Entertainment & Arts

Music producer Hal Willner among celebrities who have died of the coronavirus

Hal Willner
Record producer Hal Willner has reportedly died of complications related to the coronavirus.
(Clarence Williams / Los Angeles Times)

First, the coronavirus outbreak shuttered entertainment venues and events around the world, and now it is claiming the lives of artists, entertainers and other celebrated figures.

Among those we’ve lost: actress-biographer Patricia Bosworth, songwriter-musician Adam Schlesinger, playwright Terrence McNally, music producer Hal Willner and jazz greats Ellis Marsalis Jr. and Bucky Pizzarelli.

Here is a list of those and other notable names among the tens of thousands of COVID-19-related deaths worldwide. Sadly, it will be updated regularly, as will the tally of celebrities who are testing positive for the novel coronavirus.


Hal Willner, music producer (1956-2020)

On April 7, Variety reported that Willner had died of complications related to the coronavirus at age 64. He was best known for assembling tribute albums and producing musical skits on “Saturday Night Live” since 1980. His long list of collaborations included projects with Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed and Marianne Faithfull, the latter of whom has also tested positive for the respiratory illness.

Late last month, Willner tweeted that he was “in bed on upper west side,” along with a map of U.S. COVID-19 cases, suggesting that he might have been diagnosed. “I always wanted to have a number one, but not this,” he wrote.

Willner’s last tweet was a well-wish to singer-songwriter John Prine, who has been hospitalized with COVID-19.

Adam Schlesinger, songwriter/Fountains of Wayne co-founder (1967-2020)

Adam Schlesinger
Adam Schlesinger died April 1 of COVID-19 complications.
(Richard Shotwell / Invision/Associated Press)


Schlesinger, whose slyly intellectual rock band Fountains of Wayne made him a cult favorite of pop connoisseurs and whose musical expertise led to behind-the-scenes songwriting work in film and television, died April 1 from complications related to COVID-19. He was 52.

The “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “That Thing You Do!” songwriter had spent more than a week in a hospital in upstate New York and had been put on a ventilator.


Patricia Bosworth, actor and author (1933-2020)

Patricia Bosworth, left, with Audrey Hepburn in “The Nun’s Story.”
Patricia Bosworth, left, with Audrey Hepburn in “The Nun’s Story.”
(Patricia Bosworth)

Bosworth, known for her role opposite Audrey Hepburn in the 1959 film “The Nun’s Story,” her biographies of Hollywood luminaries and her own celebrated memoirs, died in Manhattan on April 2. She was 86.

Bosworth’s stepdaughter, Fia Hatsav, told the New York Times that the author died of pneumonia brought on by the novel coronavirus.

A member of the Actors Studio during its golden era under Lee Strasberg, Bosworth studied alongside Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen and Jane Fonda. In the 1950s and ‘60s, she appeared in a number of Broadway plays, including “Inherit the Wind,” along with such TV shows as “Naked City” and “The Patty Duke Show” and films.



Ellis Marsalis Jr., jazz pianist and patriarch (1934-2020)

Ellis Marsalis Jr. during the 2019 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in New Orleans.
(Sophia Germer / Associated Press)

Marsalis, a jazz pianist, teacher and patriarch of a New Orleans musical family that includes famed musician sons Wynton and Branford, died April 2. He was 85.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Campbell announced Marsalis’ death in a news release Wednesday night. Ellis Marsalis III confirmed to the Associated Press that his father’s death was sparked by the new coronavirus. “Pneumonia was the actual thing that caused his demise. But it was pneumonia brought on by COVID-19,” he said.


Bucky Pizzarelli, jazz guitarist (1926-2020)

John Pizzarelli and Bucky Pizzarelli perform “Honeysuckle Rose” and “Route 66" at the 2002 MAC Awards.

Jazz guitarist Pizzarelli died in New Jersey on April 1 of the coronavirus, his son John Pizzarelli told the New York Times. He was 94.

The elder Pizzarelli spent the 1950s and ‘60s as a session guitarist before becoming a mainstay of New York’s 1970s jazz scene. The father of four also toured with Benny Goodman and was a member of the “Tonight Show” band before Johnny Carson moved the show from New York to California in 1972.

In the ‘80s and beyond he played often with guitarist son John and bassist son Martin, with John’s wife Jessica Molaskey on vocals.


Terrence McNally, playwright (1938-2020)

Terrence McNally
(Walter McBride / Getty Images)

“Timing is everything in the theater, and Terrence McNally, a Broadway maestro who exuded eternal gratitude for the life the stage had given him, knew the importance of making a meaningful exit,” Times critic Charles McNulty wrote his appreciation.

“Having survived the AIDS epidemic and lung cancer, he died of complications from coronavirus on [March 24] at age 81. As the nation and the world are left reeling from the new pandemic, McNally, whose plays and musicals preached a gospel of living more fully through an awareness of loss, urges us through his death to take this disease seriously and to care for ourselves and one other — just as he instructed us to do in an earlier plague when he was a playwright at the top of his game.”


Jay Benedict, actor (1951-2020)

Benedict, an actor with more than 100 film, TV and video game credits to his name, including roles in “The Dark Knight” and “Aliens,” died April 4 of complications of COVID-19, according to a note on his website. He was 68.

Benedict was well known for his voice work and his ADR company Sync or Swim. “His voice can be heard on video games, documentaries and TV and radio adverts, as well as in innumerable lifts, theatre foyers and other public spaces,” his website said. “The irritatingly soothing voice requesting that you take your seat and switch off your mobile phone is quite probably him: so now you know who to blame.”

Floyd Cardoz, restaurateur-chef (1960-2020)

Chef Floyd Cardoz
(Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images)

Chef Cardoz — who competed on “Top Chef,” won “Top Chef Masters” and operated successful restaurants in both India and New York — died March 25 of complications from the coronavirus, his company said in a statement. He was 59.

Cardoz had traveled from Mumbai to New York through Frankfurt, Germany, on March 8. He was hospitalized with a fever in New Jersey a week before his death and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.


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Mark Blum, actor (1950-2020)

Mark Blum
(Brian Killian / Getty Images)

Blum, the actor known for roles in “‘Crocodile’ Dundee” and “Desperately Seeking Susan,” died March 25 from complications of COVID-19. He was 69.

Blum died at New York Presbyterian Hospital after being diagnosed a week prior with the coronavirus, said Janet Zarish, his wife of 15 years. The couple had not traveled recently or knowingly been in contact with anyone with the virus, she said, but Blum had asthma.


Wallace Roney, jazz trumpeter (1960-2020)

Trumpet player Wallace Roney has died
Wallace Roney, left, performs in 2006.
(Timothy A. Clary / AFP / Getty Images)

Roney, a jazz trumpeter and composer who joined his first jazz group when he was 12, died March 31 in a New Jersey hospital from complications of COVID-19. He was 59.

His fiancée and longtime partner, Dawn Felice Jones, told NPR that Roney had been hospitalized a week earlier.

The Howard University and Berklee College of Music graduate made his mark at the 1991 Montreux Jazz Festival, where he was enlisted to play with the legendary Miles Davis, and won a Grammy in 1995.

Cristina, pop singer (1959-2020)

No-wave pop singer Cristina Monet Zilkha, known professionally by her first name only, died April 1 after contracting the coronavirus, Billboard reported.

While she never achieved mainstream success, the “Disco Clone” singer embodied the freewheeling spirit of 1980s New York and was beloved by fans of off-kilter pop music. (Her gonzo rendition of Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?” cemented her brief but potent legacy.)

Manu Dibango, saxophonist (1933-2020)

Manu Dibango
(Christophe Ena / Associated Press)

Jazz musician Manu Dibango, who fused African rhythms with funk to become one of the most influential musicians in world dance music, died March 24 of an illness linked to the coronavirus, according to his music publisher. He was 86.

The Cameroon-born saxophonist, who gained international fame with his 1972 song “Soul Makossa,” died in a hospital in the Paris region.


Joe Diffie, country singer-songwriter (1958-2020)

Joe Diffie.jpg
Country star Joe Diffie died March 29 from complications related to COVID-19.
(Crystal K. Martel)

A star of the 1990s country scene, Diffie died March 29 of complications related to COVID-19, according to publicist Scott Adkins. Diffie was 61.

Diffie had five No. 1 hits on the Billboard country chart, including “Home,” “If the Devil Danced (in Empty Pockets),” “Third Rock From the Sun,” “Pickup Man” and “Bigger Than the Beatles.” A native of Tulsa, Okla., Diffie also wrote hits for others, including Tim McGraw, Conway Twitty and Jo Dee Messina.


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Lee Fierro, actress (1929-2020)

Fierro died April 5 in an Ohio assisted living facility due to complications of the coronavirus, ET reported. She was 91.

The actress, known for her role as grieving mother Mrs. Kintner in the 1975 movie “Jaws,” spent the bulk of her career at the Island Theater Workshop in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., where she served as a director and mentor for decades.

Ken Shimura, comedian (1950-2020)

Virus Outbreak Japan Comedian Died
(Associated Press)

Popular Japanese comedian Shimura died March 29 from the coronavirus infection, becoming Japan’s first known celebrity to be a victim of the disease. He was 70.

Shimura, who attracted fans of all generations with his slapstick comedy and funny faces, had been treated at a Tokyo hospital, according to his agency, Izawa Office. He was diagnosed with pneumonia after contracting the coronavirus.


Alan Merrill, musician/songwriter (1951-2020)

Alan Merrill Portrait Session In Greenwich Village
(Neil H. Kitson / Redferns / Getty Images)

Merrill — who co-wrote the song “I Love Rock and Roll,” which became a signature hit for fellow rocker Joan Jett — died March 29 in New York of complications from the coronavirus. He was 69.

Daughter Laura Merrill shared the news on her Facebook page, writing, “I was given 2 minutes to say my goodbyes before I was rushed out. He seemed peaceful and as I left there was still a glimmer of hope that he wouldn’t be a ticker on the right hand side of the CNN/Fox news screen,” she wrote. “I walked 50 blocks home still with hope in my heart. The city that I knew was empty. ... By the time I got in the doors to my apartment I received the news that he was gone.”


Andrew Jack, dialect coach/actor (1944-2020)

Jack died early March 31 from COVID-19 complications at a hospital near London, his rep confirmed to TMZ.

The dialect coach worked on accents with stars including Robert Downey Jr., Emma Thompson, Liam Hemsworth and Pierce Brosnan and helped create the dialects for the various fictional languages in the “Lord of the Rings” movies.

The 76-year-old also appeared periodically as an actor in movies including “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens,” “Sherlock Holmes” and “Avengers: Endgame.”

“He was in no pain, and he slipped away peacefully knowing that his family were all ‘with’ him,” his wife, Gabrielle Rogers, wrote on Twitter. Rogers, who is also a voice, dialect and acting coach, was reportedly quarantined in Australia when Jack died.

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