Marty Zivin loved radio more than anyone I ever knew.
From the time he was a kid growing up in the suburbs, he was mesmerized by the medium. He loved programming radio. He loved designing radio. He loved broadcasting radio. And always, he loved talking about radio.
Zivin, who was 60, died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer, which he chronicled on social media. In recent years his legion of friends celebrated his survival with an annual “Marty Party,” where scores of Chicago radio colleagues came together, united in their deep admiration and respect for him.
A self-styled “audio visionary,” Zivin headed Zecom Radio, a pioneering Internet radio operation, software development company and broadcast consultancy, which he founded in 1982. From studios in Hoffman Estates, he programmed two full-time streaming stations, one playing oldies and another a mix of progressive and classic rock.
Young Marty had just turned 8 years old in 1964 when he built his first radio station — dubbed WQFM — equipped with a Remco Caravelle transmitter and a small record player. “The first broadcast day began at 10 a.m. and ended at 10 p.m. and featured any and every album I could get my hands on,” he recalled. As his talents and ambitions grew, many more stations would follow.
A graduate of Niles West High School and Northern Illinois University, Zivin held a wide variety of broadcast operations jobs over four decades in Chicago at WSBC AM 1240 and WXRT FM 93.1, and in the northwest suburbs at WRMN AM 1410 and WJKL FM 94.3, and the former WCBR.
Zivin is survived by a daughter, Shauna Oakwood, a son, Evan Zivin, and two grandchildren. His wife, Karen, preceded him in death in November 2015. Funeral arrangements are pending.
“It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of an amazing human being,” Evan Zivin wrote on Facebook. “He was a dreamer, a free thinker, a visionary, a prodigy, a communicator extraordinare, a man who lived on his own terms and did things his own way.”