Tom Waits Delivers Rare Live Performance at Hal Willner Tribute Event

Renowned songwriter Tom Waits delivered a rare live performance at a New York event honoring the late Saturday Night Live longtime sketch music producer Hal Willner.  

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The music producer passed in 2020. Before his passing, he led an extensive number of star-studded compilations including I’ll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute to the Velvet Underground & Nico which was released posthumously last year. 

The tribute event for Willner took place on Wednesday (April 6) at Brooklyn’s St Ann’s Warehouse, where Waits performed.  

Waits delivered a performance of his rendition of “Shenandoah” from Willner’s curated album Son of Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys. His wife Kathleen joined Waits to perform a heartfelt tribute, calling Willner “Wise and reckless. Lamb and black sheep,” and “Lover of the afflicted and the blessed.”  

Waits and his wife shared a heartfelt remembrance of Willner on Facebook, writing, “If you took a cross-section of Hal’s heart… you would see the rings of a wise old tree. Above all, let’s remember that Hal loved music… and from all appearances, it seems very much to have loved him right back big time.” 

Waits closed with a cover of Frank Sinatra’s “I’ll Be Seeing You,” honoring the name of the tribute event.  

Other star-studded performances followed Waits, such as Bono and the Edge, Elvis Costello, Michael Stipe, Rufus, and Martha Wainwright, Cat Power, Beth Orton, Suzanne Vega, Eric Mingus, Kevin Drew, Emily Haines, Steve Buscemi, John C. Reilly, and more. (Nick Cave and Laurie Anderson, who were listed on the program, were not in attendance.) 

At the time of death, Willner showed symptoms consistent with the coronavirus and died in his apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where he lived with his wife, Sheila Rogers, a producer of The Late Late Show With James Corden, and their 15-year-old son, Arlo. He was 64. 

Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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