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Obituaries

Celebrating the Life of Hal Jackson, a Black Radio Trailblazer

He was one the giants in radio, with a career spanning more than nine decades. Hal Jackson, the longtime WBLS air personality, will be laid to rest next week. The family, including his wife Debi, announced the wake and funeral are open to the public as a celebration of Jackson’s 97-year life.

The wake is Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. It will be held at the Frank Campbell Funeral Home, Madison Avenue and 81st Street.

Jackson’s funeral is Thursday, 11 a.m. at the Riverside Church, 490 Riverside Drive and 121st Street.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations made to:

Hal Jackson’s Talented Teens International/Youth Development Foundation
1230 Park Avenue, PH-A
New York, NY

A pioneering radio host, Jackson died Wednesday after a short illness.

[Pic via The New York Post]

Hal Jackson, Black Radio Legend, Dies at 96

Webster’s defines an icon as “any person or thing that is revered.”

That was Hal Jackson. The pioneering WBLS radio personality died yesterday at age 96. His cause of death was not released, but Jackson had a short illness.

Jackson maintained his Sunday Classics show, on the air as recently as a couple of weeks ago. He hosted the program with Clay Berry and Deborah Bolling Jackson, known to listeners as Debi B., or simply Jackson’s wife for 23 years.

“He was a big proponent of passing [information],” Skip Dillard, WBLS
program director, tells FishbowlNY. “I think that was one of his greatest assets.”

He co-founded WBLS original parent company, Inner City Broadcasting in 1971 with the late Percy Sutton, giving a new outlet to African-Americans. It was the first owned and operated African-American station in New York.

“He really is responsible for us being here today, because he encouraged Mr. Sutton to go through with the purchase of WLIB-FM at a time when AM was king,” Dillard says. “Hal really was a little ahead of his time and saw the potential for radio, and always believed that radio could grow and evolve.”

Last year, Inner City filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

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Donna Summer, Queen of Disco, Dead at 63

She was the person, arguably, most associated with the Disco era. Donna Summer, known as the Queen of Disco, died today after battling cancer. She was 63.

A five-time Grammy Award winner, Summer had a string of hits including, Hot Stuff, Bad Girls, On the Radio, and No More Tears with Barbra Streisand. In the 1980s, Summer kept the music playing with She Works Hard for the Money and Unconditional Love, featuring Musical Youth.

WCBS-FM jock Joe Causi has been playing her tracks for years, dating back to his days at Disco 92/WKTU.

“[I'm] still in shock over the passing of Donna Summer,” Causi tells FishbowlNY. ”She was a ‘major’ part of my passion for dance music in the clubs and on the radio. Her music was magical, constantly reinventing herself with every album of music she has given us.”

Summer notched her first number one single in the U.S. with MacArthur Park in 1978. That same year, she got a starring role in the Disco flick Thank God It’s Friday, where she sang her signature, Last Dance.

“Artists like Madonna, Lady Gaga, and other pop superstars should pause for a moment and recollect on the originator,” Causi says.

Summer is survived by her husband, Brooklyn Dreams singer Bruce Sudano, three daughters, and four grandchildren.

Most Popular FishbowlNY Stories for the Week

Here’s a look at what FishbowlNY stories made the most buzz this week.

  1. Essence Reassigns Managing Editor after Racist Facebook Page Leaks, April 24
  2. Brian Carter, WBLS Weekend Jock, Dies of Apparent Heart Attack, April 23
  3. Sean Fennessey Leaves GQ for Grantland, April 23
  4. ESPN Radio Switching to 98.7 FM Sunday, April 26
  5. Rolling out the Red Carpet for Time 100, April 25
  6. USA Today Journalists Targets of Online Intimidation, April 20

Keep up-to-date with the latest FishbowlNY news. Click here to sign-up for the FishbowlNY daily newsletter, bringing you our articles each afternoon directly to your inbox.

Remembering Progressive Rock Pioneer, Pete Fornatale Dead at 66

Pete Fornatale, the man at the forefront of the progressive radio movement on FM in the late 1960s died yesterday after complications from a stroke at Manhattan’s Beth Israel Medical Center. He was 66.

Fornatale was an institution in New York radio, and at Fordham University’s WFUV. The Bronx native graduated in 1967 with a B.A. in Communication Arts. Fornatale remained on the school’s station until 1969. His future would soon be tied to WNEW-FM, with two decades at the station that long billed itself as the place “where rock lives!”

Another legendary air personality, Dennis Elsas worked with Fornatale at both stations. He was at the microphone yesterday informing listeners of Fornatale’s passing. Their friendship started 45 years ago. Still a student at Queens College, and working for the school’s radio station, Elsas found Fornatale by mistake on his alarm clock.

“I really enjoyed the show,” Elsas tells FishbowlNY. “…That accidentally hearing of his show, and liking what I heard, was the formation of a relationship, and we quickly saw that we had a lot in common.”

Fornatale had a misstep when he attempted to join WNEW in 1967, as he recalled to me in 2009.

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Brian Carter, WBLS Weekend Jock, Dies of Apparent Heart Attack

Brian Carter, who joined WBLS in 2006, died yesterday. Carter, who worked the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift Saturday, died of an apparent heart attack. He was 56.

“I will miss talking to Brian,” Skip Dillard, WBLS operations manager, writes on Carter’s bio page.  “I will miss his smile and most importantly, a passion for radio that kept me always reminded why I’m here.”

He says Carter was on the schedule to work yesterday morning.

“He had done Saturday and sounded great, nothing different,” Dillard tells FishbowlNY. “I got a call early Sunday morning that he had passed away.”

Dillard says Carter was a “true professional” who was “very willing to pass on knowledge.”

Prior to his arrival at ‘BLS, Carter was part of the successful morning team Carter and Sanborn (radio name Dave Sanborn) at WUSL in Philadelphia. While there, Carter also worked with Wendy Williams.

Carter also was known to listeners on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, “spinning records” on the 50′s on 5 channel.

A native of Baltimore, it is believed Carter was the first black DJ on a Top-40 station in that market.

“Brian was a family man, and a true communicator,” Dillard says.

Iconic TV Host, Producer Dick Clark Dies at 82

Dick Clark presiding over his final New Year's Eve (Dec. 31, 2011)

Dick Clark, who launched American Bandstand, and decades later gave millions a New Year’s Eve alternative, died today of a massive heart attack in California at age 82. The man long considered an influential figure in the world of broadcasting and rock music, was nicknamed “America’s Oldest Teenager” for his perpetual and youthful, good looks.

Clark suffered a stroke in 2004 causing partial paralysis. His speech was also affected as noticed each year since in his New Year’s Rockin’ Eve broadcast from Times Square. In 2005, he was joined by American Idol host Ryan Seacrest, who did the heavy lifting.

Clark was a standout talent behind the camera as well. He was the chairman and chief executive of the production company that bears his name.

“He was the absolute best,” Norm N. Nite, former WCBS-FM air personality, tells FishbowlNY. “Nobody did it better than Dick Clark. What can you say about a guy you know for 40 years?”

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Dom Valentino, One-Time Yankees, Nets, Islanders Sportscaster, Dies at 83

Dom Valentino is not remembered by many is today’s broadcasting circles. But in the mid-1970s, Valentino was at the height of his career, calling several games for several New York teams. Valentino died yesterday. He was 83. Published reports say Valentino, who suffered from prostate cancer, died at Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital, nine days after a choking incident that left him unable to swallow.

A Brooklyn native, Valentino had his busiest year in 1975, his only season in the New York Yankees radio booth, joining the likes of Phil RizzutoBill White, and Frank Messer. That same year, Valentino was calling games for the New York Islanders and the New York Nets, which shared the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale.

The schedule may have taken its toll. While hospitalized for a heart attack in 1975, Valentino suffered a second one.

He eventually returned to the mic in the early 1980s to call games of the Billy Martin-led Oakland A’s.

WABC Pays Tribute to Gil Noble

WABC/Channel 7 remembered its longtime friend and colleague Gil Noble yesterday. On the station’s weekly African-American public affairs show Here and Now, host Sandra Bookman opened the program with a six-minute remembrance of Noble.

Noble, the trailblazing journalist was the co-host and reporter on Like It Is when it debuted in 1968. He remained host of the award-winning show documenting the black experience for 43 years. Noble suffered a severe stroke last summer and died Thursday.

Bookman interspersed vintage clips of Noble, with several former guests sharing their memories. Noble’s daughter Lisa, Bill Cosby, Harry Belafonte, Reverend Al Sharpton, and former Mayor David Dinkins were among those interviewed for the tribute.

It’s not clear whether Channel 7 rushed to do the Noble piece after his death or if it were recorded previously, given Noble’s deteriorating state. For what it’s worth, Bookman’s voice-over may shed some light.

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Gil Noble, Longtime Like It Is Host, Dies at 80

Gil Noble’s career at WABC/Channel 7 spanned more than four decades. He started as a reporter and weekend anchor in 1967, but it was his signature show, Like It Is, an African American weekly public affairs show that made him a legend. 

The station says Noble died peacefully today at age 80 following a long illness.

“Gil Noble’s life and work had a profound effect on our community and culture,” WABC president and general manager Dave Davis said in a statement. “His contributions are a part of history and will be remembered for years to come. Today, our hearts are with Gil’s family – his wife, Jean and their five children – and we thank them for so lovingly [for] sharing him with the world all these years.”

On Like It Is, Noble interviewed top African-Americans dignitaries and luminaries including Arthur Ashe, Muhammed Ali, Nelson Mandela, and even Malcolm X. There were the entertainment heavyweights, such as Harry Belafonte, Bill Cosby, and Lena Horne.

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