Hal Willner

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Hal Willner (born 1956) is an American music producer working in recording, films, TV and live events.[1] He is best known for assembling tribute albums and events featuring a wide variety of artists and musical styles (jazz, classical, rock, Tin Pan Alley). His first tribute album was Amarcord Nino Rota in 1981.[2][3]

In the late 1970s he worked under record producer Joel Dorn, credited as Associate Producer on Leon Redbone's albums Double Time and Champagne Charlie,[4] and The Neville Brothers' Fiyo on the Bayou. Willner has been the sketch music producer of Saturday Night Live since 1981. He was also a producer of the TV program Sunday Night hosted by David Sanborn.

Willner has produced albums for Marianne Faithfull, Lou Reed, Bill Frisell, William S. Burroughs, Gavin Friday, Lucinda Williams, Laurie Anderson and Allen Ginsberg, among others. He produced a live tribute concert to Tim Buckley, that ultimately launched the career of Tim's son Jeff. He has released one album under his own name: Whoops, I'm an Indian, which featured audio samples from 78 rpm records from the early-mid 20th century.

Following earlier stagings (see list below), in January 2010 Willner produced his pirate-themed concert event Rogue's Gallery for the Sydney Festival. The multinational cast included Marianne Faithfull, Todd Rundgren, Tim Robbins, Gavin Friday, Peter Garrett, Baby Gramps, David Thomas, Sarah Blasko, Katy Steele, Peaches, Glenn Richards, Liam Finn, Camille O'Sullivan, Kami Thompson and Marry Waterson.[5]

Tribute albums[edit]

Live tribute events[edit]

  • Greetings from Tim Buckley (Brooklyn 1991)[6]
  • Nevermore: Poems & Stories of Edgar Allan Poe (Brooklyn 1995),[7] which led to the album Closed on Account of Rabies (1997), then Hal Willner's Halloween Show: Never Bet the Devil your Head (Los Angeles 2002), then Closed on Account of Rabies: Poems and Tales of Edgar Allan Poe (Los Angeles 2001)[8]
  • Tribute to Allen Ginsberg (Los Angeles)
  • Marquis de Sade's writings (New York 1998)
  • The Harry Smith Project (London 1999, Los Angeles 2001)
  • The Doc Pomus Project (New York City 2001)
  • Came So Far for Beauty, An Evening of Songs by Leonard Cohen (Brooklyn 2003, Brighton 2004, Sydney 2005, Dublin 2006)[9][10][11]
  • Dream Comfort Memory Despair: The Songs of Neil Young (Brooklyn 2004), followed by Hal Willner's Neil Young Project [12] (Vancouver 2010 Olympics)
  • Perfect Partners: Nino Rota & Federico Fellini (London 2004)
  • Shock and Awe: The Songs of Randy Newman (Los Angeles 2004)
  • Let's Eat: Feasting on The Firesign Theatre (Los Angeles 2004) [13]
  • Forest of No Return: Hal Willner Presents Vintage Disney Songbook (London 2007), followed by Stay Awake: 20th anniversary of the classic recording of Disney songs (Brooklyn 2008)[14] (Hal Willner's Stay Awake at UCLA was scheduled for October 30, 2008, but was cancelled due to unavailability of some performers)[15]
  • Rogue's Gallery (NYC 2007, Dublin 2008, London 2008, Gateshead 2008, Sydney 2010)
  • Hal Willner's Bill Withers Project (Brooklyn 2008)
  • Begats: Readings of the Work of Burroughs, DeSade & Poe (Brooklyn 2009)[16]
  • Gotta Right to Sing the Blues? Music and Readings from A Fine Romance, Jewish Songwriters, American Songs (NYC 2010)[8]
  • An Evening with Gavin Friday and Friends (New York, Carnegie Hall, 2009) [17]
  • Hal Willner's Freedom Riders Project (Brooklyn 2011)[18]
  • Shelebration: The Works of Shel Silverstein (New York 2011)[19]
  • Hal Willner’s Amarcord Nino Rota (London, The Barbican, 2013; New York, Lincoln Center, 2018)[20]
  • The Bells: A Day Long Celebration of Lou Reed (New York, July 30, 2016)[21]

Spoken word recordings[edit]

With the increasing prevalence of tribute albums in the late 1980s (such as Red Hot + Blue), Willner decided to turn his attention to spoken word recordings.

Film related projects[edit]

A more complete list of Willner's contributions to films and television can be found at www.imdb.com (see external links).



  1. ^ John Leland (September 8, 2017). "Hal Willner's Vanishing, Weird New York". New York Times. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  2. ^ [1] Archived January 17, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Nino Rota: Godfather of Italian music". The Guardian. London. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
  4. ^ Hal Willner. "Hal Willner - Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
  5. ^ Sydney Festival 2010 - Rogue's Gallery
  6. ^ [2] Archived December 7, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Hal Willner". Evolution Music Partners. Archived from the original on February 11, 2013. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
  8. ^ a b "WILLNER PROJECTS - THE OFFICE performing arts + film". Theofficearts.com. Archived from the original on February 13, 2013. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
  9. ^ ""Came so far for Beauty" – An Evening of Songs by Leonard Cohen Under the Stars, in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, June 28, 2003. Report by Dick Straub". Leonardcohenfiles.com. June 28, 2003. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
  10. ^ "Came So Far For Beauty". The Age. Melbourne. January 31, 2005.
  11. ^ ""Came so far for Beauty" in Dublin". Leonardcohenfiles.com. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
  12. ^ "vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics | Olympic Videos, Photos, News". Vancouver2010.com. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
  13. ^ http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/Audio-Plays-of-the-Legendary-Firesign-4794
  14. ^ Pompeo, Joe (March 14, 2008). "Stay Awake Stays Alive in Brooklyn". The New York Observer. Archived from the original on July 26, 2008.
  15. ^ Lewis, Randy (October 22, 2008). "UCLA cancels Hal Willner Stay Awake concert". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  16. ^ [3] Archived August 9, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "Hal Willner presents: An Evening with Gavin Friday and Friends – Gavin Friday – Official Site". Gavinfriday.com. September 11, 2009. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
  18. ^ "6/16/2011 - Hal Willner's Freedom Riders Project :: Calendar :: BRIC Arts | Media | Bklyn". Bricartsmedia.org. June 16, 2011. Archived from the original on September 11, 2011. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
  19. ^ Pareles, Jon (August 7, 2011). "'Shelebration!,' Silverstein Tribute at SummerStage - Review". The New York Times.
  20. ^ http://www.londonjazznews.com/2013/11/review-hal-willner-nino-rota-amarcord.html
  21. ^ Kory Grow (May 17, 2016). "Lou Reed's 'Last Project,' a Box Set of Remastered CDs, Due This Fall". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 13, 2017.

External links[edit]