Rockaway Resident, Radio Icon Dies At 66
Fornatale, a Bronx native, was a Rockaway Park resident. He got his radio start at Fordham University before becoming best known for playing what he wanted, when he wanted, during the early 1970s, when radio was about self-expression for a disc jockey. It was all about making the music fit together. However, after commercial radio began dominating the airwaves, the idea of free form disc jockeys slowly ceased to exist. Fornatale worked at WNEW until 1989, before a brief stint at 92.3 WXRX while it was still a classic rock station.
After suffering a stroke on April 15, he was in intensive care at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York for more than a week before he died.
His oldest son, a book editor who worked with his father on recent projects, spoke to 1010 WINS’ reporter Eileen Lehpamer. According to Fornatale’s son, he had the stroke and shortly after slipped into a coma.
“It was a terrible shock,” Peter Thomas Fornatale said. “Just the week before it happened we were putting the finishing touches on our new book about the Rolling Stones that we were working on together and he was operating at 110 percent of his mental capacity.”
Fornatale was one of the pioneers of the early days of FM rock radio and recently hosted a free-form show once a week on Fordham’s WFUV called “Mixed Bag.” It was simulcast on SiriusXM radio as well. He had written books about the relationship between Simon and Garfunkel as well as a Woodstock retrospective that he released in 2009 to mark the milestone event’s 40th anniversary.