Apr 072020

I’m not an expert on the work of Hal Willner, so you’re on your own in reading some great appreciations that are already appearing. I will always associate him with turning me onto the music of Thelonius Monk, through his 1984 tribute That’s the Way I Feel Now: A Tribute to Thelonious Monk. I was just getting into some jazz music. He also did a Disney music tribute around that time – the Disney music I grew up on, not the crap that the Cabbage Patch generation and beyond grew up with. I haven’t listened to those albums in ages either, but I’ll pull them out. Either way, they helped me feel cool when I was the age my oldest son is now.

In poking around for some video of interest and relevance to what we’ve been through here in the Halls of Rock, this Willner talk at a memorial service for Lou Reed seemed appropriate. Check it out, when you have some time. We’ve lost a good egg!


  12 Responses to “Producer Hal Willner Dies”

  1. This one really shook me. I don’t know if you know it but Willner was a Philadelphia native, and just turned 64, my current age for another few weeks. He also apprenticed with Joel Dorn, famed Atlantic jazz producer, who began as a radio guy and promoter in Philadelphia. (Mr. Mod may be too young to remember them, but Joel Dorn was actually personality on local UHF commercials for, wait for it, PLASTIC SLIPCOVERS where he appeared as “The Masked Announcer.”

    I really like the Willner tribute records especially the Disney and the Nino Rota, but most of all, Weird Nightmare, which was a Mingus tribute.

    I think of him as someone that came up in the same underground radio cultural puddle as me and turned that aesthetic into a very successful career.

    When I decided to retire las year, one of my half-baked plans/fantasies was actually to write Willner a letter referencing our common background and offering my limited skills as an aging assistant/apprentice. Pathetic but true.

  2. I didn’t know he was a Philly guy until today, geo. Do you know if he ran in any of your scene’s circles? According to the 2017 story I posted, he left for NYC when he was 18, so he couldn’t have gotten in too deep. As for Joel Dorn, I know who he is, and that commercial you mention rings a bell!

    Now, I just read that John Prime died from this. Stay healthy, friends!

  3. No. He went to NYU in ’74 and started working with Joel Dorn while he was there. I doubt he ever came back after college, I was more specifically referencing growing up in the classic era of genuinely eclectic Philadelphia underground radio circa ’68 to ’71. That is the aesthetic that I was referring to.

    I think he might’ve had some existing connection to Dorn from Dorn’s Philly days, through family or something. I’m pretty sure they were both Jewish guys from the Northeast but Dorn was about 15-20 years older.

  4. Here’s an interesting 20 minute audio documentary on Joel Dorn. Really nice. What a character.

  5. Happiness Stan

    Good morning everybody, I do remember your celebrations of rock and roll lives, I’d I remember correctly, my first contribution to the blog was a riposte to your piece on Jimmy Savile, mainly describing how ghastly most young people had always found him, and suggesting he was a self aggrandising narcissistic creep. If that piece still exists in your archive I’d be really interested in seeing it, if only to see in retrospect whether I was letting him off more lightly than I’d intended at the time.

    We’re going to lose a lot of good people by the time we’re done here, I believe. Was very sad to see John Prine has gone, and even those who depart for reasons unconnected with CV will be remembered as going through these strange times, like Bill Withers, also Julie Felix. A friend and I went to see her play at Glastonbury last year and the next day I bumped into her just wandering around the site. Considering the size of the site and there being a couple of hundred thousand people on it, this was more surprising than it would be at most festivals. I stopped her and said hello, and she gave me a big smile and said “you and your friend with sort dark hair were down the front yesterday, weren’t you?” We chatted a while and she was thoroughly lovely, certainly didn’t look like she was anywhere near death’s door less than a year ago.

  6. I found your thoughts on Savile, Happiness Stan! They kicked off the comments to a post by our old friend misterioso, another blast from the past who I hope is well and resurfaces.


  7. Happiness Stan

    Oh wow, thanks Mr Mod, I remembered being harder on him than that. I remember Misterioso and would also like to renew acquaintance, and, like you, hope everyone is well.

    Another this ghastly disease has claimed, of course, is Alan Merrill, from Arrows, who wrote I Love Rock and Roll, people I know remember their playing on the pier a couple of years before I could pass for old enough to get into gigs, and enjoyed them a lot, somebody I know said on Facebook they were working that night and remembered him being a lovely bloke.

  8. I just learned that Willner had produced an album of T. Rex covers for an upcoming Marc Bolan documentary. The record had been scheduled for July release but I can’t find anything about it on. Who knows when or if the album or film will ever come out?

    Can’t recall who it was but I think there was at least one other T. Rex fan around these halls apart from me. Here’s some info on this album. https://www.u2songs.com/news/u2_record_with_elton_john_for_t._rex_tribute_album

  9. Al,

    I don’t think I mentioned this to you, but John Zorn’s Tzadik label had a Boland covers record in it’s “Great Jewish Music” series.

  10. Don’t know if you did Geo but I have that one as well as the Bacharach one.

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