Obituary

'Saturday Night Live' Music Producer Hal Willner Dies at 64

Hal Willner
Chelsea Lauren/WireImage

Hal Willner performs at a celebration of the 60th anniversary of Allen Ginsberg's Howl with music, words and funny people at The Ace Hotel Theater on April 7, 2015 in Los Angeles.

The 'Saturday Night Live' staffer apparently contracted coronavirus.

Film and TV music producer Hal Willner, who worked many years on Saturday Night Live, has died apparently due to coronavirus complications, according to multiple reports. He was 64.

A rep for Willner did not immediately return a request for comment, but according to his Twitter account, on March 24, Willner suggested he had tested positive for the virus, writing in part, "In bed on upper west side."

His work spanned film, TV and live events, but he was most well-known for assembling tribute albums, such as 1981's Amarcord Nino Rota, 1985’s Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill, 1988’s Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music From Vintage Disney Films and 2013's Son of Rogues Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys.

At the time of his death, he was working on a tribute album and documentary project on Marc Bolan and T. Rex, for which he enlisted contributions from U2, Elton John, Joan Jett, Nick Cave, Kesha and Foo Fighters, among others.

He worked on SNL as a music sketch music producer since 1981 and coordinated a fleeting musical spin-off, Sunday Night (a.k.a. Night Music), which ran from 1988-1990.

"As unique a person I ever had the fortune to cross paths with," Seth Meyers, talk show host and SNL vet said on Twitter upon learning of Willner's death.

Willner also produced scores and soundtracks for films including Short Cuts (1992), Finding Forester (2000), Gangs of New York (2002) and Talladega Nights (2006), among many others.

Born in Philadelphia in 1956, Willner started his career as an assistant to producer Joel Dorn in New York, working on albums by Roberta Flack and Bette Midler. He later produced albums for artists including Marianne Faithfull and Lou Reed and famously invited Jeff Buckley to perform at a 1991 tribute concert for his late father Tim Buckley, a show that is widely considered to have launched the younger Buckley’s career.

Willner remained close with Reed, with whom he co-hosted a weekly SiriusXM radio series. After Reed’s death in 2013, he worked with the singer’s widow Laurie Anderson on a box set of Reed’s unreleased recordings.

A version of this article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.