New York Daily News

Music is key to Bourne identity

After bypass, show was all heart

- BY DAVID HINCKLEY dhinckley@nydailynew­

DON’T TELL Michael Bourne that music is some incidental garnish on the plate of life.

He sees music as one of the things that saved his life.

“Five years ago, I had a heart attack at a baseball game in Denver, watching the Rockies play the Cardinals,” says Bourne, the afternoon host on WBGO (88.3 FM).

“I walked around with it for two weeks — and felt okay, except after two blocks, I was exhausted.

“So I went to the doctor and he told me I needed a triple bypass.”

The night before the operation, lying in his hospital bed with all the usual worries, Bourne decided to focus on what would happen on the other side.

“I made up a playlist for my next radio show,” he says. “I sat there writing down every ‘heart’ song I could think of — ‘Heart and Soul,’ ‘ My Foolish Heart,’ ‘Be Careful It’s My Heart.’

“And I did it. I filled a show. My first show back, I played two hours of heart songs.”

His own heart is fine now, and he’s about to take his annual trip to the Montreal Jazz Festival, providing listeners with four days of reports from what he calls the best jazz festival in the world.

He’ll start with Sunday’s broadcast of “Singers Unlimited,” 10 a.m.-2 p.m., and do his regular 2-6 p.m. daily show there, MondayWedn­esday of next week.

Then the following Sunday, July 8, he will mark his own 40th anniversar­y in radio, starting with the songs that were current when he did his first show in 1972.

“It’s things like the ‘new’ album from Sinatra, or Sarah Vaughn,” says Bourne. “I’ll play some vinyl. There’s still something magical to me in hearing the music come through those scratches.”

The show is certain to include “Strange Meadowlark” by Dave Brubeck, the first record Bourne played on his first show, at WFIU from the University of Indiana.

“That track literally changed my life,” he says. “And I’ve told that to Dave Brubeck many times.

“It was on the ‘Time Out’ album, and I just kept playing it. I had never heard anything like it, and I was never the same after.”

Bourne was at Indiana to get a doctorate in musical theater. But he wasn’t sure he wanted an actor’s life, or to teach theater. After he took a four-week fill-in gig at WFIU, he was sure he didn’t.

He stayed at WFIU for 13 years before he came east to WBGO. Bourne still loves theater, he adds, but finds radio more satisfying, especially after an epiphany that followed Sept. 11.

“I had always thought that the same way theater has a fourth wall that divides the performers from the audience, radio had a fourth wall with the microphone.

“But after 9/11, when I people told me how much it meant to them to hear my voice, on the air that day, I realized that in radio, there is no fourth wall.

“People ask me if I plan to retire. I tell them, ‘Why? I get paid to play records.’ ”

 ??  ?? Michael Bourne (r.) & Tony Bennett in 2011 at Montreal Jazz Festival, where the WBGO host will return next week
Michael Bourne (r.) & Tony Bennett in 2011 at Montreal Jazz Festival, where the WBGO host will return next week

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