Following the Trump campaign’s use of a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” during the fireworks portion of the Republican National Convention Thursday night, the Cohen estate issued a statement criticizing the unauthorized use of the oft-covered classic. “We are exploring our legal options,” the estate warned on Friday.
“We are surprised and dismayed that the RNC would proceed knowing that the Cohen Estate had specifically declined the RNC’s use request, and their rather brazen attempt to politicize and exploit in such an egregious manner ‘Hallelujah,’ one of the most important songs in the Cohen song catalogue,” said Michelle L. Rice, legal representative of the Cohen Estate.
“Had the RNC requested another song, ‘You Want it Darker,’ for which Leonard won a posthumous Grammy in 2017, we might have considered approval of that song.”
i feel like leonard cohen wouldn't have signed off on this pic.twitter.com/936vfAdT60
— molly conger (@socialistdogmom) August 28, 2020
During the fireworks that closed out the convention, Tori Kelly’s rendition of “Hallelujah” — which the singer recorded for the soundtrack of the 2016 animated film Sing — played on the RNC broadcast alongside patriotic songs like “She’s a Grand Old Flag” and Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.”
Kelly wrote in a since-deleted tweet (via Variety), “Seeing messages about my version of hallelujah… all i know is neither myself nor my team received a request.
Similarly, Sony/ATV Music Publishing president and global chief marketing officer Brian J. Monaco said in a statement, “On the eve of the finale of the convention, representatives from the Republican National Committee contacted us regarding obtaining permission for a live performance of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah.’ We declined their request.”
The unauthorized use of “Hallelujah” is just the latest dustup between the Trump campaign and nearly every artist the president has played music by on the campaign trail; the Tom Petty estate, the Rolling Stones and Neil Young are just some of those who have decried — and threatened legal action against — Trump for his rally soundtracks.
A rep for the RNC did not immediately reply to a request for comment.