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Night Music

from Brooklyn Vegan

32 videos of Hal Willner’s ’80s series ‘Night Music’ that display his gift for weird, amazing collaborations

By Bill Pearis

We lost the great Hal Willner yesterday. He was a gifted producer whose greatest skill may have been his ability to bring together disparate talents that you might not think would fit together but turned out to be truly inspired. One of the places where you can really see that in action was Night Music, a musical offshoot of Saturday Night Live that lasted two weird wonderful seasons: 1988-1989 as NBC’s Sunday Night on late night on Sundays and hosted by Jools Holland; and then became a syndicated series in 1989-1990 with bandleader David Sanborn taking over hosting duties as well.” Both seasons were presented by Michelob beer who may have been hoping for a different kind of show.

In both seasons the idea was the same: bring together a bunch of great artists — some very famous, some obscure — from all over the musical spectrum and see what happens. Musicians would get their own moment in the spotlight, but every episode ended with a collective jam, which resulted in some things you’d never believe actually happened if there wasn’t video of it, like country icon Conway Twitty doing a song with The Residents. “Beyond putting on music that we love,” Willner told SPIN at the time, “I feel an obligation to expose people to other things. I mean, watching MTV, they don’t tell you about Ornette Coleman…I’m getting back to a musical education with this show. In a weird way, I’m searching for that by having all worlds meet. Having John Zorn, Marianne Faithfull and Aaron Neville in the same hour. Just to have all those emotions make sense together.”

John Zorn, Marianne Faithfull and Aaron Neville was an actual episode, by the way. Sonic Youth made their national television debut on Night Music — on an episode that also featured Diamanda Galas, the Indigo GirlsDaniel Lanois and Evan Lurie and Marc Ribot (covering The Stooges) — and so did Pixies who were on a S2 episode that also featured Sun Ra, singer-songwriter Syd Straw and dance music producer Arthur Baker.

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Posted on April 8, 2020 by Editor

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