Radio legend, Bob Slade, passes

Herb Boyd | 3/24/2019, 6:07 p.m.
Famed New York radio personality Bob Slade has passed away.
Bob Slade Bill Moore photo

While his smooth, mellifluous voice had a calming effect, Bob Slade could also deliver sharp, incisive analysis on social and political issues. Slade, who at one time shared the airwaves on “Open Line” with attorney Bob Pickett, and musician James Mtume, made his transition Sunday. He had been hospitalized for illness relating to long-term kidney disease, according to a statement from WBLS/Hot97/WLIB where he worked for many years.

Born Robert McCants in Harlem, Slade’s earliest aspirations was to be an actor, something he pursued as a student at Queens College and as a member of the famed Negro Ensemble and the Harlem YMCA Theater Group. It was during his performances in Off-Broadway productions that he began cultivating his interest in radio broadcasting.

In 1971, he began delivering the news at a Long Island radio station and subsequently at a station in Upstate New York. Nine years later Slade joined WRKS-FM and became the News Director.

Since its inception in 1989, Open Line, Slade’s creation, has reached millions of listeners and was most poignant and provocative during election season during a segment Slade dubbed “politricks.” Neither Republicans nor Democrats escaped his critiques, but he was particularly scathing on Trump in his presidential bid in 2016.

Discussions of Police brutality and abuse were often hot topics on the show, and many listeners were given a deeper appreciation of the Central Park incident in which five Black and Hispanic teenagers were convicted of beating and raping a white woman.

“As soon as the DNA reports showed no matches to any of these kids, we knew something was rotten,” Slade said. “The timeline was all wrong. Their statements couldn’t even agree on the clothes she was wearing. Everyone thought we were just defending these kids because they were black and Hispanic. I kept saying it's not black and white. It's right and wrong.”

This was Slade at his best and made sure the show touched a number of cultural and political issues particularly germane to people of color.

Slade’s friend and colleague Lenny Green expressed in a tweet his fond memories of the fallen “Bullet Blade,” as he called him. “I worked with him for over 20 years on NYC radio. His warm spirit, presence, wisdom and knowledge will truly be missed. My heart is heavy. Rest in peace and comfort, Brother Bob.”

“For a quarter of century we struggled together,” tweeted the Rev. Al Sharpton, “you are irreplaceable. Thanks for everything.”

As we go to press the reflections on Slade’s life and legacy are abundant and they are just a sample of what he meant to our community. No funeral arrangements or memorial services have been announced.