Ruth Bader Ginsburg celebrated in song by Illinois university

The renowned late US Supreme Court justice would have turned 88 on Monday

Ruth Bader Ginsburg celebrated in song by Illinois university

An Illinois university has elected to celebrate what would have been late US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s 88th birthday with a musical tribute.

The Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University released a documentary entitled A Tribute to RBG in Song on Monday. The tribute showcased the renowned legal superstar’s personal life, and features vocal performances from Bienen School lecturer and soprano Patrice Michaels, Ginsburg’s daughter-in-law.

Ginsburg was known as a lover of opera and classical music, and eight years previously, Michaels had composed a song cycle called The Long View: A Portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Nine Songs for Ginsburg’s 80th birthday in collaboration with composers Vivian Fung and Stacey Garrop. Michaels’ husband James, Ginsburg’s son and founder of record label Cedille Records, had released the songs in 2018 as part of the album Notorious RBG in Song, which he produced.

“I had really no concept of just how limited women's options were in the law until I began to know her personally, to know her friends who either are of her age or slightly younger, who also were path breakers in the law, to find out the circumstances in which they had to volunteer their services in order to be considered, to find out the doors that were closed to them,” Michaels said in an 11 March press release published by Northwestern University publication Northwestern Now. “My hope is … to give the joy of the experience of this one human who made such a huge difference. Her story so clearly illustrates what we aspire to as a nation.”

Professors Laura Beth Nielsen, who is a member of the faculty advisory board at Northwestern University’s Centre for Legal Studies, and James Speta, interim dean at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, also talked about Ginsburg’s impact in the documentary.

“One of her most powerful dissents, and again, many people have noted this, is in the Lucy Ledbetter case in which she talked about the reality and the really deep impacts of differential pay, and the way in which women are harmed in the workplace through disparate pay. … There are lots of great examples of her using her voice to not just decide a case, but to decide the case with respect to her deeply held principles,” said Nielsen, who is also a part of the American Bar Foundation.

Speta described Ginsburg as “a warrior for issues of gender justice and social justice.”

“In the national conversation that we're having right now, she's an incredibly important figure. She's also a figure in the political conversation, given the polarisation that we unfortunately have in the country,” Speta said. “And hopefully, the lawyerly manner in which she approached many questions can give us a path forward to greater understanding.”

Bienen School premiered the video documentary on its Davee Media Library website on Monday.

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