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Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Ruth Lowe born 12 August 1914

Ruth Lowe (August 12, 1914 – January 4, 1981) was a Canadian pianist and songwriter.
After living in her early teens in California, she became a songplugger, playing piano in Toronto music stores at 16, promoting the sale of sheet music. With Sair Lee she performed in a two-piano team in Toronto nightclubs, and under the name Nancy Lee she worked in 1933 with the singer George Taggart on radio station CKNC.
She was staff pianist with CKLC; sang with The Shadows, a female vocal trio, on CKNC; and performed with Red Hickey's dance band before joining Ina Ray Hutton's all-girl orchestra 1935-7 in the USA.  Ruth was working in the 'Song Shop' in Toronto when Ina Ray Hutton brought her All-Girl band (the Melodears) to town. Her piano player had taken ill, and Ina was frantically trying to locate a good-looking blonde lady replacement. Ruth Lowe auditioned, and became the regular pianist in Ina Ray's band. She was pianist 1937-9 with the publishers Bregman, Vocco, and Conn in Chicago.
At age 23 (1938), Ruth married Harold Cohen, a Chicago music publicist. It was a very happy marriage that only lasted one year until Harold's tragic demise during an operation in 1939. In her deep grief, Ruth returned to live in Toronto. In her lonely apartment, she composed "I'll Never Smile Again". Americans think of this song as American. Canadians think of this song as Canadian.

The song was first heard on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's (CBC) radio program 'Music By Faith', in an arrangement by Percy Faith, a fine Canadian musician who would soon go on to fame in the USA and the world. Approximately a year later, Ruth passed a copy of the tune to a saxophone player in the Tommy Dorsey band, hoping to have Dorsey hear the tune.

Dorsey thought the tune had much merit, and arranged it for his very young singer, Frank Sinatra. It was Sinatra's first great hit, and really launched Sinatra on his phenomenal career. Later she composed still another Frank Sinatra hit "Put Your Dreams Away", Frank's 'signature' song, (which was also played at his funeral).  The latter song has also been recorded by Perry Como and Barry Manilow, and was sung by Gisèle MacKenzie on CBC Radio in 1950.
Lowe retired from performance in the early 1940s but continued to compose. In 1945, Ruth married Nathan Sandler and the union produced two sons, Tommy (who was named after the famous Tommy Dorsey) and Stephen.
Ruth Lowe passed away on 4 January 1981 at Toronto General Hospital.  She was 66 years old.
She received a Grammy Award, when the 23 May 1940 version of "I'll Never Smile Again," entered the Grammy Hall of Fame, in 1982. The American Hall of Fame inducted her posthumously. The Canadian Walk of Fame declined to recognize Ruth Lowe, in any way. The musical Ruthie, based on Lowe's life and employing several of her songs, was staged by Dinah Christie and produced in 1990 by the Smile Theatre Company of Toronto. The songwriter's story is chronicled in the video documentary I'll Never Smile Again: The Ruth Lowe Story (Great North Productions Inc., 2001), which was broadcast as part of the television series The Canadians.

In 2003, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame belatedly inducted Ruth Lowe.
(Info various mainly The Canadian Encyclopedia and Wikipedia)

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