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NY Rock DJ Pete Fornatale Dies at 66

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pete Fornatale winning the 2012 AMEE Award in Broadcast on February 6, 2012. Pete Fornatale winning the 2012 AMEE Award in Broadcast on February 6, 2012. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty)

Pete Fornatale, 66, died on Thursday after suffering a brain hemorrhage earlier this month. He was one of those DJs who came along at a time when the popular culture was throbbing with change and the music both drove it and reflected it back.

Fornatale was kind of the gee-whiz kid at WNEW-FM. His voice had none of the gravelly gravitas of Scott Muni or the cool, martini-kick of Jonathan Schwartz. He was the friend who dashed into your house, dropped the needle on the record and said, “You HAVE to hear this!”

That was the beauty of what came to be called free-form radio. There was so much great music being created in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, so many directions to pull from and push toward and Pete Fornatale knew what we wanted to hear.

He was a Bronx boy who graduated from Fordham University and started his radio career at Fordham’s non-commercial station, WFUV. After his tenure at WNEW-FM, he went to Classic Rocker WXRK and then, coming full circle, hosted “Mixed Bag Radio” back at WFUV for the past 11 years. “Mixed Bag Radio” was also heard on satellite radio’s Sirius/XM.

He was a prolific author, writing books about the music he loved, including Simon and Garfunkel’s Bookends and Back to The Garden, in which he interviewed Woodstock-goers about their take on that iconic event.

It’s unlikely that any local radio person who grew up here and came of age listening to WNEW-FM wasn’t in some way influenced by Fornatale’s friendly voice and keen knowledge of rock ‘n’ roll –  inspiring so many of us to say “I want to do THAT for a living.”

Pete Fornatale is survived by his former wife and their three sons. Details for his funeral will be posted on his Web site.

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Comments [8]

Kathleen from CT

I came to appreciate Pete late, and yet truly enjoyed hearing him on WFUV--and introducing my teens to the musical taste he defined.

Apr. 27 2012 10:21 AM
Tom Salmon from Red Bank

I very much miss listening to Pete Fornutale. For me, he added
another dimension to the music I loved, the music I grew up with.
Interviews from James Taylor to Harry Nilson rounded out my
apppreciation by understanding the context the music was created
in.

Apr. 27 2012 09:29 AM
Maryann from Poughkeepsie, NY

My teen years were spent with WNEW-FM. I feel like I've lost an older brother who turned me on to cool music! So sad!

Apr. 27 2012 08:56 AM
Mikey from SI

Truly a New York great.

I haven't listened to him for years, but I loved his show.

Apr. 27 2012 04:49 AM
kevin from upper LS

no frills or pretense:that was pete fornatale. in a free form rock medium, that, for all intents and purposes,was devoid of the hoakey contrived tricks; that, were so much a part of other music stations;pete,stood out that much more,as a paragon of straight forward honesty; and, low key inconspicuous humility and intelligence. in a world of giants,he was gargantuan,yet unassuming.

Apr. 27 2012 12:47 AM
Elliot Cohen

I am truly saddened to learn of the passing of Peter Fornatale. I first began listening to Peter when I was only 13 years old, and then when I started my own college radio show, was delighted to have him on a guest. I vividly remember driving him somewhere afterward in the heavy Manhattan traffic, with cabs whizzing by, with Peter holding on for dear life.

We met other times over the years; once backstage at a Beach Boys concert in 1983, and someone took a photo of me, Peter and Beach Boy Carl Wilson. Every other time I would run into Peter, he would jokingly say, "Where's Carl Wilson?"

Peter was truly a great radio broadcaster..Very humble, not showboating or grandstanding in any way. He was passionate about his music, but in a very low-key way.

Apr. 26 2012 11:02 PM
Patti from New York City

So sad when I heard the news of Pete Fornatale's passing way too soon....

Listening to him always put a smile on my face, his ebullient spirit was contagious - Wish I had met him in person to say thanks so very much for all of the years of great programming.

Rock on, Pete....

Apr. 26 2012 10:11 PM
Mary Aileen Tlamsa from Bayside

Thanks, Kerry. Nicely said. He was a great teacher.

Apr. 26 2012 06:45 PM

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