“What’s so, so cool about RBG is she’s 85 years old and to kids she’s a rock star,” says songwriter Diane Warren, who knows her rock stars. “I walked into a store on Robertson (Blvd. in West Hollywood) and they have all this Ruth Bader Ginsburg swag. It’s like so weird and so amazing. It just means there’s hope.”
When it came time to put a voice to “I’ll Fight,” the end-titles theme she wrote for the documentary “RBG,” Warren went with an R&B star instead of a rock star. “There’s no one I’d rather have sing my songs than Jennifer Hudson. This is like the fourth song we’ve done together, and I said, so Jennifer has to do this song. What I loved about the idea is that Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s voice is so soft but it speaks so loudly, so it’s so cool to have somebody with so much power sing it.”
Hudson is on the call with Warren and doesn’t pretend she was particularly channeling a Supreme Court justice when she was singing the song. “It’s for this movie but it’s my song too — I feel like you wrote me a song for my life,” Hudson tells Warren. “I feel like I’m telling my story while I’m singing it.” The singer did want to hear her writer friend’s tiniest lyrical intent, though:“She explained it to me line by line when I was in the studio recording it, because I didn’t understand in depth what it represented and what it meant. and when I was in in the studio recording it. The timing of it is really quick, and there are so many words, but each word is so important. I was the same way growing up singing songs in church and giving the solo. Each word is meaningful. That’s my job as the soloist is to be able to make each word meaningful. If I didn’t get the message across, then I didn’t do my job.”
“You always do your job,” affirms Warren.
“I’ll Fight” is unusual among movie themes, and modern pop songs in general: there’s no instrumental introduction. “Yeah, why wait?” says Warren. “Why wait to hear her sing?”
Last year, the songwriter was up for an Oscar for “Stand for Something,” a collaboration with Common, for the Thurgood Marshall biopic “Marshall.” “And in ‘RBG,’ there’s a little piece about Thurgood Marshall. “I guess I have a thing for Supreme Court judges,” she jokes — or maybe not. Maybe it comes from this. My dad was an insurance man and Jewish, and before I was born he changed his name from the name he had to Warren; it was my mom’s idea to take the name from Justice Earl Warren. So there’s a Supreme Court tie-in even to my last name.”
Warren is never shy about political angles, or anything else. “With this administration and what’s going on with our rights that are assaulted on a minute to minute basis, we need someone to fight for us, and RBG certainly does and has for 40 or 50 years and continues to do so. I’d give her my ribs,” she says.