As March – Women’s History Month – continues, let’s have a look at one of the earliest liberated females who worked in a man's world and never let her gender, nor her attractive good looks, get in the way of her outstanding talent. I’m referring to Ruth Lowe, one of the 20th century's most enduring musical talents, who wrote the song that dynamited Frank Sinatra's career into the stratosphere in 1940. That tune, “I’ll Never Smile Again”, charted on Billboard for an unheard of 12 weeks and resulted in Ruth being named “One of the Architects of the American Ballad”. She was also the recipient of a Grammy Award. More than a one-hit-wonder, she went on to write Sinatra’s theme song plus nearly 50 other tunes for Broadway and Hollywood, which saw her being inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. She’s about to be added to the Great American Songbook Foundation Hall of Fame as well.
By way of background, back in 1940, the man who fronted “the General Motors of the Big Band Business”, a certain Thomas Francis Dorsey Jr., had recognized the brilliance of Ruth’s tune and recorded it with his new singer, Frankie Sinatra. When the song took off internationally beyond even Dorsey’s wildest dreams, he saw the value of a serious public relations campaign washing over onto his band. Recognizing that people needed a break from the heavy news of war, along with the fact they’d want to know more about the young lass who had written this wonderful song, he got Ruth to leave her home town of Toronto for the Big Apple, where she stayed for the next three years, hobnobbing with celebrities, making public appearances, being interviewed by newspaper and magazine columnists, getting featured on radio shows, and quickly rising to fame in the music industry. Everyone wanted a break from war, and to be able to see the girl who’d written “the song” was magical. Ruth’s sudden fame took her on a roller coaster ride she could never have imagined, including attending the Brill Building, home of Tin Pan Alley, where she worked on her own new tunes and teamed with other songwriters. That activity, by the way, included Ruth penning Sinatra’s theme song, “Put Your Dreams Away” (the last song played at his funeral). As Nancy Sinatra writes in the Foreword to “Until I Smile At You”, the new book I’ve written about Ruth Lowe’s life, “Ruth was the only female songwriter to custom-write songs for Frank Sinatra, standing tall alongside three titans of the craft: Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne and Jimmy Van Heusen – his long-time ‘personal’ writers. That alone tells us how highly dad regarded Ruth and her talent.”
Now, you would think that perhaps all this amazing activity might swell up the ego of a simple Toronto girl so suddenly immersed into “the big time”. But no, Ruth was truly one of North America’s earliest liberated females who never let her gender, nor the gyrating life around her, overtake her song writing talent. She had a ball, yet stayed grounded and focused.
Interested in knowing more about Ruth? Why not purchase a printed book, an e-book, audio book or kids book simply by visiting untilismileatyou.com. “Until I Smile At You” features over 50 never-been-seen-before photographs and other keepsakes from the vaults of Ruth’s son, Tom Sandler. Plus the audio book features Tom as narrator. It’s a story about which James Kaplan (author of “Frank: The Voice” and “Sinatra: The Chairman”) says, “A marvelously detailed and affectionate life of a great woman and an important artist.”
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