Leonard Cohen estate rebukes Trump’s “unauthorized use” of “Hallelujah” at RNC

Leonard Cohen estate rebukes Trump’s “unauthorized use” of “Hallelujah” at RNC
Leonard Cohen estate rebukes Trump’s “unauthorized use” of “Hallelujah” at RNC (Source: CBS News)

(CBS News) - Representatives from Leonard Cohen’s estate rebuked President Trump’s repeated use of his song “Hallelujah” during the last night of the Republican National Convention. The RNC used the song despite being denied permission, according to Cohen’s estate.

“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 catalog,” said Michelle L. Rice, legal representative of the Cohen estate, in a statement.

Representatives from the Republican National Committee contacted the company on the “eve of the finale of the convention” asking for permission to use the iconic song, according to Brian J. Monaco, President and Global Chief Marketing Officer at SONY/ATV Music Publishing. “We declined their request,” he said.

According to Rice, the estate is now exploring “legal options.”

Two covers of “Hallelujah” played during a fireworks display at the end of Mr. Trump’s speech as he officially accepted the Republican nomination. The singer of one cover, Tori Kelly, wrote in a since deleted tweet: “Seeing messages about my version of ‘Hallelujah,’ All I know is neither myself nor my team received a request,” Billboard reports.

Rice added in her statement that, “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 Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Cohen died in November 2016, months before Mr. Trump took office. The baritone-voiced Canadian singer-songwriter was known for seamlessly blending spirituality and sexuality, including in the frequently covered “Hallelujah.”

The song became a cult hit when it was covered by musician Jeff Buckley in 1994, singing an arrangement by John Cale, and has become a modern standard since, an a staple in everything from reality shows to high school choir concerts.

“Hallelujah” has been covered by countless musicians and featured in many movies and TV shows. Outside of the entertainment world, “Hallelujah” has also been used at Jewish and Christian religious services.

Born to a Jewish family, Cohen considered himself both a Jew and a Buddhist. “Hallelujah” makes references to the biblical stories of Samson and King David and Bathsheba.