One of the most recognizable and influential voices on New York City radio for over 40 years paid a visit to Nanuet yesterday evening to discuss the cultural and musical event that was Woodstock. Pete Fornatale was at the forefront of the ascendancy of FM radio in the late 1960’s and a member of a legendary team of disc jockeys at WNEW-FM in the 1970’s and 1980’s before moving on to another FM powerhouse WXRK (K-Rock).
The event was sponsored by the Nanuet Rotary Club to raise funds for the Highview Playground Project and to promote the soft cover release of Fornatale’s definitive text on the event “The Story of Woodstock: Back to the Garden” ( Touchstone Books, 2010). Throughout the multimedia program of classic audio clips, video and slides, Fornatale led a rapt audience back to that weekend in 1969 when it seemed that a cultural shift was taking place.
Fornatale spent the better part of two hours addressing an energetic and appreciative audience at the Nanuet Library providing insights, anecdotes, trivia and discussions of legendary performers that only someone who knew them personally could relate. Since he had just recently started his tenure at WNEW-FM, Fornatale couldn’t make his way to the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival in the upstate New York town of Bethel. He explained how, in subsequent years though numerous interviews with performers at the event and other first person research, he explored all aspects of that August weekend.
Fornatale took his listeners behind the scenes of an event that drew attendees numbering well into the hundreds of thousands. He explained in detail the significance and difficulty of bringing off such a monumental undertaking for the event promoters, performers and the people that camped out for three days on a farm in Sullivan County.
For Nanuet Rotary president Jim Damiani this was truly a special evening.
“It is just a tremendous thrill to have Pete here," said Damiani. "I have listened to him for many years as he has always played my favorite artists. I didn’t go to the original Woodstock but I just love the music of that era and Pete was a big part of that scene.”
“He’s like a piece of history," said Rotarian Chris O’Rourke of Pearl River. "I have been listening to WFUV since 1973.”
“I have been a listener for a long time and was very interested in seeing Pete,” Bob LeBow of Nanuet.
For Fornatale this was somewhat of a homecoming.
“My first paying radio job was at a station on Route 59 in Spring Valley at WRRC. To come back to this area 45 years later and have such a wonderful time at the Nanuet Library really brings things full circle.”
Recognized as an expert on the history of rack and roll, Fornatale has written a number of other books on the subject. He can now be heard on SiriusXM Satellite Radio and WFUV’s “Mixed Bag.”