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.


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and Alan Jones took the one less traveled by.

As a Masters student at the Eastman School of Music, the singer and pianist was on the path to becoming a composer when his innovative work as a church musician caught the attention of professors.

Alan was a natural teacher and persuaded to pursue a life as an educator.   

Lucky music students at Spencerport High School blossomed under his direction for thirty-two years.

Episode # 1841

Explore the heartbreaking history of the Great Depression by listening to the first album of iconic American folk-singer, Woody Guthrie. 

10/13    Dust Bowl Ballads Woody Guthrie’s Dust Bowl Ballads are among the defining songs of The Great Depression. They offered an alternative to the urban fare of Tin Pan Alley and Broadway as they stretched across the country, their music and lyrics helping to create the sound and feel of their time.

Episode # 1840:

Join host Michael Lasser as he uncovers an often overlooked aspect of children's author Shel Silverstein: his music. 

The Songs of Shel Silverstein Shel Silverstein was an author, an artist, and a songwriter. His songs were provocative and satiric, sometimes tender and loving. He moved effortlessly between sentiment and wit, and often combined them in a single song.


Episode # 1839

9/29      Depression Love Songs  The ballads of the Depression tell a different story from the lighter-than-air love songs of the 20s. They survived an ominous decade even when they couldn’t bring themselves to offer hope. Blue skies turned cloudy and gray, and pretty much stayed that way. The night was starless and forbidding, and the wind brought only heartache. That’s the way it was, even in songs.

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.