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.

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.

Episode #2101

1/2   Good Times and Bad. As a dark year turns into something we hope will bring some light, we confront the reality--in songs, of course, that good and bad persist. We’re due for some of the good--those songs that try to cheer us up. They may be delusional but they’re often irresistible, at least for the three minutes they last.

Episode #2052

Resolutions and Promises  Everybody’s smart enough to know that resolutions are hokum. Yet we continue to make them, knowing we’ll break them. Why we make them at the New Year is obvious—starting over and all that. But we also make them all year long—for ourselves and other people. We confuse hope with wish, wish with behavior, and we wind up where we started.

Episode #2051

Johnny Mercer Starts a Company   In 1942, Johnny Mercer became the only songwriter ever to found a major record company. He, Buddy DeSylva, and Glenn Wallichs teamed up to start Capitol Records, but it was Mercer’s idea. And popular music changed as a result.

Episode #2050

Animal Crackers  Animals range from the real to the make believe. In songs, they often appear as part of a juvenile strain—either sung by a child, or sung by an adult who’s imitating a child. Either way, there’s something in them that borders on the goofy, especially when they come from the 1920s.  Few tender ballads but a lot of exuberant comedy in songs about the beasts, the birds, and the bees.

Episode #2049 

Dick Haymes Croons  As one of the best singers of tender ballads during the 1940s, Dick Haymes established himself as one of the most important members of a generation that included holdovers like Bing Crosby and newcomers like Frank Sinatra. Even though he may have sung other things from time to time, his sweet-voiced renderings of romantic ballads defined his career.