Hal Willner, the longtime staffer and music producer at Saturday Night Live, received his own special tribute from the cast during the Live at Home special. Wilner had symptoms consistent with coronavirus and passed away on April 7, 2020. He was 64.
The heartfelt tribute started off with a message from Kate McKinnon, who explained how Willner directed all the musical scores for the show’s larger production sketches, none of which would be as funny or moving without his genius.
“We’re going to miss you so damn much,” Adam Sandler said. “You were just a great man. A great person and we appreciated everything you did for us.” Frequent SNL host John Mulaney added that he was “a wonderful friend to me and everyone at Saturday Night Live. I don’t know why someone who was friends with Miles Davis would me include me in his life, but he did.”
Numerous former cast members paid tribute to Willner as well, such as Sandler, Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Ana Gasteyer, and Amy Rudolph, many of whom sang “Perfect Day,” together while practicing social distancing at home.
“When it’s all working, there’s nothing like it,” Willner said of SNL in the tribute video. “I kinda get off on the danger.”
Willner, who started working for SNL in 1981 is survived by his wife, Sheila, and son, Arlo. He also scored the music for films such as Gangs of New York, Finding Forrester, and Talladega Nights. As a music producer, he produced albums for artists Marianna Faithful and Lou Reed.
Following his passing, Lou Reed tweeted, “Earlier today Hal Willner passed away. Hal was one of Lou’s dearest friends and his sudden departure is a heavy blow. Please keep his family in your thoughts. If you can, light a candle for Hal. Please stay home and stay safe.”
Numerous Celebrities Paid Tribute To Hal Willner On Social Media Following His Untimely Death
Before SNL‘s prodigal at-home return on Saturday night, former SNL cast members turned late-night hosts Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers paid tribute to the music supervisor.
Meyers said, “He was so much more than that. He was the show’s spiritual connection to the past. The 1970s gritty New York vibe just radiated off Hal. He loved to tell you how boring New York City was today compared to what it was like in the ’70s. And now that Hal’s gone, it is true that New York City is a far more boring place to be.”
The star-studded SNL tribute was heralded online for being incredibly moving and brought many viewers to tears. One user tweeted, “Hal Willner, and that stunning
@nbcsnl tribute will go down in history. Given everything going on right now, to execute such a touching memorial to a larger than life figure is why this show – and those that put it on – will always remain.”