Classical 91.5

Fascinatin' Rhythm with Michael Lasser

Saturdays at 11:00am-12:00pm on WXXI-FM 91.5, WXXI-FM/HD 91.5-1 and online at wxxi

WXXI's Fascinatin' Rhythm presents of popular American music from Stephen Foster to Stephen Sondheim, in the context of their relationship to American history. Every week, host Michael Lasser offers a rich mix of singers, songwriters and songs to explore the history and themes of American popular music.  LISTEN to this past week's show below.

Playlists for Fascinatin' Rhythm are located here.

PicClick UK

Episode # 1838

9/22      Fallen Angels  One of the great musical subjects of the 20th century is the emergence of women from Victorian restraints. But with it comes changing sexual attitudes and behavior, and with that comes temptation, the dangers of city living, and the loss of innocence and reputation. These fallen angels live shady lives. The flapper was fast, but in the Thirties, survival was he first order of business.

Parlor Songs

Episode # 1837

9/15      Nineteen Nineteen  It wasn’t just the year after the War, it was also the beginning of what would become the Roaring Twenties. On Broadway, Florenz Ziegfeld hired Irving Berlin to write the entire score for his new Follies, the first time Ziegfeld had bet everything on one writer. Berlin didn’t disappoint him. It was one of the great Follies in a year of outstanding popular songs.

A&E Biography

Episode # 1836

9/8       Hart on the Heart  Lorenz Hart was a tortured soul who somehow managed to write about love and romance. It helped that his viewpoint was ambiguous, even bittersweet, and always laced with a dose of irony. More then any other songwriter, he knew all there was to know about “the self-deception that believes the lie.”

Portsmouth, NH

Episode # 1835

9/1       Low Down Dance  The years of the Harlem Renaissance changed American songs. Love was still there but so was something much earthier—in the sentiments, the musical styles, and the dancing. Especially the dancing, and especially a dance called the low down. There’s only one thing—there never was such a dance. Nobody ever did the steps. It existed entirely within songs.

Fascinatin’ Rhythm: Mary, Ann, and Mary Anne, 08/25/18

Aug 19, 2018

Episode # 1834

8/25      Mary, Ann, and Mary Anne—The Mary’s are all over the place in popular song. The names represent sweetness and innocence in the early years of the century, but when they’re Irish they exhibit more than a little moxie. The songs range from the tender to the comic—from Mary (“Long before the fashions changed”) to “Marion, You’ll Soon Be Marryin’ Me.”

Fascinatin’ Rhythm: Jonah Man, 08/18/18

Aug 12, 2018

Episode # 1833 

8/18      Jonah Man—A Jonah Man was originally a vaudeville performer whose act was stalled. But the songs about a Jonah Man portrayed somebody who was perennially unlucky. Most of them were written and performed by African-Africans, most notably Bert Williams. It was more than a coincidence.

Fascinatin’ Rhythm: Opera, Country, and Pop, 08/11/18

Aug 5, 2018

Episode # 1832

8/11      Opera, Country, and Pop—Crossovers usually go from opera or country to pop, from The Met or Nashville to Broadway. But sometimes it goes the other way, sometimes the singers are compete, and sometimes each singer stakes out her territory. The results have been known to stop a show.

Fascinatin’ Rhythm: Roses, Babes, and Gals, 08/04/18

Jul 31, 2018

Episode # 1831 

8/4        Roses, Babes, and Gals—Most songwriters are men so most songs are about women—by name or nickname or term of affection. The terms of affection become honorifics in popular songs. A single word to express affection, desire, and happiness. A quick mention of baby or the girl you love named Rose, and the song is underway. For something as quick and brief a song lyric, a label does the trick.

Fascinatin’ Rhythm: The Rainbow Sign, 07/28/18

Jul 22, 2018
Greg McCown

Episode # 1830

7/28      The Rainbow Sign Is there anything new to say about a rainbow? The task and trick for songwriters is to reinvent what we all know without casting it off. The thing about rainbows is that they show up everywhere. There are a lot more songs about rainbows that there are actual rainbows. And they show up in every kind of song from a lullaby to heavy metal. The show starts with a folk song and a cowboy song, just to make the point.

Fun Fact: Rainbows caused by sunlight always appear in the section of sky directly opposite the sun.

Episode # 1829

7/21      Frank Sinatra 100 Years Later - Frank Sinatra was born slightly more than a century ago, but this isn’t an hour of biography. It’s a brief, incomplete attempt to shed some light on his achievement. He was at his best with what he called “saloon songs,” because he was the ultimate bruised romantic. He was a good actor in movies but a superb actor in songs. He makes you feel as if he’s inventing the song as he sings it.

To quote a song whose lyrics were written by Paul Anka and was set to the tune of the French song Comme d'habitude:
To think I did all that
And may I say - not in a shy way
Oh no, oh no, not me
I did it my way

My Way, Frank Sinatra