Classical 91.5

Fascinatin' Rhythm's Fascinatin' history with Michael Lasser and Marianne Carberry

Sep 9, 2019

For 30 years (2019) listeners to public radio stations across the United States have enjoyed the blend of education and entertainment that host Michael Lasser has illustrated through songs from the Great American Songbook (1920-1950) as they anticipate popular music of today.  From Stephen Foster to Stephen Sondheim, each program features a theme - a particular kind of stage or movie musical, a single composer or lyricist, a distinctive performer or a defining image or idea.

(From Historians and musicologists point out that popular music provides a surprisingly accurate mirror of the changing values, attitudes, manners, and aspirations of the American people. Fascinatin’ Rhythm, described by one listener as “radio essays with songs used as illustrations,” is a vivid example of this fact. For fifteen years (1994), this informative and thoroughly enjoyable program has explored and entertained the public in weekly broadcasts. Host Michael Lasser, both a broadcaster and a teacher, approaches the past century through an examination of lyrics and musical styles. He lets our treasury of popular tunes speak (and sing) for itself with sparkling commentary tracing the contributions of the composers and performers to American society.

For an ongoing presentation and celebration of American culture through popular music, a Peabody to WXXI-FM for Fascinatin’ Rhythm.

Host Michael Lasser and Producer David Sluberski accepted the 1994 Peabody Award at the 54th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony on May 8, 1995 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.

Recently Lasser sat down with Classical 91.5 host Marianne Carberry, who was the first producer of Anything Goes, which later was renamed Fascinatin' Rhythm, to reminisce. Read how it all got started and hear their conversation.

Broadcaster and host Michael Lasser is also an author of three books on the subject of American Popular Song.  His most recent book City Songs and American Life 1900-1950, available June 2019, "is the most engaging, comprehensive, and provocative examination of the Great American Songbook that I’ve encountered," states Kim H. Kowalke, President, Kurt Weill Foundation for Music and Professor of
Musicology, Eastman School of Music.

Nothing defines the songs of the Great American Songbook more centrally than their urban
sensibility. During the first half of the twentieth century, songwriters such as Harold Arlen,
Irving Berlin, Dorothy Fields, George and Ira Gershwin, and Thomas “Fats” Waller flourished in
New York City, the home of Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, and Harlem. Through their songs, artists
described America—not its geography or politics, but its heart—to Americans and to the world
at large.  In City Songs and American Life, 1900–1950, author and broadcaster Michael Lasser offers
an evocative and probing account of the popular songs—including some written originally for
the stage or screen--that America heard, sang, and danced to during the turbulent first half of
the twentieth century.


America's Songs tells the "stories behind" the most beloved popular songs of the last century. Along with telling the stories behind these songs, America's Songs suggests, simply and succinctly, what makes a song great. The book illuminates the way each great song melds words and music -- sentiment and melody -- into a seamless whole. America's Songs also traces the fascinating but mysterious process of collaboration, the give-and-take between two craftsmen, a composer and a lyricist, as they combined their talents to create a song.



America’s Songs II: Songs from the 1890's to the Post-War Years continues to tell the stories behind popular songs in our country’s history. This volume builds on the unique features of the first volume, delving deeper into the nature of the collaboration between well-known songwriters of the time but also shedding light on some of the early performers to turn songs into hits.  America’s Songs II: Songs from the 1890's to the Post-War Years appeals to American popular music enthusiasts and serves as an ideal reference guide for students or as a supplement in American music courses.