Leonard Cohen Estate Denied RNC Request to Play “Hallelujah”

Music

The estate of Leonard Cohen is “exploring” its legal options after his song “Hallelujah” was featured twice at the Republican National Convention Thursday night. Both the estate and Sony/ATV Music Publishing have confirmed to Pitchfork that the use was not authorized.

Following Donald Trump’s acceptance speech for the Republican nomination, a recording of the song performed by Tori Kelly played during a fireworks display. Later, American tenor Christopher Macchio performed an operatic version live on camera. According to Sony/ATV Music Publishing CMO Brian J. Monaco, the Republican National Committee sought and was denied permission for a live performance the evening before the event:

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.

Michelle L. Rice, a legal representative of the Cohen estate, said the estate was “exploring our legal options” but also offered a different curatorial take on the RNC’s music supervision:

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. 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.

A documentary about Cohen’s relationship with Marianne Ihlen was released in July 2019. The estate released the posthumous LP Thanks for the Dance last November.

Read “An Inventive Leonard Cohen Museum Exhibition Lives Up to His Legacy (Mostly)” on the Pitch.

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