Pete Fornatale was in touch with his inner child, maybe even his inner adolescent, who was, in turn, in love with rock and roll. It's my theory that this side of him NEVER CHANGED. It was this facet that made him, perhaps, seemingly- but not actually!- naïve to those who didn't know him. And this facet, this giddy love for and yearning for a sound, a record that moved you, was why I both loved him as a disc jockey, when i was growing up in Eastchester, and why I came to love and admire him as a friend, and colleague in radio. I, too, had, and continue to have, my own version of this giddy defect/ asset.
He was like something out of a Frank Capra movie, this way. His sometimes Jimmy Stewart-like enthusiasm for rock was something you caught when listening to him, and so integral to him that it never seemed, to me, to waiver when dealing with him in person. I remember, even in staff meetings, when the rest of us who's voices graced the airwaves grumbled and griped about the damage the "suits" we're causing to our art form of radio with increasing restrictions and ever shrinking, over-researched playlists, Pete was right there with us. But he also kept that light burning at the end of the tunnel for us all, too. If Pete was there, then somehow there was hope for rock and roll.
There's still hope, for rock and roll, and everything else, despite the dark clouds of economic gloom and ecological peril. Hell, we all grew up in the shadow of the h-bomb, and by some happy miracle, we're all still here. The last time I spoke with Pete, I was reflecting on my theory that we were in a golden age of creativity, and a golden age of access in particular to our recorded musical history. He agreed, and despite his frustrations with what had become of the commercial side of the medium we worked in and loved, he was embracing his role as a scholar, a historian... A master among professors. And always... An amazing disc jockey.
In his book, Back to the Garden: The story of Woodstock and how it changed a Generation, Pete quoted the great Joseph Campbell from The Power of Myth:
“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”
Pete added: "Apart from everything else you could say about it, Woodstock made us feel the rapture of being alive."
Pete, you made us feel your rapture, in everything you gave us.