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 1947

11/23    Writing Ragtime Songs When ragtime became popular, Tin Pan Alley songwriters added syncopation to their tunes and called them “ragtime songs.” But there are also some revealing and humorous stories behind a lot of these songs that, for a while, swept the country.

Episode #1946

11/16    Songs of Kalmar and Ruby Sometimes composer Harry Ruby worked with other lyricists. Sometimes lyricist Bert Kalmar worked with other composers. But when they began to collaborate as early as 1918, they began to turn out the hits for the next twenty years—from “Three Little Words” to “Who’s Sorry Now?”

Episode #1945

11/9      First Pop From Charles Harris’ “After the Ball” that led to the founding of Tin Pan Alley, to a performance by Paul Whitman’s Orchestra that purported to tell the story of jazz, here’s music from four landmarks in the history of American popular music.

Episode #1944

11/2      Lew Brown, Co-Lyricist Lew Brown, who came to America as an immigrant from Russia, wrote a lot of hit songs, beginning in the 1920s. Most of the time, though, there were three writers involved: a composer, another lyricist, and Brown. Unlike some other co-lyricists, he didn’t sit around and then claim a share of the royalties. Lew Brown worked.

Episode #1943

10/26    Jay Gatsby, The Sheik of West Egg F. Scott Fitzgerald gave The Great Gatsby what amounts to a sound track. Beginning with the all night dancing at Gatsby’s parties and continuing through “The Sheik of Araby,” a number that feels like the novel’s theme song, popular music plays an essential role in The Great Gatsby.

Episode # 1942

10/19    One Damn Thing After Another Are you a victim or are you simply honest? Who do you see when you look in the mirror? Are you trying to run away or facing up to what you find? You may find some answers, or at least some kindred spirits, in this batch of songs.

Episode #1941

10/12    I Do the Best I Can with What I’ve Got Hidden somewhere under its moonbeams and starlight, its diamond days and ebony nights, popular music sets aside a corner for imperfection, insufficiency, and aging. These songs root us in the everyday world most of us inhabit.

Episode #1940

10/5      Rodgers and Hart: Starting Out Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart wrote together unsuccessfully for six years before “Manhattan,” written for Garrick Gaieties of 1925, made them overnight sensations. Here are songs, famous and forgotten, from their first three successful years on Broadway.

Episode # 1939

9/28      Singin in the Rain: A History of Sorts. Drawing some circles around one of the most important songs in the history of the movies. It appeared in four or five different films as a charming pollyanna song with an implicitly rural feel (“I walk down the lane…”) but Gene Kelly defined it forever as an anthem of romantic euphoria set on a city street in a thunderstorm.

Episode # 1938

9/21      Wild About Myself. An exercise in unleashed egotism, a celebration of self that flips typical love songs a full hundred and eighty degrees. There’s only one face in the mirror, as most of the songs choose irony and comic immodesty to mere praise of a beloved. She may be perfect and the love may last forever, but she’ll have to wait her turn.