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 #2038 (repeat of #1811)

Songs about coffee, especially from the Great Depression when we seemed to be addicted to it.

Episode # 2037

Everything jumped in the ‘40s when hepcats jitterbugged from Harlem to the Avalon Ballroom.

From The Vaults

Episode # 2036 (repeat of 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.

Episode # 2035     Mark Twain’s America

Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are in America’s DNA. Tom is a book for boys, Huck for adults, yet neither shrinks from the places in the human heart. Mark Twain’s America appears in the songs of his time, and in the songs written for stage and movie versions of his most famous novels, from the Disney version of Tom Sawyer to Roger Miller’s Broadway musical, Big River.

Episode # 2034    Bolero on Rye

Food isn’t the most common reference in song lyrics, but it does keep showing up, often in odd and unpredictable ways. You never know what spinach or salami will amount to in a popular song. As a result, 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. Your point of view is going to give something away.

Episode # 2033  Not Your Everyday Rain Songs

Songwriters aren’t necessarily great innovators, but the good ones have a gift for reinventing the familiar. They choose an image we all know and then we follow where they take us. Take rain, for instance, and watch what they can make of it. So many variables, so many differences in language, point of view, and tone, even though they all work within the constraints of a popular song.

Episode 2032        Arlen in Harlem

Working with the forgotten but underestimated lyricist Ted Koehler, Harold Arlen first established himself writing the songs for the Harlem Renaissance revues at the Cotton Club. He and Koehler wrote some of the great songs of the day, including “Stormy Weather,” “I’ve Got a Right To Sings the Blues,” and “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.”

Episode 2031  Hart on the Heart

When you write for Broadway, love songs are a necessity. Lorenz Hart was a tortured soul who somehow managed to write about love and romance. It helped that his viewpoint was ambiguous, even bittersweet, and usually laced with a dose of irony. More then any other songwriter, he knew all there was to know about what he once called “the self-deception that believes the lie.”

Episode 2030

7/25      Matchmaker: The Love Songs of Sheldon Harnick Lyricist Sheldon Harnick was never a household name despite his great success on Broadway--Fiddler on the Roof, Fiorello, She Loves Me, and more. Nothing was harder for him to write than love songs even though every musical requires them. He met the challenge in his own way.

Episode 2029

7/18      Business Girl Between the 1870s and the 1920s, when large numbers of young women left home and family for independent lives in the big city, they were daring a great deal--reputation, physical safety, homesickness, and conventional happiness. The composers and lyricists of the time told their stories in song.