Over the years I continued listening to Pete, even as he bounced around from WNEW to WXRK and then back to WNEW for a time. He finally returned to where he started at WFUV, and all the while he continued to be the voice that soothed, played the records that mattered to him and us, and seemed to be a pioneer long after the frontier had been conquered.
One of his legacies was his show Mixed Bag, which really stood out as a definitive aspect of his career in its simplicity. Listening to songs the way we did, he "mixed" up genres and artists so that in one show The Beach Boys, Journey, Bob Marley, and Eric Clapton might all be heard one after the other. This probably defines Pete best because, in essence, his greatest accomplishment was understanding his fans and what they wanted, and he was able to do this because he was the ultimate fan of rock music.
Besides his radio work, Pete was a respected rock historian and writer of many books about Woodstock, Simon and Garfunkel and other artists, and the history of rock music. At the time of his death he was writing a book about The Rolling Stones. Pete was also the co-founder (along with the late singer Harry Chapin) of World Hunger Year, an organization that works toward ending hunger and poverty. He remained active in that organziation up until the end of his life.
Pete made an indelible impression on this young music fan and so many other listeners, and for more than forty years his name was synonymous with rock and roll, and I thought of him as just as much of a legend as those artists he loved. The sound of his unique voice may have been silenced, but its memory echoes across time and space. He will be greatly missed and remembered as the guy who changed things on FM radio here in New York forever.
Rest in peace, Pete Fornatale.
Photo Credit: wfuv.org