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.

Program # 1851

Songs about money (or its lack) and jobs (or their absence) proliferated during the Depression. When they were scarcest, we sang about them more often than at any other time.


Program # 1850

Singing about food reveals the character of the singer, whether it’s a lyric about lime jello, chicken soup, oysters or ham or hot dogs. You’re point of view is going to give something away about yourself or the somebody you love.


Program # 1849

During the 1930s, women were tough because they had to be, even when it came to love. It was a time for questioning and doubting just about everything, even love, especially when the singers were women.

Songbook -

Program # 1848

Working with lyricist Ted Koehler, Harold Arlen first established himself writing the scores for the Harlem Renaissance revues at the Cotton Club. He and Koehler wrote some of the great songs of the day, including “Stormy Weather” and “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.”

Fine Art America

Episode # 1847

11/24    Fifty-Fifty When the women who sang the urban blues added elements of independence, defiance, and sexuality, the blues became more influential than ever. As women’s place in society changed, they made demands and raised expectations. They expected to split things down the middle.


Episode # 1846

11/17    Old Friends Friends confide in one another, trust one another, back one another up. They also compete with one another, snipe at one another, and gossip. Friendship, like character, is complicated.

Episode # 1845

11/10    Ira Gershwin’s Cliches Because song lyrics are so short, songwriters often turned to cliches, a few words that everybody understood. But the best of the lyricists—Ira Gershwin among them—not only used them, he reinvented them and wrote about them. He brought them back to life. 

In Ira Gershwin Selected Lyrics by Robert Kimball, he writes: Ira Gershwin once remarked that he tried to capture the way people spoke to each other—their slang, their clichés, the catch phrases.


Episode # 1844

11/3      Canaries Through the 1930s and into the 1940s, big bands dominated popular music, but the band singers became increasingly important. The “boy singers” handled the romantic ballads,” but the “girl singers,” otherwise known as “canaries,” saw to the rhythm tunes. Among the best of them were Martha Tilton, Helen Ward, Helen O’Connell, and Helen Forrest.

Episode # 1843

In a time where hope seemed unthinkable, Pollyanna brought it to life. Listen to Michael Lasser's 10/27 show to see what songs got the American people through the overwhelming sadness of the Depression. 

10/27    Depression Pollyanna Songs In the 1920s, we wanted pollyanna songs; in the 1930s, we needed them. Unlike the pollyanna songs of the carefree Jazz Age, these are songs about hope and anticipation when they were more precious than ever.

Episode # 1842

How did one of America's most famous songwriters, Cole Porter, get his start? On his 10/20 broadcast, Michael Lasser discusses the composer's shakey beginnings and startling rise to fame. 

10/20    Early Cole Porter Cole Porter dropped out of Harvard Law School to write songs for Broadway musicals. He failed so utterly that he fled to Paris, where he spent much of the next decade. When he returned, he was ready for success. His first four shows after he returned were hits, and he was on his way to becoming what we think of when we hear his name.