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.

Fascinatin’ Rhythm: Roses, Babes, and Gals, 08/04/18

Jul 31, 2018

Episode # 1831 

8/4        Roses, Babes, and Gals—Most songwriters are men so most songs are about women—by name or nickname or term of affection. The terms of affection become honorifics in popular songs. A single word to express affection, desire, and happiness. A quick mention of baby or the girl you love named Rose, and the song is underway. For something as quick and brief a song lyric, a label does the trick.

Fascinatin’ Rhythm: The Rainbow Sign, 07/28/18

Jul 22, 2018
Greg McCown

Episode # 1830

7/28      The Rainbow Sign Is there anything new to say about a rainbow? The task and trick for songwriters is to reinvent what we all know without casting it off. The thing about rainbows is that they show up everywhere. There are a lot more songs about rainbows that there are actual rainbows. And they show up in every kind of song from a lullaby to heavy metal. The show starts with a folk song and a cowboy song, just to make the point.

Fun Fact: Rainbows caused by sunlight always appear in the section of sky directly opposite the sun.

Episode # 1829

7/21      Frank Sinatra 100 Years Later - Frank Sinatra was born slightly more than a century ago, but this isn’t an hour of biography. It’s a brief, incomplete attempt to shed some light on his achievement. He was at his best with what he called “saloon songs,” because he was the ultimate bruised romantic. He was a good actor in movies but a superb actor in songs. He makes you feel as if he’s inventing the song as he sings it.

To quote a song whose lyrics were written by Paul Anka and was set to the tune of the French song Comme d'habitude:
To think I did all that
And may I say - not in a shy way
Oh no, oh no, not me
I did it my way

My Way, Frank Sinatra

Fascinatin’ Rhythm: Fascinating Rhythm, 07/14/18

Jul 8, 2018

Episode # 1828 

7/14      Fascinating RhythmWhen rhythm songs were at this peak, and the story of the man who introduced the most famous of them. Cliff Edwards taught himself to play the ukulele to attract customers when he was a paperboy. After touring in vaudeville, he made his way to New York where he played the Palace, starred on Broadway, and made recordings. He also made early musicals in Hollywood before his stardom faded and he disappeared in the 1930s.

Edwards is also known as the orginal speaking and singing voice of Jiminy Cricket in Walt Disney's Pinocchio (1940).

Fascinatin’ Rhythm: Razzle Dazzle, 07/07/18

Jul 1, 2018

Episode # 1827

7/7        Razzle DazzleSongs are often self-referential. They sing about song, music, and singing. Sometimes they sing about a larger subject—show business, itself, that combination of commerce and entertainment that can lift the spirit with its shameless razzle dazzle.

Featured in the picture to your left is Bob Fosse and his wife, Gwen Verdon. Fosse was they king of razzle dazzle, known for creating the distinctive choreography style used in dazzling shows including: Chicago, Cabaret, Pippin, Damn Yankees, The Pajama Game, Sweet Charity, and others.

Episode # 1826

6/30      Kris Kristoffersen Writes and Sings  The varied career and very good songs of Kris Kristoffersen who went from being a Rhodes scholar to writing Country music standards that also crossover success, and playing both leads and character roles in movies. But at the heart of it all are the songs, especially the melancholy ballads, from “Me and Bobby McGee” to “Help Me Make It Through the Night.”

From The Vaults

Episode # 1825

6/23      The Golden Age of Cabaret  Back in the 1950s, the spice of Manhattan night life wasn’t the Copa or the Latin Quarter, but an often short-lived batch of tiny clubs where those on the in gathered to hear singers of style and sophistication who brought songs alive by singing with intelligence and fidelity, and underlining the words with jazz-tinged piano playing. Here’s an hour with cabaret royalty—Mabel Mercer, Blossom Dearie, and Bobby Short.

esl seven-eight

Episode # 1824

6/16      Depression Dreams During a dark time, large numbers of people looked for a way out, a way to escape if only for a few minutes at a time. The popular songs of the day were often dark and blues-tinged but they also offered respite in a vision of what might happen, what could come true. The decade of the Great Depression was overloaded with songs about dreaming.

Kritzerland Records

Episode # 1823

6/9       Follies and Stephen Sondheim’s Pastiche  A theater comes down and an era in American theatrical history ends with it. To tell his story and recreate the era in Follies, Stephen Sondheim writes a score in which nearly every song reflects a different style, time, or songwriter. In total, it becomes his homage to American song.

Episode # 1822

6/2       Modernity  Modernism largely ignored popular music but popular music paid close (if selective) attention to how Modernist values, attitudes, and behavior affected the lives of ordinary people. As assumptions broke down and a passion for the New roiled the culture, Modernity in music pulled it off with ease, thanks to the engaging sound of American syncopation. Hike up your skirts, learn to kiss (and more), and rag everything in sight.