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Willner died on Tuesday apparently due to coronavirus complications (he had symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but had not been officially diagnosed). He was 64.
Fallon opened the late night episode by acknowledging that many people have been impacted by the coronavirus. “I think at this point everyone either knows someone who knows someone who has COVID-19 or knows someone who’s had it and beat it or knows someone who has had it and passed away,” he said.
“Sadly for me, today was my first passing,” continued Fallon. “Our good friend Hal Willner from Saturday Night Live, who’s a music producer — genius, creative genius.”
The host added that Willner was beloved on the set of the sketch comedy show. “I loved him so much. Everyone loved him. Every castmember loved him,” he said. “We will miss him so much.”
“My thoughts go to his family and [his wife] Sheila and [son] Arlo,” Fallon said.
The host concluded the tribute by encouraging everyone to”stay safe and we’re gonna get through this, you know, together. Let’s talk and help each other out whenever we can.”
“I will talk more about Hal as the weeks go on,” he concluded.
Willner began working at SNL as a music producer in 1981. He also worked on films, other TV shows and live events, but he was most well known for assembling tribute albums, including 1981’s Amarcord Nino Rota. His last tribute album was 2013’s Son of Rogues Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys.
He was also the score producer for films such as Finding Forester (2000), Gangs of New York (2002) and Talladega Nights (2006), while he produced albums for musicians including Marianne Faithfull and Lou Reed.
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