Hal Willner, the music producer with a longterm working relationship with iconic television show Saturday Night Live, has died after contracting coronavirus. He was just 64.
The news of Willner’s death has been confirmed by sources close to his family who issued a statement to Variety.
It was only a matter of days ago, on March 28th, that Willner suggested that he had contracted the COVID-19 virus. Uploading a picture of statistical map showing confirmed cases of coronavirus to his social media, the producer wrote: “I always wanted to have a number one, but not this.”
Following it, Willner confirmed that he was home in self-isolation in a bid to recover: “In bed on upper west side,” he said.
Just two days after alluding to his diagnosis, Willner was still in strong health and sent best wishes to the Grammy Award-winning musician John Prine who is also fighting for his life after contracting the virus: “Sending love to John Prine who is in critical condition with COVID-19,” he wrote in a post on Twitter. “John is a music giant. His songs are as good as it gets and he’s a spellbinding performer. Send good thoughts his way. ‘I sound like that old guy down the street that doesn’t chase you out of his apple tree’.”
Willner, whose career has flourished across recording, films, TV and live events, is widely celebrated for his work with SNL having taken up his post as the sketch music producer—a role he’s maintained since joining the show back in 1981.
Alongside his television work, Willner earned a prolific reputation in recording music and produced albums by the likes of Marianne Faithfull, Lou Reed, William S. Burroughs, Laurie Anderson and Allen Ginsberg.
The ongoing pandemic of coronavirus disease was first officially identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei in China. As of April 7th, more than 1,414,710 cases of COVID-19 have been officially confirmed but the actual number is thought to be much higher due to substantial under-reporting of cases.
With more than 81,248 people having died from the virus, COVID-19 has now spread into more than 180 other countries—including mainland Europe, South America and many more. Given the exponential growth in cases in countries like Italy, Spain, Germany, France and the UK, the WHO stated that Europe became the epicentre of the pandemic after the strict lockdown in China saw reduced numbers. Now, however, as the virus continues to spread aggressively across The United States—who have more confirmed cases than any other country—the epicentre of coronavirus is expected to be officially changed to North America.