Losing a Broadcasting Legend: Pete Fornatale
For those of you who have never heard his voice, listened to his broadcasts or even heard of his name... my heart aches for you. He was that good.
I grew up listening to the very beginnings of free-flow music on radio in the 60's. The radio station was WNEW-FM 102.7 in New York City. It was the pinnacle of radio broadcasting and the standard by which every radio station should be judged. It was that good.
The line-up I best remember started with morning drive man Dave Herman, followed by Pete Fornatale, next up the legendary Scott Muni, Jonathan Schwartz, the Night Bird Alison Steele and ending with Vin Scelsa. In later years, Richard Neer, Carol Miller, Dennis Elsas, Dan Neer, Meg Griffin and many more DJs, who even today, can be heard on Satellite radio and college stations.They were that good.
Of all the DJs, Pete Fornatale was my absolute favorite. To this day, he would be the only celebrity to whom I would write a letter.
Pete would never just spin records…yes it was vinyl, skips and all. Pete would weave a story into his selections and see if the listeners picked up on what were his intentions. “Active and passive listeners,” he called it. That was the phrase which caused me to write the letter. I so thoroughly got it. And, I so thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course, those were the days when DJs were able to play pretty much what they wanted. This was why you listened to specific DJs…you liked what they played and how they went about playing it. You didn’t hear the same song 14 times a day. It was a time of great radio.
Pete Fornatale started out as a college DJ at Fordham University in NY, where he attended classes. After the commercial radio business went into the toilet, Pete returned to Fordham’s station WFUV, one of the best known and well-respected college stations in the country. He worked at that station until his death.
Pete worked tirelessly for a cause he believed in. WhyHunger, a charity co-founded in 1975 by the late Harry Chapin and Pete’s friend Bill Ayres. The annual Hunger-Thon was, and still is a staple of the Thanksgiving season. Over all these years, a lot of money and a lot of food has been donated to help the needy.
We lost Pete Fornatale yesterday, apparently all the musicians we have also lost recently, needed a good DJ to manage the music. There is no one better to choose than Pete. He was that good.
Easy journey Pete.