Music Producer Hal Willner Dead at 64

Willner had worked on 'SNL' since 1981 and with the likes of Lou Reed, Marianne Faithfull and Laurie Anderson
Music Producer Hal Willner Dead at 64
Photo: Breeze Munson
Hal Willner — an American music producer who worked with Lou Reed, Marianne Faithfull, Laurie Anderson and more — has died. A representative for Willner confirmed the producer's passing to Rolling Stone. He was 64.

While a cause of death has not been confirmed, a source told Rolling Stone that Willner had been suffering symptoms consistent with coronavirus. Willner appeared to suggest he had contracted the illness on Twitter late last month, sharing a COVID-19 outbreak map of the United States on March 28 with the message, "I always wanted to have a number one - but not this...In bed on upper west side." Born in Philadelphia in 1956, Willner moved to New York in 1974 to work under record producer Joel Dorn. In 1980, he would release Amarcord Nino Rota, a tribute album to Italian compose Nino Rota that featured playing from Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Bill Frisell, Steve Lacy, Ron Carter and more.

Willner would continue to work with the format throughout his career, organizing, recording and releasing tribute albums to Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Kurt Weill, Leonard Cohen and more with performers including Henry Rollins, Keith Richards, Chuck D, Elvis Costello, Debbie Harry, Bono, Rufus Wainwright and many others.

Willner would also bring his star-studded tributes to life on the live stage, starting with 1991's Tim Buckley tribute Greetings from Tim Buckley. The Brooklyn event is cited as a pivotal point in the career of the late songwriter's son, Jeff Buckley, who would make his recording debut two years later with 1993 EP Live at Sin-é.

Willner had been the sketch music producer for Saturday Night Live since 1981. His name also appears in production credits for albums by Lou Reed, Marianne Faithfull, Bill Frisell, Lucinda Williams, Allen Ginsberg and more.

Most recently, Willner had been attached to a T. Rex Tribute album featuring contributions from the likes of U2, Foo Fighters, Elton John, Joan Jett, Nick Cave, Perry Farrell, Soft Cell, Kesha and Børns.