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Friday, April 27, 2012

When people were our Pandora

Word has arrived from New York that disc jockey Pete Fornatale died yesterday. He was 66 years old. Fornatale was one of the young people on the legendary WNEW-FM in New York in the late '60s and early '70s, when rock was changing the world. It was back when DJs on the emerging "progressive" FM stations were allowed a lot of leeway to put musical sets together, in "free form," and Fornatale was great at it. His tastes ran toward California sounds -- Neil Young, the Beach Boys, and the Eagles probably got as much play from him as did any other artists -- but he was also deeply attached to the Beatles, both as a group and later as solo artists. Then again, who wasn't? Oh, and Poco! Lots of Poco.

Fornatale, who came to the professional ranks from Fordham University, did not hold down the prime slots on the station, at least not while we were there listening to it religiously. In our time, he had a lot of weekend assignments, and he may have wound up doing lunch hours on weekdays before we split the Big Apple area in '75. Scott Muni, the station's program director, had late afternoons; Jonathan Schwartz, who's still on the radio in New York, on the internet (including iTunes), and on satellite, held down the coveted 6-to-10 p.m. slot; and after him was Alison Steele, the "Night Bird," who went all night. Morning drive time was occupied by Dave Herman. They were all extremely skilled at what they did.

Fornatale wrote several books about rock, and he could be seen from time to time on television specials relating to music of that genre. He still had a show on the Fordham radio station until a stroke took his life.

The music of that era has been our close friend throughout our adulthood, and the music itself had a great friend in Pete Fornatale. He will be missed by many, many listeners, with whom he shared a special bond.

Comments (2)

I count myself among them. RIP Pete.

I have about a million cultural/ideological affinities with Bojack, but my adolescent experience with WNEW has to be one of our fondest and most formative shared memories. I actually spent two years myself on the Fordham Rose Hill campus (one at Fordham Prep and one at Fordham U) and was a regular listener of WFUV, a great station at that time. Among a certain coterie of herb imbibing Fordham Rams, Fornatale was considered possibly the most significant product of our shared alma mater. That was some great radio. What an era...RIP, Pete.

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