Regina Spektor on protest, activism and being a refugee

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Just a few days after President Trump declared a travel ban on refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries, musician Regina Spektor sat behind the piano at KCRW’s studio and recalled her journey to the US as a refugee when she was nine years old.

“I came here with refugee status, so my heart really goes out to all the people,” she said.

Spektor, who is Jewish, emigrated to the US from the former Soviet Union, fearing religious persecution. “We weren’t fleeing because our physical lives were in danger, we were fleeing because there was anti-Semitism and there was no freedom of religion; so that’s your spiritual life being in danger, your cultural life being in danger.”

Reflecting on Trump’s travel ban, Spektor said, “It just really hurts that things are being done on our behalf as a people that don’t seem to reflect our progressive nature.”

Just a few weeks ago, she played in front of thousands of progressively-minded citizens at the Women’s March in LA, adding a bit of improvisation to a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind.

However, in the days leading up to the march, Spektor said a panic set in. She recalled hearing Stalin-era stories of “people being taken out and never heard from again, because they made a joke at a party – or just the destruction of the intellectuals and the people who were philosophers and poets and artists.”

That changed at the march. “When I got there it was such a beautiful and positive coming together of people who just want basic human rights, decency and the ideals of the highest dream that this country represents to the world to be held up.”

On Morning Becomes Eclectic, she chose to play an old favorite, “Ballad of a Politician,” as part of her set. It begins with these lyrics:

“A man inside a room is shaking hands with other men

This is how it happens

Our carefully laid plans.”

Listen to the full interview and set:

(Photo by Larry Hirshowitz)