DJ and Author Pete Fornatale, Dead at 66
Disc jockey, rock
historian and author Pete Fornatale, a New York radio icon for more than 40
years, died April 26, his family announced.
The Bronx native got
his start in radio in 1964 as a Fordham University undergraduate, hosting a
program on WFUV called “Campus Caravan.” At a time when rock on the radio was
confined to Top 40 AM stations, Fornatale spun records by lesser-known artists
and played deeper album cuts than the current hit singles.
In 1969, the summer
of Woodstock, Fornatale began work at WNEW(FM) in New York, eventually
launching his Sunday morning program, “Mixed Bag,”in December 1982.
Over the years he
conducted insightful, in-depth interviews with hundreds of performers,
including Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Carly Simon, Dion and James
Taylor. He also helped launch the careers of many singer-songwriters, including
Suzanne Vega and John Gorka. Grammy winner Shawn Colvin told The New York Times
in 2001, “Pete helped pave the way for so many of us. He was a rare guy in
One of his frequent
guests, Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary, recounted, “When we would talk
together, the nature of our discussions would be very personal, very deep and
very revealing. They were the kind of in-depth discussions you rarely hear in
In 1991, Fornatale
moved the program to WXRK(FM), where it was renamed “The Sunday Show.” In 1997
he returned to WNEW when it launched a format of “Classic Rock with Classic
Jocks.” He came full circle to WFUV in 2001 as the host of “Mixed Bag” on
Saturdays from 4–8 p.m. The latter-day “Mixed Bag” typically focused on a
single theme each week, with Fornatale drawing on his encyclopedic knowledge of
music for songs to illustrate that week’s theme and engaging his listeners in
the process through the program’s online bulletin board.
That knowledge and
passion for music was also reflected in his career as an author. He wrote or
co-wrote six books all touching on music. At the time of his death, he was
working on a book on the Rolling Stones.
He is survived by
his three sons: Peter, a book editor (who worked with his father on several
books); Mark, a wine importer and Steven, a New York City police officer.
Donations in his name may be made to Why Hunger.
To honor Fornatale’s
memory, WFUV(FM) at Fordham
will offer an on-air celebration of his life and career on May 5, from 4–8 p.m.
More information can be found at the WFUV website.