HITS Daily Double

Pete Fornatale passes

, a legendary New York DJ whose name is synonymous with FM free-form radio, died on Thursday in Manhattan, the N.Y. Times reports. He was 66. The cause was complications of a stroke, his son Mark said. Fornatale was at the forefront of the FM revolution, along with WNEW-FM colleagues like Scott Muni, Rosko, Vin Scelsa, Dennis Elsas, Jonathan Schwartz and Alison Steele. When the station dropped rock for talk in 1999, Billboard called it “a legend, affecting and inspiring people throughout the industry.” Fornatale was a bnona fide pioneer. As a sophomore at Fordham in 1964, he persuaded the school’s Jesuit leaders to let him do a free-form rock show on what was officially an educational station. He continued that show for a few years after he graduated, and for a while could be heard on both WFUV and WNEW, which adopted the format in 1967, using the slogan “Where Rock Lives.” Fornatale came on board in 1969 and quickly moved to the center of New York’s music scene. He gave early exposure to country-rock bands like Buffalo Springfield and Poco. He did one of the first American interviews with Elton John, and got a rousing ovation when he brought a rented surfboard to Carnegie Hall for a Beach Boys show. He introduced Curtis Mayfield to Bob Dylan at a Muhammad Ali fight. And he was a genuinely nice guy. (4/27a)