RNC Played Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ Despite Being Denied

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After President Trump’s final speech of the Republican National Convention on Thursday night (August 27), the campaign played Leonard Cohen’s signature song, “Hallelujah.” Twice. Though it wasn’t Cohen’s actual performance — that was left to a recorded version by singer Tori Kelly and a live performance by Christopher Macchio — the committee apparently did so even though their request had been denied. On Friday evening, representatives from Cohen’s estate and his music publishing company issued statements, which were shared on Cohen’s Facebook page.

Michelle L. Rice, legal representative of the Cohen estate, issued the following:

“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,” Rice’s statement continued, “we might have considered approval of that song.”

Brian J. Monaco, President, Global Chief Marketing Officer, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, wrote:

“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.”

It’s possible the campaign may have obtained a so-called blanket license avoiding the need to obtain permission for individual copyrighted performances.

Following Thursday night’s Republican National Convention, fans expressed their displeasure for the unauthorized use during a fireworks display. The performances of Cohen’s song was included in a sequence that also featured Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” (The latter performer is a well known supporter of the President’s.)

Related: Neil Young has sued the Trump campaign for their use of his songs

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14 Comments so far

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  1. Gagdad Bob
    #1 Gagdad Bob 29 August, 2020, 00:14

    They should have requested the The Future:

    Destroy another fetus now
    We don’t like children anyhow
    I’ve seen the future, baby
    It is murder

    Reply this comment
  2. Timflyte
    #2 Timflyte 29 August, 2020, 04:33

    Gee another dead guys estate doesn’t want his songs played ?
    Do they want these artist to be forgotten to history ?
    What are they going to do a 100 years from now ?
    What if some of the great musicians in history had said ” we don’t want so and so to ever play my song ” or what if someone said ” I never want a ( name of any race ) to play or sing my song ”
    What’s to be done ?
    If a person wants to forever keep their music from being enjoyed by all peoples of the earth , then don’t record , don’t publish it. Keep it in your own head and be done with it.

    Reply this comment
    • Jeff Tamarkin
      Jeff Tamarkin 29 August, 2020, 09:06

      Talk about missing the point. Do you really not understand that the problem here is that they don’t want DONALD TRUMP using their music?

      Reply this comment
      • Micky
        Micky 29 August, 2020, 16:39

        Yup, That’s the gist of it.

        Reply this comment
      • Timflyte
        Timflyte 30 August, 2020, 17:09

        But the jest is its product. They’re getting paid for its use. Are we only suppose to sell product to people who think like us ? Agree with us ? Sounds like something Hitler’s Nazis tried. Its a free market. If you don’t want to share with everybody then don’t market it. If its art only make one copy. You don’t write books and say …only those who think like me are allowed to read it or quote from it. As long as royalties are paid , the writer has achieved what he sat out to do. To create something that is massed produced to make as much money as possible for their self so they don’t have to work like a average person has to do for a lifetime.

        Reply this comment
  3. MR MIKE
    #3 MR MIKE 29 August, 2020, 20:17

    Great song! Unfortunate the estate wants to play politics with it.

    Reply this comment
    • Jeff Tamarkin
      Jeff Tamarkin 29 August, 2020, 20:40

      So you don’t think an artist’s estate should be able to control when and how their music is used, and maybe even get paid when it’s used?

      Reply this comment
      • Timflyte
        Timflyte 30 August, 2020, 17:16

        No I don’t. What if the ” estate ” didn’t like a certain race or religion so they did not want the song to be sung by people of that race or religion. The 75 year ownership of a product should be dismissed in the case of a death. Let a person pre name a charity to collect the proceeds after the heirs are of legal age. Its just being selfish and egotistical to keep getting millions of dollars for something you had nothing to do with. To much money is almost as bad as no money at all. It corrupts.

        Reply this comment
        • JCB
          JCB 31 August, 2020, 14:12

          Tim, they didn’t pay a dime to the estate. They used it knowing that Cohen disliked Trump big time. Musicians own their music pal. It’s not owned by the “public” it is owned by the songwriter / publisher. Only a crime family like the Trumps are selfish enough and disgusting enough to regularly use something that doesn’t belong to them even when they are asked not to. Typical of the Trump trash family. They’ve pissed off Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, The Doobie Brothers, Neil Young and the list goes on. They have no right nor any invitation to do as the damn well please with an artists work. Got it?

          Reply this comment
          • Jeff Tamarkin
            Jeff Tamarkin 31 August, 2020, 17:11

            Thanks for saying that. That’s 100% correct. They never pay the artists. They steal it, just the way they do elections and everything else.

  4. Timflyte
    #4 Timflyte 31 August, 2020, 23:37

    My comments were based on them paying the ascap/BMI fees. If they didn’t have a license for that , of course I’m against any use.
    I still disagree that a person forever owns it. Once its publish it becomes for all to enjoy. If the writer wishes to control who can listen to their work I’d suggest they just keep it to their self. Why spread love through hate ? Music and art is to bring all people together not divide. I’m sorry to hear that some people hate so much.

    Reply this comment
    • Jeff Tamarkin
      Jeff Tamarkin 31 August, 2020, 23:57

      First, the Trump campaign has never paid fees. Second, no one is trying to control who can “listen” to their work. That would be impossible and unreasonable. But they do have a right to control who can use their work for their own gain, and when/where, which is what a political campaign does with music. If the campaigns want to use someone’s recorded work in a public venue, they are required to pay for that usage, which they have not. And lastly, copyrights are not “forever.” They are for a finite time. But that is why copyrights exist, so the creators and their estates can profit when that work is used by others. It’s all really simple, actually.

      Reply this comment
  5. Timflyte
    #5 Timflyte 1 September, 2020, 07:04

    According to an article in the L.A.Times dated 8/24/20 the RNC paid for the rights under a blanket permission w the 2 main publishing firms. So I’m not sure if the Cohen estate opted out of those kinds of licensing agreements or not.
    Some performers do. Hopefully you can follow up on this in another article.
    My mentioning of performers saying they didn’t even like Trump listening to their music was from an Instagram post from a member of Tom Petty’s band a few months ago.
    I think originally 50 years was the length of copyrights but a few years ago it was changed to 75 years which for the majority of people is a lifetime. So eventually there is going to be a lot of great music for free !!! One thing none of these performers seem to address is the disregard of copyrights of their products in other countries around the world. That may make for an interesting article someday. Keep up the great writing. I enjoy your articles Jeff.

    Reply this comment

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