Kobi Recht 88 248.
(photo credit: Ariel Besor)
Kobi Recht says he doesn't exactly feel his age but, since his pals are insisting, he doesn't mind celebrating his landmark birthday with a prestigious gig. "It's a great idea, and it's really heartwarming that my friends and professional colleagues are coming out to pay tribute to me," says the 60-year-old singer-songwriter-actor.
This Friday (at 1 p.m.), the likes of Rami Kleinstein, Ethnix, Ehud Banai and Dori Ben-Ze'ev will turn out at Tel Aviv's Enav Center to salute the veteran artist with a musical spot or two. He has had, thus far, a rich and varied career spanning several continents and genres.
Recht first caught the music bug in the golden era of rock and roll, and he didn't take long to put his newfound love into practice. "I really dug guys like [early Sixties soul singer] Ben E. King, Elvis and Fats Domino, and I got into Frank Sinatra from my dad's records," he recalls. "I liked Kurt Weil songs too."
Once bitten, Recht soon got his show on the road. "I got a band together when I was 15. I think we were the first rhythm band in Tel Aviv. We played all over the city, at all kinds of places, like the Kalif [in Yaffo]. That was a crazy time, and a great time to be around."
Yet even before he strummed his first Sixties cover, Recht had already gotten experience in the entertainment business. "I started out in theater when I was nine, in some plays by Menahem Golan. When I was 13, I played in Julius Caesar at Habima. I was some kind of wunderkind."
Four years later, radio journalist-playwright Dan Ben-Amotz took him under his wing. "Dan took me to do speeches from Julius Caesar, in English, on Fridays at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv. It was quite a hit. Dan was my first real patron."
After serving in the IDF Central Command band, Recht became a prominent feature on the local music scene, which was when preeminent composer-pianist Sasha Argov discovered him. "I have always admired Sasha," says Recht. "Even though he came from Russia, for me he was the quintessential Israeli composer-musician. He has this mixture of sophistication and simplicity that encapsulates Israeliness."
AFTER OVER four decades in the business, Recht is in a position to look back at the evolution of our commercial music sector, and to pass learned judgment on where we are today. "These days, ratings are so important. I feel that gets in the way of true creativity. In my day there was none of that. I am so glad I grew up when I did, free of all this media over-exposure, and all the pressure to churn out the hits. Back then we didn't have drum machines and all the technology they have today. You had to be good and do it all yourself."
Recht also knows a thing or two about the development of the global scene. He spent no less than seven years plying his trade in the States, two years in Holland and another six in Paris. While in France he signed with CBS and produced a hit single called "Mexico" that sold over two million copies. "Those were great times," Recht recalls, "but, in the end, I wanted to come home to Israel. I was born eight months before the State. A friend of mine once said to me that my bond with Israel is stronger than the one I have with music. I'd rather be working and living here than mixing it with the big boys out there."
This Friday's tribute show will feature a program of songs either written or translated by Recht. The repertoire will include Hebrew versions of the late Sixties Jimmy Cliff soul number "Many Rivers to Cross," the Cole Partner 1930s standard "I Get a Kick out of You" and 1940s song "Nature Boy."
"I've also written about 30 songs which I plan to put on a new album soon," says Recht. "I may be 60, but I'm not planning on slowing down. You can bet on that."
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