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.

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.

2/13      Episode #2107

Details. Lyrics provide insight into the ways that writers shape the quick, familiar references that define and distinguish attitude and point of view in a popular song. Ways that we recognize as familiar but also realize are new--the combination of the familiar and the fresh.

2/6        Episode #2106

Bill Bailey and More. Large numbers of people can still sing at least part of “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home?” But there are a lot more songs about Mr. Bailey. In the early twentieth century, “Bill Bailey” songs were all over the place. Most of them were linked to ragtime and marches, two of the most popular musical styles of their time.

Episode #2105

1/30      Live Alone and Like It. When an affair ends, it hurts, but you also discover that melancholy isn’t fatal. Life goes on. Not necessarily happily but it does. These songs know something about it. Some would argue that our saddest songs are also our greatest songs. Melancholy takes us farther than joy.

Episode #2104

1/23      Odd Conversations. Nobody loves language more than a lyricist and nobody has a surer ear for the vagaries of everyday speech. The result--song lyrics are conversations, sometimes one-sided, usually romantic, and sometimes odd in delightful ways.

Episode #2103

1/16      Dave Frishberg Is Hip. Dave Frishberg is not only hip, he’s offbeat. A jazz pianist who also writes, his songs are often humorous and witty, and jazz singers are often drawn to titles like “I’m Hip,” “Peel Me a Grape,” “My Attorney Bernie,” and, in a more serious way, “Do You Miss New York?”

1/9       Curtain Going Up. How a Broadway show begins sets the tone, introduces characters, and starts the plot. It may also give you a good sense of when the show was written. Maybe a chorus that sings and tap dances until you have no resistance left or maybe a number that leads you to what follows.