Rick Recht’s name may not be familiar to you, but you’ve probably heard his music. Recht, a rising star of the contemporary Jewish music scene, returns to Portland after a 10-year hiatus for a family concert on Nov. 18, as part of the Jewish Federation’s Super Sunday phonathon.
Recht, a 42-year-old native of St. Louis, began his musical career playing secular music and touring with a wide variety of nationally known artists, including The Guess Who, Chris Rock, America, Three Dog Night and The Allman Brothers, among others. After releasing two critically acclaimed secular albums, Good Thing and Reality, Recht returned to his Jewish roots in 1999 with his debut Jewish album, Tov. Today, Recht has, in his words, “evolved.”
“Once I started playing Jewish music, it became something of an epiphany for me. I realized that I’m an educator and music is my means of expression.” Recht’s role as an educator is central to his work. As his official bio points out, he has become an icon, particularly for Jewish youth in the United States, elevating the medium of Jewish music as a powerful and effective tool for developing Jewish pride and identity.
Recht’s music appeals to all strands of the Jewish spectrum, from Reconstructionist to Orthodox. “I feel like I’m a liaison, part of the bigger picture,” he says. “We’re all creating a Jewish experience together.” Recht is particularly interested in replicating the Orthodox community’s use of emerging media to reach out to Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative Jews. “The Orthodox community has cultivated a huge culture of media and technology with sites like Aish.com and Chabad.org; they’re very media-savvy. Mainstream Jewish movements like Reform and Reconstructionist, when it comes to media and technology, can’t hold a candle to the Orthodox.”
Recht describes his songs as vehicles for building community. Their easy-to-remember melodies are purposefully designed to be accessible and simple to learn. In a recent phone interview, Recht said, “When I write Jewish music, I write from the perspective of the entire community. If people can’t sing along after hearing the melody once, I need to rewrite it.”
Recht attributes the appeal of his songs to his penchant for singable melodies and memorable hooks; he grew up listening to the rock/pop music of James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg and Joni Mitchell. “Melodies of that type speak to all ages,” Recht explains. “But I also think my music appeals as much for its content, particularly its tikkun olam aspects, as the sound of the music itself.”
“I love it when everyone’s singing and I can’t hear my own voice anymore,” Recht adds. “When I was writing secular music, I was writing me-centric music, love songs and songs about things that happened in my life. When I write Jewish music, I write from the perspective of the entire community. My goal for every concert is that from the moment people enter to the time they leave, they’ll feel a sense of commonality, a sense of communal purpose. I want them to feel more proud to be Jewish.”
Rick Recht in Concert
4:30 pm, Nov. 18 at MJCC
Presented by PJ Library and Jewish Federation of Greater Portland
Tickets: 5 and under, free; age 6-adult, $7; family, $18; special family pack, $36, includes Rick Recht CD (advance tickets only)
Tickets available at www.jewishportland.org/rickrecht or call JFGP at 503-245-6219