Leonard Cohen’s estate say they “specifically declined” request to play ‘Hallelujah’ at Republican convention

“We are exploring our legal options”

Representatives of the late Leonard Cohen’s estate have issued a statement saying they “specifically declined” requests for his song ‘Hallelujah’ to be played at a recent Republican National Convention.

Though use of the song was unauthorised, it was played twice at Thursday’s (August 27) convention, during the fireworks that followed President Trump’s address.

As reported by Pitchfork, Cohen’s estate attorney Michelle L. Rice released a statement on Friday (August 28) saying they were “surprised and dismayed” by the unauthorised use of the song.


“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 politicise 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,” she said.

“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,” she added.

The sentiment was echoed by Cohen’s publishing company, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, with the company’s president and chief marketing officer, Brian J. Monaco, also issuing a statement to Pitchfork.

“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,” he told the publication.

As reported by Variety, American singer Tori Kelly, whose rendition of ‘Hallelujah’ was one of two versions of the song played at the convention, 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,” she wrote, according to the publication.


The second version played was an operatic rendition by American tenor Christopher Macchio.

This is not the first time Trump has received backlash from musicians for unauthorised use of their songs.

A spokesperson for Queen recently said that the band were in an “uphill battle” to stop the President from using their music. In 2016, the band locked horns with Trump for using ‘We Are the Champions’ at a convention, and again in 2019 when he used ‘We Will Rock You’ in a campaign video.

In response, the band said they did not want the 1977 hit “to be used as an endorsement of Mr Trump and the political views of the Republican Party”.

The Rolling Stones and Neil Young have also threatened action against Trump for using their music at rallies.