Doodle. She remained with Chess until the label folded in 1972.

Taylor resurfaced a few years later with Alligator Records, and she stayed with the company until her death. Old School, her most recent effort, was issued in 2007. In her 47-year career, Taylor was nominated for seven Grammy Awards. Her only victory, however, was an honor she shared with all of the artists who contributed to the 1984 compilation Blues Explosion


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