'Back To The Garden'
It was the summer of '69 and Pete Fornatale had just landed the DJ gig on WNEW that would make him a New York radio icon. The first commercial he read live on the air just twenty minutes into his radio debut on July 27, 1969 was for the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.
Three-day passes cost just $18, but for most it evolved into a free concert for the masses, stamping its imprint on American culture forever.
In the Rockaway resident's latest book, "Back to The Garden: The Story of Woodstock," he celebrates the 40th anniversary of Woodstock by re-telling the festival's story through original interviews with the majority of the musical acts, event organizers and fans on hand for the festival's weekend of August 15, 1969.
The approach Fornatale takes is one of oral history told through countless hours of original interviews conducted through the years with the artists who performed. The collection of interviews, Fornatale says, grew over the years.
"Because I wasn't there I was obsessed with getting first person stories from anybody backstage, on stage or in the audience," he said.
He acknowledges his son, who acted as editor, helping to shape his vision for the book.
"I have to credit my son who did his research and pointed out that all other books about Woodstock do not focus on the music. They focus on the behindthe scenes stuff, on the mud, the possible disasters, and the lawsuits. He said to me, lets do a book that focuses on the music," he said.
And for Fornatale it has always been about the tunes and nothing else, which was what captivated him the most about the weekend.
Fornatale says curiosity, nostalgia, and mortality are three reasons why people are holding the 40th anniversary of Woodstock so dear to them. Nostalgia, he says, could sometimes be a good thing.
"Nostaglia at times could be a bad thing," he says. "But an occasional dose of nostalgia that takes you back to a time in your life when you were less responsible, had less responsibilities, more freedom and great music, what could be wrong with that."
Mortality, in Fornatale's opinion is another reason why this anniversary has been so revered.
The average age at Woodstock was between 15 and 30 years old, he said. As a result, some Woodstock attendees will be turning 70 this year which makes an individual look at life differently, because not everyone knows if he or she will be around to re-live Woodstock when it turns 50.
"I think you look at the paths your life has taken and you want to hold on dearly to the things that meant something to you, and I think Woodstock does that for a lot of people."
In support of the book, Fornatale will come to the Rockaway Artists Alliance on Thursday, August 27 for a Woodstock presentation put together with librarian Tony Traguardo, followed by a question and answer session and book signing. The presentation is at 7 p.m. in sTudio 7 Gallery at Fort Tilden.