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Pete Fornatale, Pioneering New York Rock DJ, Dies At 66

Pete Fornatale (credit: Handout via CBS 2)

Pete Fornatale (credit: Handout via CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Rock music fans are mourning the death of one of the city’s best-loved radio disc jockeys.

Bronx native Pete Fornatale died Thursday at the age of 66 from complications following a stroke.

His oldest son told 1010 WINS’ Eileen Lehpamer that Fornatale was healthy until a week ago when he had a stroke and slipped into a coma.

1010 WINS’ Eileen Lehpamer reports

“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.”

As a DJ on WNEW-FM, Fornatale’s format was to play and promote lesser known artists, along with album cuts beyond the hit singles.

Until his death, Fornatale still hosted the “Mixed Bag” show on Saturdays on WFUV-FM, public radio from Fordham University, his alma mater.

His last time on air was April 14.

Fordham president Joseph McShane called Fornatale “the voice of several generations.”

WFAN radio host Mike Francesa said Fornatale, who was his high school English teacher, was an “important figure in chronicling rock and roll” and a “legendary DJ.”

Francesa recalled Fornatale used to bribe the class with some “exclusives” if they behaved and one time promised to air a Simon & Garfunkel interview for the class before it aired on the radio.

“That was a big deal at that time,” Francesa said.

WFUV-FM disc jockey Dennis Elsas, who knew Fornatale since 1967 and first began working with him in the 1970s, said he had a unique style of programming and a specific way of entertaining his audience.

“Pete was a very beloved guy and it’s a great loss for all of us, personally and professionally,” Elsas said.

There will be a private wake and funeral service for Fornatale. Plans are being made for a public memorial tribute.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made in Fornatale’s name to WhyHunger, an organization co-founded by his friend Bill Ayres and the late Harry Chapin in 1975.

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