The Slatest

Leonard Cohen Estate Considering Legal Action After RNC Plays “Halleujah”

The mural of the late Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, inaugurated in November 2017 over a Montreal street, now lit up every night, is viewed on June 23, 2019 on Crescent Street in Montreal.
The mural of the late Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, inaugurated in November 2017 over a Montreal street, now lit up every night, is viewed on June 23, 2019 on Crescent Street in Montreal. ERIC THOMAS/Getty Images

The estate of late singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen is angry that the Republican National Convention decided to use not one but two different covers of Hallelujah to close out the event. And it is considering taking legal action. In a statement shared to Cohen’s Facebook page, Michelle L. Rice, who is the estate’s legal representative, said they were weighing their legal options after the Republican National Convention played the famous song twice. Tori Kelly’s rendition of the song played during the fireworks that went off after President Donald Trump stopped speaking. It was later reprised live by opera singer Christopher Macchio from the White House balcony.

The organizers of the convention can’t plead ignorance because they apparently asked for permission but were denied. “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,” Rice wrote. She later proceeded to take a dig at the Trump campaign, saying that if the organizers had requested to use Cohen’s 2016 song “You Want it Darker” then “we might have considered approval.”

Sony/ATV Publishing also let their displeasure be known with Brian Monaco, its president and global chief marketing officer, also saying they had rejected the request from the organizers of the convention. “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,” Monaco wrote.

Many Cohen fans were not happy about hearing Cohen’s song at the Republican National Convention. Amid complaints on social media, Kelly took to Twitter to say she had not approved the use of her rendition of the song. “Seeing messages about my version of ‘Hallelujah,’” Kelly wrote in the since-deleted tweet. “All i know is neither myself nor my team received a request.”

This is, of course, not the first time the Trump campaign has received complaints from artists about using their music without authorization. In June, Tom Petty’s family expressed its displeasure over Trump’s use of “I Won’t Back Down” at his Tulsa rally. Prince’s estate last year said it would “never” grant Trump permission to play the late artist’s songs. The Rolling Stones also sent a legal warning to the president’s team about using “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” And earlier this month, Neil Young, one of the first to complain about Trump’s use of his songs, filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Trump’s campaign for playing his songs at campaign rallies. “This complaint is not intended to disrespect the rights and opinions of American citizens, who are free to support the candidate of their choosing,” reads the complaint filed in New York federal court. “However, Plaintiff in good conscience cannot allow his music to be used as a ‘theme song’ for a divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hate.”