Cee Lo performed John Lennon’s peace-seeking classic “Imagine” on NBC’s New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly in Times Square and took the liberty of changing one of the lyrics. Instead of “Nothing to kill or die for, And no religion too,” Cee Lo sang “Nothing to kill or die for, And all religion’s true.” The slight change made some fans of the song and its late original songwriter pretty angry and Cee-Lo spent the beginning of his new year fielding various Twitter attacks. Some of these expressed mere disappointment in the change, other said things like “you don’t change the words to one of the best songs to what you believe go to hell fat boy I wish you a heart attack.” Cee Lo’s equally vulgar comebacks, which you can view on Huffington Post, have since been deleted from the singer’s Twitter feed, but he did explain his change of the lyric by tweeting “I meant no disrespect by changing the lyric guys! I was trying to say a world were u could believe what u wanted that’s all.”

Am I the only one who sees the irony in folks being angry enough about someone mangling a song about peace to wish physical harm on the mangler? I am admittedly ignorant about John Lennon and The Beatles except to know that a lot of people are attached to “Imagine,” and that the line in question — which has always bothered the grammar nerd in me because technically it should say “And no religion either” — has drawn criticism in the past for its seemingly anti-religious sentiment. There is a significant difference between the harmful nature of religion that Lennon references and Cee Lo’s vision of a world with freedom of belief, but really, so what? Since when do we expect guests on Carson Daly shows to nail cover versions? I assume that neither I nor Cee Lo is of the proper cultural background to be as personally offended as those who are outraged, but “Imagine” is a pop song, not a hymn or the National Anthem. 

Watch the ill-fated performance here.

What do you think?



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  • CaramelBeauty

    Screw the Beatles!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111

    • libby


  • Tim Naylor

    It was an ultimate disrespect. He didn’t just change the lyrics but completely changed the meaning of the song from secular to religious. I know many of you don’t think of it as a big deal, but if you make a living from writing and performing, then you know what an offense it is for someone to change your manuscript, song or play without permission. If you buy the rights to West Side Story, you cannot change the book. Imagine (no pun intended) if someone did a new version of the Passion of Christ where Jesus doesn’t get crucified but gets saved last minute by a sympathetic Roman. You’d be outraged. What Cee Lo did is no different. He hijacked and steered the song way off course.


    Green’s change completely reverses the meaning of the lyric, if not the whole song. The piece is designed to inspire unity by suggesting a world where all the things that divide us — countries, affiliations, possessions and more — simply don’t exist. By injecting religion back into the song, Green’s interpretation sidestepped its intention.

    “Imagine all the people sharing all the world.”

    I understand Green was trying to avoid causing controversy by changing the lyric, giving it what he felt was a more “universal” theme. But there’s the flaw — “Imagine” is already universal. Its an appeal for understanding and brotherhood. It’s not anti-religion. It’s pro-humanity.