Leonard Cohen‘s “Hallelujah” hit found an unlikely — and unauthorized — stage twice at the Republican National Convention finale, and his estate is considering taking legal actions.
Two iterations of the song, Tori Kelly‘s recorded cover and Christopher Macchio’s louder, televised operatic rendition, played as President Donald Trump concluded his speech. Fireworks spelling out “TRUMP” and “2020” shot into the sky to Kelly’s version of “Hallelujah,” igniting anger among the late Canadian singer-songwriter’s fans.
Kelly responded in a since-deleted tweet, “Seeing messages about my version of ‘Hallelujah’. All I know is neither myself nor my team received a request.”
But Michelle L. Rice, a legal representative of Cohen’s estate, commented on how “surprised and dismayed” they felt with the RNC song choice, which they had declined. “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,” she said in an email statement Friday (Aug. 28). “We are exploring our legal options. 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.”
Cohen died on Nov. 7, 2016, the day before the 2016 presidential election, which fans find to be symbolic given his political views and historic “Democracy” protest anthem. He won the Grammy award for best rock performance for “You Want it Darker” a year after his passing.
Sony/ATV Music Publishing president and global chief marketing officer Brian J. Monaco echoed Rice’s sentiments in the same email statement, writing, “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.”
Similarly, Elton John‘s fans took to Twitter to show their disdain for Ivanka Trump taking the stage to the tune of his “I’m Still Standing” hit. Many wondered how long it would take for the British hitmaker’s legal team to get involved. Neil Young, whose songs such as “Rockin’ in the Free World” and “Devil’s Sidewalk” have been played at multiple Trump rallies, officially took matters into his own hands and sued the president earlier this month, saying his music has been used “for a divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hate.”