WFUV-FM is reporting that host Pete Fornatale, who got his start at the Fordham University pubstation as an undergrad in 1964 and went on to become an influential progressive-rock disc jockey in New York City, has died following a stroke. He was 66.
“This is a devastating loss, not just for his family, friends, and colleagues at WFUV, but for radio listeners everywhere,” Chuck Singleton, interim general manager of WFUV, said in a statement. “Pete was a beloved air personality for four decades and a master communicator. His influence as a pioneer of progressive FM radio is almost incalculable.”
He began his professional career in 1969 at WNEW-FM, where he established his weekly eclectic Mixed Bag show in 1982. Fornatale helped launch careers of singer-songwriters including Suzanne Vega, John Gorka and Christine Lavin, and through the years also interviewed stars such as Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Carly Simon and James Taylor. He also worked at WXRK (K-Rock). He brought Mixed Bag to WFUV in 2001.
Fornatale wrote or co-authored six books including a textbook (Radio in the Television Age), Simon & Garfunkel's Bookends, and Back to the Garden: The Story of Woodstock. He also appeared on television, co-hosting the 1991 HBO Paul Simon Live in Central Park and as a guest commentator on multiple PBS music specials.
He is survived by 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.
On Fornatale's website, his family requests memorial donations to WhyHunger, "an organization that Pete has been associated with since it was co-founded by his good friend Bill Ayres and the late Harry Chapin in 1975."
A private funeral Mass is planned. WFUV has scheduled an on-air/online celebration of his life and career from 4 to 8 p.m. May 5.