What Others Say
Raised in New Jersey in the shadow of Broadway, Michael Lasser is a
lecturer, writer, broadcaster, critic, and teacher. Growing up “with
Manhattan on my left and the Jersey Shore on my right,” he saw his first
Broadway musical at the age of ten. “I can’t imagine my life
without the theater and its songs,” he says.
He is the author City Songs and American Life, 1900-1950,
published in 2019, as well as America’s Songs II: Songs from the 1890s to the
Post-War Years (2006), a companion to his and Philip Furia’s
America’s Songs: The Stories Behind the Songs of Broadway, Hollywood,
and Tin Pan Alley.
A look at more than 500 classic American songs, these books
illuminate the ways in which the great songs of the American Songbook
meld words and music, sentiment and wit, into a seamless whole. They
also trace the process of collaboration, the give-and-take between
composer and lyricist that results in a finished song.
The songs in these books are the basis for his nationally syndicated
public radio program, Fascinatin’ Rhythm, winner of a 1994
for letting “our treasury of popular tunes speak (and sing) for itself
with sparkling commentary tracing the contributions of the composers and
performers to American society.” The weekly program explores the history
and themes of American popular music through a series of “radio essays”
illustrated by recordings. Since September 1989, it has been heard on as
many as 120 stations from Orlando to San Francisco to Honolulu.
For 25 years, Lasser was also the theater critic for The Rochester
Democrat & Chronicle, and a member of the Speaker’s Bureau of the
New York Council for the Humanities. He has spoken at universities and
art and history museums in 38 states and the District of Columbia, and
also appears with two singers in cabaret-style performances enhanced by
his knowledge of the songwriters and their songs, and his insight into
how these songs amuse us and stir our emotions.
taught the history of the Broadway musical at colleges and universities,
and has been a free-lance writer for a wide range of national magazines.
He was also a major contributor to the standard work, American Song
Lyricists, 1920-1960, and
in 2010, he was named a Thomas P. Johnson Distinguished Visiting
Scholar at Rollins College. He has also
taught at Rutgers University, St. John Fisher College, and
He is a
graduate of Dartmouth College, holds an M.A. from Brooklyn College, and
did additional graduate work at Rutgers University. He is married
and has two grown children and one grandchild.