Regina Spektor is a Jewish American singer-songwriter and pianist.
Born in Moscow in 1980 to a musical Russian Jewish family, Spektor learned to play piano at an early age. Her music is influenced by folk, punk, rock, Jewish, Russian, hip hop, jazz, and classical music styles.
Spektor learned to play piano on a Petrof upright that she inherited from her maternal grandfather. At a young age she was exposed to rock and roll music, such as The Beatles and Queen, by her father, who got the recordings in Eastern Europe and traded cassettes with friends in the Former Soviet Union (FSU).
In 1989, the Spektor family left the FSU because of its unbearable discrimination of Jews, during Peristroika, when Soviet citizens were allowed to emigrate. They came to the United States through Austria and Italy, and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) helped them reach the U.S. where they settled in The Bronx. Spektor graduated from the SAR Academy, a Jewish day school in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. She went to the Frisch School, a yeshiva in Paramus, New Jersey, for the first two years of high school but graduated from Fair Lawn High School, also in New Jersey.
Until age seventeen, Spektor studied classical piano at the Manhattan School of Music, and later transitioned to hip hop, rock, and punk music. She first realized her aptitude for songwriting while hiking on a trip to Israel with the independent organization Nesiya, which facilitates Jewish American and Israeli teenagers’ connection to Israel through the arts. She was exposed to the work of Joni Mitchell, Ani DeFranco, among other singer-songwriters, which inspired confidence and prompted her to create her own songs. Spektor wrote her first songs for voice at age sixteen and for piano at age eighteen.
Spektor graduated with honors in 2001 from the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College, a four-year degree that she completed in three years. She gradually achieved recognition for her unique voice and musical style through performances in the anti-folk scene in downtown New York City following conservatory. Among the venues where she performed are the Living Room, Tonic, Fez, and the Knitting Factory, and local colleges such as Sarah Lawrence College.
During this early stage in her musical career, Spektor self-published the CDs 11:11 (2001) and Songs (2002), and signed a contract with Warner Brothers’ record label Sire Records to publish and distribute her third album, Soviet Kitsch.
Spektor’s musical style is influenced by folk, punk, rock, Jewish, Russian, hip hop, jazz, and classical music. She has a broad vocal range and employs a singular blend of vocal techniques, using for example beatbox-style noises and sings ballad-like lyrics. Her lyrics are similarly eclectic, and some include literary allusions to the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf.
Spektor’s other albums are Begin to Hope (2006), Far (2009), and What We Saw from the Cheap Seats (2012). Begin to Hope was nominated for the Shortlist Music Prize and she won Studio8's Female Voice of August 2009.
Spektor is a proud Jew and speaks openly about her connection to Judaism, has performed in Israel, and at the Washington, D.C. Celebration of Israel’s 60th Birthday on the National Mall in June 2008, as well as at a 2012 concert in New York City to benefit HIAS. In 2009, she describes her family’s move to the U.S. in a HIAS promotional video series called “myStory,” to commemorate the organization’s 130th anniversary.
In 2009, in the middle of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, Spektor articulated that “no government in the world would not protect its citizens from attack. That’s unlawful,” she said. “And it’s not sticks and stones, as many of my friends and relatives in Israel know. It’s rockets … And there are different laws and rules for a Jewish government? If you prick us do we not bleed?”