Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Saturday Night Special: Pete Fornatale

The Saturday Night Special is a new feature of Ed Notes published every Sat. between 9 and 12 in the evening. Hopefully, something a little different than the rest of the dribble on this blog.

Cinquo de Mayo, 2012

Well, I am not in a bar or a Mexican restaurant and I even missed the Kentucky Derby.

Why? because we are avidly listening to WFUV's tribute to Pete Fornatale. He died over a week ago from the effects of a stroke while we were down in Virginia and Washington DC. I actually learned of his death from Reality Based Educator at Perdido St. School while I was away. I had heard he was sick but had not idea this was on the horizon.

It was a shock. He was my favorite music person on the radio and I listened to him whenever possible. I came late to rock music - as I did and do to just about everything. My growing interest coincided with Pete's rise to prominence on WNEW in the early 70's, though it was hard to listen when I was at school and he had that 10-2 show. But then there was Mixed Bag.  I learned a lot about rock from him, from the way he put music together. Like I was too dumb to know that the Beatles' "Back in the USSR" was a takeoff on the Beach Boys' "California Girls" - until Pete played them back to back. OK, I told you I was late. I believe he was the guy who brought back the Beach Boys by getting rock fans to look at their work as art. But then again what do I know? And then there was Poco and the roots back to Buffalo Springfield (and can't we use their anthem song right now to battle the ed deformers?)

I loved his appearances on Mike Francesa on WFAN. Pete was Mike's English teacher in parochial school. I hope Mike replays some of those segments some time. Because I was out of town I didn't hear if Mike talked about Pete but I assume he did.

When I learned that Pete lived out here in Rockaway and the Rockaway Theatre Company was doing a salute to Simon and Garfunkle in one of their spectacular Rockaway Cafe fall shows a few years ago and hearing that Pete has a book out on S and G, I emailed him at WFUV and he offered to come to a Saturday night show. He got up on stage during intermission with my acting teacher Frank Caiati and they did some joshing back and forth. Later he arranged a book appearance and did so again a few years later with another book. We got to chat and it was so good to hear that voice in person.

It's hard to figure how the death of a person you don't know will affect you. Certainly John Lennon and others of his ilk. Harry Chapin was a guy we felt we knew and that still hurts because he was such a great guy and we attended so many of his concerts. Phil Ochs hanged himself out here in Rockaway -- my wife and I had gone to lots of his shows.

Pete falls in that category. Listening to the last 4 hours of tribute to Pete was just so sad. We just ordered tickets to his May 27 tribute.

1 comment:

  1. I heard Francessa, right after Mr. Fornatale's death, and he spent about 20 to 25 minutes talking about it. I believe that he had done an interview with him, about two or three months before his death.

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