REGINA ILYINICHNA SPEKTOR (/rɪˈdʒiːnə ˈspɛktər/ , Russian :
Реги́нa Ильи́нична Спе́ктор, IPA: ; born
February 18, 1980) is a Russian-born American singer-songwriter and
pianist. She was born in
Soviet Union , now
and began classical training on the piano at the age of six. When she
was nine years old, her family emigrated from the
Soviet Union to the
United States , where she continued her classical training into her
teenage years; she began to write original songs shortly thereafter.
After self-releasing her first three records and gaining popularity
in New York City's independent music scenes , particularly the
anti-folk scene centered on New York City's East Village , Spektor
Sire Records in 2004 and began achieving greater
mainstream recognition. After giving her third album a major label
re-release, Sire released her fourth album,
Begin to Hope
Begin to Hope , which
would go on to achieve a Gold certification by the
RIAA . Her
following two albums, Far and
What We Saw from the Cheap Seats , each
debuted at number 3 on the
Billboard 200 .
* 1 Early life and musical beginnings
* 2 Career
* 2.1 2001–06: Career beginnings
* 2.2 2006–09:
Begin to Hope
Begin to Hope
* 2.3 2009–12: Far
* 2.4 2012–16:
What We Saw from the Cheap Seats
* 2.5 2016–present:
Remember Us to Life
* 3 Voice and style
* 4 Appearances in the media
* 5 Personal life
* 6 Philanthropy
* 7 Discography
* 8 Awards and nominations
* 9 References
* 10 External links
EARLY LIFE AND MUSICAL BEGINNINGS
Spektor was born in 1980 in Moscow,
Soviet Union , to a musical
Russian Jewish family. Her father, Ilya Spektor, is a photographer and
amateur violinist. Her mother, Bella Spektor, was a music professor in
a Soviet college of music and teaches at a public elementary school in
Mount Vernon, New York . She has a brother Boruch (also known as
Bear), who was featured in track 7, "* * *", or "Whisper", of her 2004
Soviet Kitsch . Growing up in Moscow, Regina learned how to
play the piano by practising on a
Petrof upright that her grandfather
gave her mother. She grew up listening to classical music and famous
Russian bards like
Vladimir Vysotsky and
Bulat Okudzhava . Her
father, who obtained recordings in Eastern Europe and traded cassettes
with friends in the Soviet Union, also exposed her to rock and roll
bands such as the Beatles , Queen , and the Moody
The family left the
Soviet Union in 1989, when Regina was nine and a
half, during the period of
Perestroika , when Soviet citizens were
permitted to emigrate. Regina had to leave her piano behind. The
seriousness of her piano studies led her parents to consider not
leaving the Soviet Union, but they finally decided to emigrate, due to
the racial, ethnic, and political discrimination that Jews faced.
Traveling first to Austria and then Italy, the Spektor family was
admitted to the
United States as refugees with the assistance of HIAS
(the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society). They settled in the Bronx , where
Spektor graduated from the
SAR Academy , a Jewish day middle school in
the Riverdale section of the Bronx. Since the family had been unable
to bring their piano from Moscow, Spektor practiced on tabletops and
other hard surfaces until she found a piano on which to play in the
basement of her synagogue. In New York City, Spektor studied classical
piano with Sonia Vargas, a professor at the Manhattan School of Music
, until she was 17; Spektor's father had met Vargas through Vargas'
husband, violinist Samuel Marder. Spektor attended high school for
two years at the
Frisch School , a yeshiva in
Paramus, New Jersey ,
but transferred to a public school,
Fair Lawn High School , in Fair
Lawn, New Jersey , where she finished the last two years of her high
Spektor was originally interested in classical music only, but later
became interested in hip hop , rock, and punk as well. Although she
had always made up songs around the house, she first became interested
in more formal songwriting during a visit to Israel with the Nesiya
Institute in her teenage years when she attracted attention from the
other children on the trip for the songs she made up while hiking.
Following this trip, she was exposed to the works of
Joni Mitchell ,
Ani DiFranco , and other singer-songwriters, which encouraged her
belief that she could create her own songs. She wrote her first a
cappella songs around the age of 16 and her first songs for voice and
piano when she was nearly 18.
Spektor completed the four-year studio composition program of the
Conservatory of Music at Purchase College within three years,
graduating with honors in 2001. Around this time, she also worked
briefly at a butterfly farm in
Luck, Wisconsin , and studied in
Tottenham (in North London) for one term.
2001–06: CAREER BEGINNINGS
Spektor gradually achieved recognition through performances in the
anti-folk scene in downtown New York City, most prominently at the
SideWalk Cafe . She also performed at local colleges
Sarah Lawrence College ) with other musicians, including the
Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players . She sold self-published CDs at
her performances during this period: 11:11 (2001) and Songs (2002).
Spektor's first nationwide tour was accompanying
The Strokes as the
opening act on their 2003–2004
Room on Fire tour which included
The Theater at Madison Square Garden . While on the
tour, she and the band performed and recorded "Modern Girls ">
Spektor performing in
Brighton on October 26, 2006
Listeners of Sirius Radio 's Left of Center channel voted her single
"Fidelity" as the No. 1 song of 2006. Towards the end of 2006, VH1
showcased her as part of their "You Oughta Know: Artists on the Rise"
featurettes, playing clips from the "Fidelity" music video and showing
parts of an interview with Spektor during commercial breaks on the
channel. Spektor's video for "Fidelity" reached No. 3 on VH1's Top 20
Countdown. Spektor reached No. 33 on Blender magazine's top 100 of
2006 and was also listed as one of the "Hottest Women of...Rock!". On
January 21, 2007, she was given an extensive feature on CBS News
Sunday Morning which showcased her musical beginnings and growing
In 2007, Spektor began performing at several major music festivals
Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival , Bonnaroo Music
Virgin Festival and Austin City Limits Music
Festival . On October 1, 2007, her video for "Better" was released on
VH1 and YouTube, where it was viewed more than 100,000 times within
the first 24 hours. Spektor performed acoustic at Neil Young\'s Bridge
School Benefit at
Shoreline Amphitheatre on October 27, 2007.
On November 14, 2007, at her concert at
Ryman Auditorium in
Nashville, Spektor collapsed during the sound check and was taken to a
local emergency room. According to the statement given to the
audience, Spektor was fine, but doctors said that she could not
perform that night. It was later reported that the cause of the
collapse was an inner ear infection which caused intense vertigo . The
show was initially rescheduled for December 6, 2007, but the date was
once again rescheduled, and the concert finally occurred on February
29, 2008. After her initial collapse in Nashville, she was able to
perform in concerts at
Mountain Stage , in West Virginia, on November
18, 2007 (the concert was aired in September 2008), and at Duke
University on November 19, 2007.
Spektor wrote the song "The Call" for the 2008 film The Chronicles of
Narnia: Prince Caspian , which appeared prominently in the film's
finale sequence. She then appeared as a guest vocalist on "You Don\'t
Know Me ", a single from Ben Folds\' 2008 album, "
Way to Normal ". In
promotion for the single, the duo performed the song together on
several late-night talk shows .
Spektor's fifth album Far was released June 23, 2009. For the record
she worked with four producers: David Kahne (who had previously worked
with Spektor on Begin to Hope),
Mike Elizondo ,
Jacknife Lee and Jeff
Lynne . The record sold 50,000 copies in its first week, entering the
Billboard 200 at number three; the record remained on the chart for
19 weeks. The album peaked at number 30 and 16 in the UK and Canada,
respectively. She then headlined at Serpentine Sessions, a series of
concerts at London's Hyde Park on June 29, 2009. Other European
performances in 2009 include
Glastonbury Festival , Hultsfred Festival
Oxegen 2009 ,
T in the Park , Paradiso ,
Latitude Festival , and
Rock Werchter . Spektor invited Brooklyn-based rock band Jupiter One
to open concerts on her 2009 North American tour. As a part of that
tour, on October 14, 2009, Spektor headlined a concert at the Radio
City Music Hall in NYC. On September 16, 2009, it was announced that
Spektor would write the music for the musical Beauty, a modern
adaptation of the fairy tale
Sleeping Beauty , which was initially set
to open during the 2011–12 Broadway season. Regina made her
Saturday Night Live debut on October 10, 2009, performing "
Eet " and
"The Calculation" off of Far.
In May 2010, Spektor performed for
President Obama and his wife
Michelle along with hundreds of other guests at the White House
reception in honor of Jewish Heritage Month . She performed "Us" and
"The Sword Spektor had not yet returned since fleeing with her family
In 2012, Spektor was christened an official "Steinway Artist"; she
plays Steinway she sings a remix of "
Dear Theodosia " with
Ben Folds .
VOICE AND STYLE
Spektor in concert, February 2006
Spektor's primary instrument is the piano though she plays the guitar
as a secondary instrument, primarily playing on a seafoam Epiphone
Wildkat archtop hollow-body electric guitar for live performances.
Spektor has said that she has created a great number of songs but
rarely writes any of them down. Spektor's songs are not usually
autobiographical but are based on scenarios and characters drawn from
her imagination. Her songs show influences from folk , punk ,
rock, Jewish , Russian , hip hop , jazz , and classical music.
Spektor has said that she works hard to ensure that each of her songs
has its own musical style, rather than trying to develop a distinctive
style for her music as a whole:
"It doesn't feel natural for me to write some diary type song. I want
to write a classic like Yesterday but weird songs about meatballs in
refrigerators come into my head – I can't help it."
Spektor performs using a broad vocal range , with a falsetto
extension, but without any apparent break. She explores a variety of
different and somewhat unorthodox vocal techniques, such as verses
composed entirely of buzzing noises made with the lips and beatbox
-style flourishes in the middle of ballads, and also makes use of such
unusual musical techniques as using a drum stick to tap rhythms on the
body of a chair. Part of her style also results from the
exaggeration of certain aspects of vocalization, most notably the
glottal stop , prominent in the single "Fidelity ". She also uses a
New York accent on some words, which she has said is due to her
love of New York and its culture.
Her lyrics are equally eclectic, often taking the form of abstract
narratives or first-person character studies, similar to short stories
or vignettes put to song. Spektor usually sings in English, though
she sometimes includes a few words or verses of
Latin , Russian,
French, and other languages in her songs. She also plays with
pronunciations, which she said on a
NPR interview to be a remnant of
her early years when she listened to pop in English without
understanding the lyrics. Some of Spektor's lyrics include literary
allusions, such as:
F. Scott Fitzgerald and
Ernest Hemingway in "Poor
Little Rich Boy";
The Little Prince in "Baobabs";
Virginia Woolf and
Margaret Atwood in "Paris";
Ezra Pound and
William Shakespeare in
"Pound of Flesh",
Boris Pasternak in "Après Moi";
Samson and Delilah
Oedipus Rex in "Oedipus"; Edith Wharton's
Ethan Frome in
"2.99¢ Blues". Recurring themes and topics in Spektor's lyrics
include love, death, religion (particularly Biblical and Jewish
references), city life (particularly New York references), and certain
key phrases which recur in different songs, such as references to
gravediggers , the
Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the name
"Mary Ann". Spektor's use of satire is evident in "Wasteside", which
The Twelve Chairs , the classic satirical novel by the
Ilf and Petrov , and describes the town in which people
are born, get their hair cut, and then are sent to the cemetery.
Spektor's first, self-released album, 11:11 , was recorded and
self-released while she was still in college. The album differs from
Spektor's later releases as she was heavily influenced by blues and
jazz at the time of its recording. Her second album, Songs , was
recorded on Christmas Day, 2001. Each song was recorded with just one
take and is entirely acoustic. The session from which the album was
derived was not originally intended as an album recording session.
Her third album,
Soviet Kitsch , featured strings on several songs and
was her first to feature a full rock band. Upon signing with a major
label which in turn provided a bigger budget for production and studio
time, Spektor's albums began to put more emphasis into song production
and feature more prominent use of traditional pop and rock
Spektor says the records that most impact her are those of "bands
whose music is really involved", specifically naming the Beatles ,
Bob Dylan ,
Billie Holiday ,
Tom Waits , and Frédéric
Chopin as primary influences.
APPEARANCES IN THE MEDIA
Spektor performing at the
Hammerstein Ballroom on October 16,
2007 Spektor performing in the
West London Synagogue , February
Since 2005, Spektor's music has been used in various television
programs and commercials. In late 2005, "Us" (from Soviet Kitsch) was
used in a commercial as part of the What Do You Want To Watch? series
for the United Kingdom's
British Sky Broadcasting
British Sky Broadcasting , and in the summer
of 2006, a clip from the same song was used for the teaser website for
Microsoft 's Zune project at ComingZune.com, as well as for a
promotional campaign for
MtvU , and by Dutch telecom company
KPN in a
"Somedays" was used in a 2005 episode of CSI: NY and "Samson" was
used in a 2006 episode of the same series. "On the Radio " was used in
an episode of ABC's Grey\'s Anatomy . "Field Below" was used in a 2006
episode (titled "The Last Word") of CBS's
Criminal Minds , and "Music
Box" has been used in a commercial for JC Penney.
"Fidelity" has been used in an episode of
Grey's Anatomy (titled "Six
Days, Part 2"), on
Veronica Mars ("
Wichita Linebacker "), on Brothers
& Sisters , in the trailer for the 2007 film 27 Dresses, in the
A Favorita , and during the end credits of Love
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