Cover image for Musically speaking : a life through song
Musically speaking : a life through song
Westheimer, Ruth K. (Ruth Karola), 1928-
Publication Information:
Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
143 pages ; 23 cm.
Dear bird, fly on -- Thoughts are free -- Our hope is not lost -- Je ne regrette rien -- If I can make it there--.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML3920 .W33 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
ML3920 .W33 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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"Music, I have come to realize, is for me a kind of golden thread running through my life. It has helped maintain my connection with the past that otherwise might have been severed by catastrophe and time. I am often asked--indeed, I often wonder myself--why it is that I should always have had such joie de vivre in the face of the losses and dislocations I had to endure in my early years. The answer I always gave was that the warmth and security of my early childhood had a remarkable power and influence. This is certainly true. But now I have realized that there is another part to the answer. And that is music."--from the introduction

Who among us does not have a song that triggers vivid memories--of jubilation, of belonging, of sorrow, of love? In Musically Speaking , Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer, one of America's most beloved personalities, has written a warm and contemplative book about the role music has played in her life and the ineradicable traces it has left on her thoughts, emotions, her very being.

In this memoir through song, Dr. Ruth invites us to share her story from a uniquely musical perspective. By the time she was thirty, Ruth Westheimer had lived in five countries, each with a distinctive musical culture, each with a different hold on her sensibility. For the first ten years of her life, the comforting melodies of childhood helped drown out the anthems of Nazism to be heard elsewhere in her native Germany; as an adolescent refugee in Switzerland, she came to be aware that, however loudly she sang the patriotic songs of the land that gave her shelter, she could never truly be at home there.

Present at the creation of the modern state of Israel, she sang and danced to the new music of a new nation; as a young woman eagerly absorbing all that Paris had to offer in the way of romance and worldliness in the early 1950s, the songs of Edith Piaf, Mouloudji, and Yves Montand were her tutors. An almost accidental emigration to America brought new challenges and new stability, as she became a wife, mother, and professional; tremendous and unforeseen celebrity came later, and with it the giddy opportunity to indulge her love of music as never before.

Always, the classical repertoire of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, and Brahms has drawn Westheimer to a German culture that has belonged--and not belonged--to her throughout her life. And always, the music of the Jewish tradition has given her strength and comfort beyond words.

Affording a view of Dr. Ruth from a rare private vantage point, Musically Speaking offers wondrous testimony to the resilience of the human spirit. This is a book full of color, verve, humor, and wisdom, unfolding gracefully through the beloved music of the Jewish holidays, the lullabies of childhood, the songs that sustained an orphan and roused the courage of a young woman, the melodies that enable a widow grieving for her husband to recall, from deep within the years of love, companionship, and happiness.

Author Notes

Ruth K. Westheimer, 1928 - Ruth K. Westheimer was born in Germany in 1928, she went to a school in Switzerland at the age of 10, which became an orphanage for most of the German/Jewish students sent there. At 16 she went to Israel where she fought for that country's independence as member of the Haganah. She then moved to Paris where she studied psychology at the Sorbonne and taught kindergarten.

Westheimer immigrated to the U.S. in 1956, where she received her Masters degree in Sociology and her Doctorate in Education from Columbia University. She studied human sexuality with Dr. Helen Singer-Kaplan at New York Hospital-Cornell University Medical Center.

Dr. Westheimer is a pioneer in "sexual literacy." She has twice been named "College Lecturer of the Year." Westheimer is a Psychosexual Therapist who helped pioneer the field of Media Psychology with her radio program "Sexually Speaking" which began in September, 1980 . "The Dr. Ruth Show," which aired on the Lifetime channel, has been syndicated nationally and internationally.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Despite her tone deafness, says Westheimer, an expert in the field of human sexuality, music has played a significant role in her life. In this touching and frequently witty account, Westheimer describes how particular melodies have been meaningful to her during both sad and happy times. As a 10-year-old Jewish girl in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1938, she was accepted as a refugee in a Swiss orphanage. Although she was spared certain death in Nazi Germany, Westheimer and the other refugees were regarded as second-class citizens by the Swiss and forced to do housework instead of getting an education. One of her outlets during this harsh childhood was to sing familiar Hebrew and German songs with the other children. Play-songs like "Backe, backe Kuchen" (Bake, bake a cake) that she sang while still attending school in Germany link her to the parents she lost in the Holocaust. In the Palestine kibbutz where the author lived after the war, Jewish Agency songs, written in Hebrew, are remembered as the soundtrack to her life. Westheimer loves American musical comedy and also greatly enjoys dancing: she recalls the night she startled the audience by getting up and dancing at an Elton John concert. Even though she admits she's not knowledgeable about composers or music theory, attending classical concerts is powerful and cleansing for her-and she expresses that experience nicely in this heartfelt memoir. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved