Tom Hanks met singer Ruth Marx while dining with her and her musician son Richard Marx. He asked her to tell him about her.
She started singing a TV commercial jingle that has become an earworm for generations of consumers: “Ask any mermaid you see, what’s the best tuna? ” she sang.
Hanks stood up and completed the line: “Chicken of the sea!”
“He starts singing with her, and he’s like, ‘Oh, my God, Ruth, you’re a goddess,’” his son said.
Ms Marx’s honeyed voice was heard in many TV commercial jingles her husband Dick Marx composed for products that also included Doublemint Gum, Kellogg’s Grape Bran, Peter Pan Peanut Butter, Ken-L Ration dogs and Virginia Slims cigarettes.
Richard Marx said she died Aug. 24 of lung cancer in her California home. She was 85 years old.
Mrs. Marx went on the road with him and sang on his recordings, including the single “Streets of Pain”.
The choristers “just shouted the chorus,” said Marx, who proudly told people, “She’s my mother.”
“She was always too fun to be around,” he said. And “she was a really, really wonderful singer.”
Growing up in a family of seven in East Liverpool, Ohio, “She knew her ticket out was her voice,” her son said.
His father Duane was a metalworker. His mother Lois worked in a pottery factory. At one point in 1948 – during the housing shortage after WWII – the Guildoos lived in a tent at a campsite, cooked on a kerosene stove, and carried water from a spring while fighting mosquitoes. , wrote the newspaper of his hometown.
At East Liverpool High, she performed in talent shows and plays. She started touring with big bands.
“She went to Chicago because she heard about this vocal coach,” her son said.
The coach was Dick Marx, whose Dick Marx Trio performed at places like Mister Kelly and the Palmer House in the heyday of the city’s nightclubs.
In Chicago, she experienced lean years and odd jobs. She stayed in a YMCA and worked in a doctor’s office where “the doctor harassed and chased her,” her son said, often settling for chicken noodle soup and crackers.
“And there were times,” he said, “she only had money for crackers.”
She began to study with Dick Marx. She would say he “taught me more about phrasing and vocals with emotion than anyone else.” ”
After his first marriage ended, they married in 1961. He formed a commercial music company, writing jingles including “You’ve Come a Long, Way, Baby” for Virginia Slims, “My Dog Is Bigger as your dog “for Ken-L Ration,” Two scoops of raisins in a packet of Kellogg’s Raisin Bran “and” If you believe in peanut butter, you must believe in Peter Pan. ” He also wrote “Here Come the Hawks” for the Blackhawks and the theme for “At the Movies” by Siskel and Ebert.
Ms. Marx sang on several of her spots. She also sang in a 1970s commercial for Quasar TV.
She was a versatile singer who could convey the vibe of any jingle, said singer Don Shelton, who has worked with her on numerous commercials.
“Ever since I was a young session singer in Chicago, she just welcomed me with open arms,” singer Bonnie Herman said of Ms. Marx. “She was by nature just a very generous spirit, so happy for her fellow singers in their successful professional careers.”
After raising their son in Highland Park, the Marxes moved to California as his music career took off. She ran her son’s fan club. Her husband worked on the music for Hanks’ film “A League of Their Own”, among other projects.
“She has become a full-time grandmother,” their son said. “She was on the floor playing with my three boys, whatever they wanted to do. She would play army men with them. She would play Star Wars.
The woman who raised the man of my dreams and the love of my life. Sweet and beautiful Ruth. The best mother-in-law you could ask for. #TEAR #Goddess I will always love her and she will never be forgotten. https://t.co/x1CjNO5SU8
– Daisy Fuentes Marx (@DaisyFuentes) August 31, 2021
Later, Mrs. Marx and her husband had a house in Hawthorn Woods. He died in 1997.
She loved to sing Doris Day, Julie London, Jo Stafford and Sarah Vaughan. She and her husband loved the song “Our Love is Here to Stay”.
Ms. Marx loved to shop at Saks Fifth Avenue and wear the Jungle Gardenia fragrance.
“She was really poor and, when she started making money,” her son said, “she was spoiled.”
He said she “was an incredibly generous giver of gifts, ranging from nice gifts to paying for someone’s house.
“I have thanked her several times for being such an amazing mother. I said, ‘You were my best friend but also my confidante.’
“Every day she would say, ‘Who’s had a better life than me?’ “
Him, his three sons and his wife Marguerite Fuentes Marx plan to celebrate her life by watching family videos and toasting Ms. Marx with her favorite Prosecco.
In his last days, he said he played his mother a song he wrote in 1998 called “Thanks to You”. It includes the line: “I am who I am, mom, thanks to you.”
I didn’t know Ruth was the voice of all those jingles that I grew up with !! “Quasar (by Motorola).” RIP sweet Ruth. ❤️ https://t.co/Y3BpTvqRCq
– Jane Lynch (@janemarielynch) August 31, 2021