Courtney Love and Flea lead tributes to Lou Reed producer Hal Willner, who has died aged 64

He is reported to have been suffering from coronavirus

Music and television producer Hal Willner has died at the age of 64.

He is said to have passed away after suffering complications related to the coronavirus. An official cause of death has not been established at the time of writing.

The news was confirmed by Variety yesterday evening (April 7). Late last month (March 28) Willner posted a map depicting COVID-19 cases across the United States, with New York seen as the virus’ epicentre.

“I always wanted to have a number one – but not this,” he wrote”, adding that he was “in bed on the upper west side” of New York City at the time.

Last night, Willner’s friend Penny Arcade posted a message of tribute on Facebook. “Oh no! Not Hal……. Ladies and gentleman Hal Wilner has left the auditorium,” she wrote.

You can see that post below.

Oh no! Not Hal…….Ladies and gentleman Hal Wilner has left the auditorium

Posted by Penny Arcade on Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Willner, who was born in Philadelphia, helmed albums from the likes of Lou Reed and Marianne Faithfull during his career. He worked on the former’s final major studio release ‘Ecstasy’, which came out in 2000.

He was also a long-time sketch music producer for Saturday Night Live, having first joined the hit variety show back in 1980.

Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea wrote on Instagram: “Ahh man, damn. A sweetheart of a man, a music man. Hal Wilner R.I.P. The corona got him.”

View this post on Instagram

Today I lost my pal, one of the great irreplaceable soulful originals, Hal Willner. Im feeling incredibly sad and am going to really miss hearing strange recordings and weird videos that Hal always seemed to have at his fingertips. No one knew strange off beat left of center music more than Hal. This photo was taken backstage right before the show started – song list in hand. I felt lucky to be included in his Bob Dylan reimagined Town Hall anniversary show. He always got the strangest most eclectic group of performers together and somehow in his chaotic way would pull off these off the wall fabulous shows. It was always a treat to get the random call from him “ what ate you doing May 24 th “ whatever the date or the event id always say yes- he was generous with his knowledge of music and all pop culture really- he was first person I called when I was asked to play The Carlyle. Oh man. The Corona virus really sucks. Hal. You will be missed by so many. Im so happy to have known you and had lots of laughs and discover music i would not have been hip too- . Im sure you will be putting together a great show soon and seeing lots of your old pals. Trippy journey to you my friend. #halwilner @willnerh and if you don’t know him please look him up. There was No One like him. Also listen to Stay Awake- disney songs sung by cool people. Hal was cool. 💔💔💔

A post shared by Gina Gershon (@ginagershon) on

Cat Power wrote on Instagram: “Just got the news. Today is a very sad day.
We love you Hal. Thank you for everything. Thank you for bringing us together. Thank you for always the good times and friendship. Thank you for your support and kindness.”

Other tributes came from Anchorman’s Adam McKay, who wrote: “Hal Wilner was a friend, a collaborator and one of the most original people I have ever known. I’m lucky to have had him in my life. The world was definitely a better place with him in it.”

View this post on Instagram

1956 – 2020 fuck

A post shared by Courtney Love Cobain (@courtneylove) on

Willner began his career with a local record distributor when he was a teenager, which led to him honing his early production skills by assisting on Sun Ra’s ‘The Antique Blacks’.

As well as his production work, Willner was known for assembling an array of impressive talent for tributes –  including 1988’s ‘Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films’, which included Michael Stipe, Bonnie Raitt, the Replacements, Ringo Starr, Sinéad O’Connor, and more.

He also worked on film, producing scores for a number of high-profile releases including Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, and Adam McKay’s Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.


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