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Metallica has paid tribute to producer Hal Willner, who died Tuesday (April 7th) at age 64, possibly from COVID-19. The band worked with Willner on Lulu, its controversial collaboration with legendary Velvet Underground singer Lou Reed.

The group said in a statement, "The entire Metallica family was shocked and saddened to hear of producer, writer, and composer Hal Willner's passing earlier today. He was a truly inspirational collaborator, someone who through his unique combination of musical knowledge and warm personality, invigorated every project he touched, including co-producing our very own collaboration with Lou Reed, 2011's Lulu; Hal expertly helped to guide us all to a project we loved, and remain fiercely proud of, to this day."

Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich added in a separate statement, "I will always treasure the time I spent with Hal in those most inspiring and collaborative environments. He was such a warm, open, and communicative person, and as Lou's right-hand man, he was absolutely essential in pushing Lulu forward."

Metallica frontman James Hetfield told us after Lulu was released how the project came together: ["There was some music that Lou had behind his lyrics before, and then we went out and played some stuff, and what they had done is they laid those two together, and without even knowing what the other stuff really sounded like, or timewise or when things would change, it lined up unbelievably perfect. It sounded really, really like they were meant to be."] SOUNDCUE (:20 OC: . . . meant to be.)​

Lulu polarized fans around the world and earned Metallica the most scathing reviews and lowest sales of its career. The effort featured Reed's spoken-word poetry and lyrics combined with Metallica's musical assault for a jarring experience that didn't sound like anything Metallica had ever attempted before.

Metallica’s James Hetfield On Writing Music For ‘Lulu’ :