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.

4/24   Episode #21-17  

The Wit of Dorothy Fields The crackle of irreverence and intelligence set to the rhythms of everyday speech: that’s Dorothy Fields in a nutshell. Only she could subtitle a song, “A Sarcastic Love Song.” She could write the love ballads everybody expects from a songwriter, but she was a master of English colloquial speech and the wit that came with it.

4/17      Episode #2116

Winners and Losers  Songs range from ecstasy to despair. The characters inside the lyrics bet everything they’ve got on love and win. Sometimes. There’s a song called “Here’s to the Winners” and another called “Here’s to the Losers.”

4/10   Episode #2115  

And The World Goes Round  Most love songs about "you" and "me," the only two people who matter. But sometimes, even though they're only three minutes long, we have jubilant songs in which the world is everything from big, wide, and wonderful to a place you're sitting on top of.

4/3  Episode # 2114

The New Woman  During World War 1, women drove ambulances and served as nurses in France. They had already been agitating for the vote and would soon win it. Even before the War, they were asserting their rights, and venturing out into the world with increasing confidence. Songwriters were picking up the vibe as they began to let these “new women” befuddle their beaus and sing for themselves.

Episode #2113

3/27      If Swing Goes  It’s hard to imagine our popular music without the influence of jazz. It needs whatever jazz gives it. Part of the answer is the capacity to swing, so it soon became something we sang about--especially during the thirties and forties when jazz and popular music became the same thing.

Episode #2112

3/20      You Hypnotize Me So This show isn’t about hypnosis, spells, or incantations. But the songs are hypnotic--passionate, overheated, and erotic. They give us a lush, throbbing combination of romance and sensuality. You can probably hear the pounding drums and rising heartbeats.

Episode #2111

3/13      You Irritate Me So These love songs don’t come from Never Never Land. They’re about the way lovers really get along, at least some of the time. As Shakespeare wrote, “The course of true love never did run smooth.” Get ready for the bumps and bruises.

Episode #2110

3/6        Beginning with “Body and Soul” Johnny Green and Edward Heyman wrote this great song in 1930, as the Depression was first deepening. This single song influenced other songs and also led to melodies and lyrics by the same writers.

2/27      Episode # 2109

Two Kinds of Musicals. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers at RKO helped us escape the Depression with the elegant dances they did on fairy tale white Art Deco sets. At the same time, the contract players at Warner Bros acted out in song the dance the everyday struggles of kids trying to land jobs in a Broadway chorus. Both from the 1930s.

2/20      Episode # 2108

George and Ira in 1937. Irving Berlin said that nobody ever wrote better songs in a single year than the Gershwins in 1937. The irony is that this was the last year they worked together. George died of a brain aneurism in July, but the songs from that year are an important part of the Gershwins' legacy.