Growing up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Willner said he was "a music fan from the day I was born." He saw The Beatles perform at Convention Hall when he was eight. When I was twelve, my mother took me to see Cream at the Electric Factory." After college, Willner began working as a music producer. He became know for bringing eclectic groups of performers together for albums such as Stay Awake. In 1980, he began working on Saturday Night Live as a music adaptor and music coordinator. He continued producing albums and working on SNL until his death in 2020 due to complications caused by COVID-19.
-  Philadelphia Daily News, Dan DeLuca (2020-04-08) "COVID Suspected in Death of Philly Producer Hal Willner, 64"