Leonard Cohen’s Estate Threatens Legal Action After ‘Hallelujah’ Used at RNC Without Permission

The song was played twice after Trump’s speech on Thursday

2020 Republican National Convention
Alex Wong / Getty Images

Leonard Cohen’s estate said it is “dismayed” that the late songwriter’s song “Hallelujah” was played at Thursday’s Republican National Convention after the estate “specifically declined the RNC’s use request.”

“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. We are exploring our legal options,” the legal representative, Michelle L. Rice, said in a statement to TheWrap. “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.”

The song played twice — first a recorded cover by Tori Kelly, then a live rendition by opera singer Christopher Macchio — on Thursday night after Trump gave a 70-minute-long speech accepting the Republican Party’s nomination for president.

On Thursday evening, Kelly wrote in a now-deleted tweet that she and her team had not received a request for the use of her cover; Sony/ATV Music Publishing, which publishes Cohen’s catalog, also said it had declined the RNC’s request for a live performance of the song.

“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,” Brian J. Monaco, Sony/ATV Music Publishing’s president and global chief marketing officer, said.

A spokesperson for the RNC did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

Aside from the potential breaches, the decision to play Cohen’s song so prominently after Trump’s speech also raised eyebrows from some who remembered that Kate McKinnon, dressed as Hillary Clinton, had performed a rendition of “Hallelujah” on “Saturday Night Live” shortly after Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election.


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