Notable Canadian Jewish Musicians: Ruth Lowe. Pianist, Songwriter

Sinatra “asked my Mom to compose a theme song in 1942 for his new radio show.  It had to be done in one day.” –Tom Sandler

RUTH LOWE Photo credit Maurice Seymour

Ruth  Lowe

(1914 – 1981)

Music Online

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Welcome to our weekly Sunday music section called

“Notable Canadian Jewish Musicians.”

By David Eisenstadt

TORONTO, March 6/22 – As I looked into the life and background of Ruth Lowe’s signature song, I’ll Never Smile Again, the Abbott & Costello comedy track Who’s On First came to mind. 

Here’s a variation on that phrase:  Lowe’s composition goes to Faith, then to Mastren, passed to Dorsey, played first by Miller, then back to Dorsey, and Sinatra belts out a huge home run.

Born August 12, 1914, in Toronto, Canada, Ruth Lowe grew up in Glendale, California. She returned to Canada as a teen, worked as a pianist in 1936 at the “Song Shop” in downtown Toronto.  Her big break came when Ina Ray Hutton’s all-female touring band’s pianist took ill, and Lowe auditioned to cover the gig in Toronto.  She then became the Melodears full-time pianist and played their engagements across North America for about three years. 

She married a Chicagoan, Harold Cohen in 1938, who unexpectedly died during a hospital operation in 1939.  Ruth was still grieving her father Samuel Lowenthal’s untimely passing.  So it was these two personal tragedies that spawned I’ll Never Smile Again.

In a world and at a time when there were few women in the Tin Pan Alley male-dominated music world, here’s how she scored this hit.

The young Jewish pianist’s mournful ballad was written in the early 1940s and initially heard on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s radio program Music By (Percy) Faith (Under the Radar – 30 Notable Canadian Jewish Musicians). Twelve months later, Lowe got the original 78-rpm acetate recording from Faith and passed it to Carmen Mastren, a guitarist in Tommy Dorsey’s band.  Even though Glenn Miller played it first, it didn’t catch on.  It was the Dorsey arrangement that made his singer Frank Sinatra’s treatment of her work a global hit. It was the first #1 song on a 12-week run on the first Billboard Chart in 1942.

“It was a song that came from my heart, the result of great sorrow,” Ruth said on Tommy Dorsey’s Fame and Fortune Show. “In part, the tune was always seemingly in my mind but, until the death of my husband, it was part of, well, another sense.”

Lowe and Sinatra became instant superstars.  Ruth’s son Tom Sandler reminded me, “That Billboard Top 80 song really launched Sinatra’s career.  He then asked my Mom to compose a theme song in 1942 for his new radio show.  It had to be done in one day. 

She called in her two buddies – Paul Mann and Stephen Weiss and together they developed a melody and put it together.  Titled Put Your Dreams Away (For Another Day) became Sinatra’s signature tune.  Mom’s number was the last song played at his funeral in 1998.”

Frank Sinatra - Put Your Dreams Away 003

Frank Sinatra – Put Your Dreams Away (For Another Day)

>>> Click HERE to watch this video <<<

Some other facts about that classic:  Lowe and her music were recognized with a posthumous Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1982, along with artists and tunes by Miles Davis (Birth of the Cool), Benny Goodman (Sing, Sing, Sing) Bill Haley & The Comets (Rock Around The Clock), and Kate Smith’s God Bless America.  It has been recorded by 139 artists including Count Basie, Dave Brubeck, Billie Holiday, Molly Johnson, Les Paul, Oscar Peterson, The Platters, Django Reinhart, George Shearing, Keely Smith, Bobby Vinton, Fats Waller, and Joe Williams.

In 1943, Ruth Lowe married Nathan Sandler, an investment dealer in Toronto. 

They raised two sons – Tom, a talented photographer who inherited the musical genes, plays many instruments, and loves to improvise: and Steve, a successful investment portfolio manager. 

In 1964, Tom co-wrote with his Mom Take Your Sins to the River for Jerry Gray and The Travellers (Under the Radar – 30 Notable Canadian Jewish Musicians), Zoomer magazine reported.

“We grew up in a wonderfully Jewish, hamishe home”, Tom said, “She wasn’t a big fan of organized religion, but had a deep, spiritual side.  We kept the holidays and Shabbat, but Mom wasn’t one to sit in a synagogue.  My folks remind me of the movie The Night They Raided Minsky’s– a religious guy marries a showbiz girl.  Those were my parents; they were like that but loved each other very much.  Mom had a real sense of humour.  She loved life, family, and friends, but got Cancer in the 1970s, fought it for 10 years until she couldn’t fight anymore.  She died on January 4, 1981.”

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Writing Hit Songs for Sinatra

>>> Click HERE to watch this video <<<

Zoomer magazine’s Mike Crisolago wrote, “In 1998, award-winning music publisher Frank Davies specifically pointed to Ruth’s success as the catalyst for founding the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.  Her two Frank Sinatra hits were inducted.”

As a tribute, in 2020, authors Peter Jennings and Tom Sandler released Until I Smile at You, a book that celebrates the journey of her life. 

Bet she’s smiling!

Credits: Ruth Lowe/Maurice Seymour; Garren Rubino/YouTube; The Agenda with Steve Paikin/YouTube.

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Reader’s Comments

-David … it’s wonderful , thank you so much for writing it . It always brings tears to my eyes when I realize what she over came and who she was. A very, very nice piece, pal.  Much appreciated. We all thank you. – TS, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

-Glad you included Ruth and her son writing a song specifically for the Travellers in 1964. Take Your Sins To The River was presented to our label at the time,Columbia Records. We had just received rave reviews for our part in a Command Performance for the Queen and Prince Phillip opening The Charlottetown Theatre and who invited us to Britain, We sang the song at the London Palladium and on several BBC TV shows. We met her and her son before we left Canada and received a welcome at the airport where a banner headline said “Phillip’s Group arrives in London” part of our many facetted career. – JG, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

-Great article, David! Ruth and her sons were our backyard neighbours on Rostrevor in Toronto. She served me my 1st rare steak as a kid (not well done like at home). Steve Sandler and I were friends. – DF, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA

-I just read your Ruth Lowe review. The Sandler family lived across the road from my home growing up in Forest Hill. Tommy was in my sister’s class and we used to see Ruth sitting on the driveway sunning herself, covered in oil, and  with one of those aluminum foil intensifiers around her face….in April. – SM, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

-What a really interesting story, David E. Thanks once again for brightening another grim day! – DRD, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

-Great story! I had no idea that Ruth Lowe wrote I’ll Never Smile Again. My father loved that song. I had no idea she was Tom Sandler’s mother (I’ve worked with Tom many times over the years). – DC, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

-Where do you find your subjects?  Fascinating woman. Well written, comme l’habitude. – RS, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

-David, fascinating piece on Ruth Lowe. I enjoy all your stories about these musical treasures from our Jewish community. It is particularly interesting when I know them or their families, which in this case I do. – JO, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

A complete list of David Eisenstadt’s articles can be viewed under Music Online in the Category section. Do you have comments or questions about this article? Contact David Eisenstadt at

David Eisenstadt

David Eisenstadt is Founding Partner of the Canadian Partner of IPREX Global Communication and a graduate of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and the University of Calgary.

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