Leonard Cohen fans were left feeling cold and broken at the end of the Republican National Convention Thursday night, as the Canadian singer’s “Hallelujah” was blasted during a patriotic fireworks display.
Tori Kelly’s cover of the introspective anthem was played following President Donald Trump’s speech, in which he made dozens of false or misleading statements and empty promises, and re-established that his campaign strategy for the fall presidential election will centre around fear.
The song was sandwiched between “She’s A Grand Old Flag” and “God Bless The USA.” The night ended with another version of the song, this time an operatic rendition of ’Hallelujah” by singer Christopher Macchio.
Fireworks spelled out “TRUMP” and “2020” above Washington Mall — a flashy spectacle Cohen fans were sure the gracious, humble artist, who was known to kneel before his audience, wouldn’t have supported.
On Friday, Cohen’s estate published a statement on Facebook expressing their feelings about the display, calling it a “brazen attempt to politicize and exploit” after the Cohen Estate had specifically denied the RNC’s request to use it.
“Had the RNC requested another song, ‘You Want it Darker,’” went the statement, “we might have considered approval of that song.”
Cohen died in 2016 at the age of 82, one day before Trump was elected president. While the Montreal-born singer didn’t publicly share his opinions on American politics in his final days, he did predict Trump would win, his son Adam Cohen said at a Junos gala in 2017.
Following Cohen’s death, media across the world published obituaries with the consensus that Cohen was too gracious and introspective to live during Trump’s America. Cohen’s manager Robert Kory described him as “unmatched in his creativity, insight and crippling candor, Leonard Cohen was a true visionary whose voice will be sorely missed,” as reported by Rolling Stone.
After the 2016 election, “Saturday Night Live” paid tribute to Cohen, as well as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, by opening with a solo scene of Kate McKinnon, dressed as Clinton, performing “Hallelujah” on a piano. The real Clinton said the skit nearly brought her to tears.
On top of the obvious contrast between Cohen and Trump, fans were confused as to why the RNC chose to play the haunting Hallelujah not once, but twice.
Cohen released “Hallelujah” in 1984 after working on it for five years. Since then, it’s been covered more than 300 times.
“The world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled but there are moments when we can transcend the dualistic system and reconcile and embrace the whole mess and that’s what I mean by ‘Hallelujah,’” Cohen said in a 1988 interview.
“That regardless of what the impossibility of the situation is, there is a moment when you open your mouth and you throw open your arms and you embrace the thing and you just say ‘Hallelujah!’”
Other fans thought it best to move on, as Cohen might have done, and find the silver lining.
“There is a crack in everything,” Cohen sang in his 1992 song “Anthem.” “That’s how the light gets in.”