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Cee Lo Green’s Lame Excuse

I’m sure you’ve heard about Cee Lo Green changing the lyrics to John Lennon’s song Imagine from “Nothing to kill or die for, And no religion too” to “Nothing to kill or die for, And all religion’s true.” That is rightly getting him criticized and he posted this lame excuse to his Twitter account:

“Yo 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.”

And if the line he deleted was contrary to that message, or the line he inserted helped get that message across, one might be able to buy that. But that’s nonsense. And he made it worse by babbling like an idiot in other Twitter messages, which he later deleted. The Huffington Post still has them, however.

I meant all faith or belief is valid…that’s all

That’s positively idiotic. And the exact opposite of what John Lennon intended with the song. Why decide to sing that song, with its virtually infamous viewpoint, if you feel the need to say the exact opposite of what Lennon said?

muthafucker u don’t know john or me! And I’m pro choice! Fuck religion its about faith

Which has nothing to do with anything relevant to the situation.

Comments

  1. Konradius says

    muthafucker u don’t know john or me! And I’m pro choice! Fuck religion its about faith

    This is so incredibly idiotic! If he really felt this way, wouldn’t that be the best reason ever to sing “And no religion too”?
    After all, apparently he thinks there’s still faith without religion and “fuck religion”.

    This is some seriously confused guy!

  2. Michael Heath says

    Here’s John Lennon’s lyrics for Imagine:

    Imagine there’s no heaven
    It’s easy if you try
    No hell below us
    Above us only sky
    Imagine all the people
    Living for today…
    Imagine there’s no countries
    It isn’t hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion too
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace…
    You may say I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And the world will be as one
    Imagine no possessions
    I wonder if you can
    No need for greed or hunger
    A brotherhood of man
    Imagine all the people
    Sharing all the world…
    You may say I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And the world will live as one

    It’s also ironic this someone mangles the meaning of this song given John Lennon asserts in the lyrics he’s at least advocating for this sort of society while simultaneously enjoying immense personal wealth. He did address this seeming contradiction though I don’t remember what it was.

  3. says

    Acutely annoying.

    My Baha’i wife periodically drags me to Baha’i gatherings–and at one of them a singer committed a similar act of vandalism on Lennon’s song. I mean, there are about a million religious songs for every atheistic one; why can’t they just keep their pious paws off?

    Meh and feh.

  4. Reginald Selkirk says

    All religion cannot be true, since the various religions contradict each other. Some religions even contradict themselves.

  5. Reginald Selkirk says

    This reminds me of the recurring joke in Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis, in which Christian preachers are constantly stealing material for their sermons from speeches by Robert Green Ingersoll, “The Great Agnostic.”

  6. jamessweet says

    It’s also ironic this someone mangles the meaning of this song given John Lennon asserts in the lyrics he’s at least advocating for this sort of society while simultaneously enjoying immense personal wealth. He did address this seeming contradiction though I don’t remember what it was.

    It was something to the effect of “I work for a living!” and “I was wearing an expensive fur coat because it’s cold out!” heh…

  7. exdrone says

    So Green is advocating that everyone should be allowed their own point of view and is upset hearing his listeners’ differing points of view? Shouldn’t his tweets be about accepting and encouraging his fans’ opinions rather than requiring them to understand and accept his doctrine? Sounds more pro-religion than pro-choice to me.

  8. says

    I wonder if there would have been enough backlash or publicity about the backlash for someone like Green to have even noticed ten years ago. We’ve come a long way!

  9. nmcc says

    John Lennon was full of crap in most things he said.

    This is what he said in regard to the lyrics of Imagine:

    “If you can imagine a world at peace, with no denominations of religion—not without religion, but without this ‘my God is bigger than your God’ thing—then it can be true.”

    In fact, he was no more opposed to religion in the ‘new’ atheist sense than was the man in the moon.

    ‘Imagine no countries’ – whilst supporting the fascistic IRA in it’s cause of … er… setting up another country.

    ‘Imagine no possessions’ – from a millionaire owner of mansions and New York Appartments who drove about in white Rollers and so on.

    The most risble of his words and actions, of course, was his ‘Lie in bed and grow your hair for peace’ nonsense.

    You could just see the beneficiaries of the world arms trade and the American ‘Corporate-Military complex’ crapping themselves when they heard the news.

  10. Sastra says

    “I meant all faith or belief is valid…that’s all”

    This is not necessarily the exact opposite of Lennon’s intent — depending on how it’s interpreted. I suspect Cee Lo (who is, I take it, some sort of singer) is trying to parrot the acceptable wooly liberal bromide that religious beliefs are subjective matters of personal opinion just like tastes are. There’s no right or wrong — whatever works for you is fine. Keep it to yourself and don’t try to ‘impose’ your religion on others by suggesting that your view is somehow “truer” than their view. Can’t we just leave it there and all get along?

    Lennon might have been cool with that.

    The most egregious example of changing lyrics to protect religion and thus negate the intention of the song was something I heard many, many years ago on an AM car radio when riding through the South. This was back in the 70′s when Gilbert O. Sullivan’s sappy suicidal song “Alone Again (Naturally)” was a huge hit. The brokenhearted singer/narrator is lamenting how abandoned and alone he feels and says:

    “But as if to knock me down reality came around
    And without so much as a mere touch cut me into little pieces
    Leaving me to doubt talk about God and His mercy
    For if he really does exist why did He desert me?
    In my hour of need I truly am indeed
    Alone again, naturally.”

    This had been recorded by some god-awful cover chorus (it wasn’t even a band, it was like a bunch of singers with Muzak violins in the background) and now said:

    “But as if to knock me down reality came around
    And without so much as a mere touch cut me into little pieces
    I know I’ll never doubt talk about God and His mercy
    I know He really does exist and never will desert me

    But in my hour of need I truly am indeed
    Alone again, naturally.”

    Two outrageous things here:

    1.) Changing the words makes no sense in context and speaks to an almost hysterical fear of anyone even expressing doubt about God’s obsessive concern

    and

    2.) I not only reminded or informed everyone here of the song “Alone Again (Naturally),” I goddam quoted from it — and we are ALL the worse for it now (not to mention putting it into people’s head as a Muzak version.) I am sorry, but clearly not sorry enough not to have done it.

  11. Azkyroth says

    John Lennon was full of crap in most things he said.

    Humans being what they are, should we be surprised that the message is often better than the messenger?

  12. nmcc says

    Yes. Unless you’re somewhat schizophrenic. Most human beings actually tie in their thoughts, speech and actions rather well.

    Why should he be different?

  13. Azkyroth says

    Yes. Unless you’re somewhat schizophrenic. Most human beings actually tie in their thoughts, speech and actions rather well.

    Why should he be different?

    Because we’re sapient beings capable of judging ideas on their own merits?

  14. josephmccauley says

    I’m with Linksplat.
    Tempest. Teapot. Twerp.
    Don’t give him more attention than he deserves.

  15. Michael Heath says

    Re the reference to “Alone Again (Naturally): I checked-out the Wikipedia page on this song because of I was intrigued about who changed the lyrics. While I didn’t get an answer, an uncited assertion on that same page claims Donny Osmond covered the song in a solo album.

    I listened to the iTunes sample and remember this song, though I had no idea it was about suicide or talked about God (I generally ignore the lyrics of nearly all songs with the exception of a few artists).

    The big one lyric change I remember during that era was for the Steve Miller Band’s Jet Airliner, where I quote the current Wikipedia:

    The single edit of Miller’s recording features a truncated version of the guitar intro. In addition, one line of the song’s lyric was altered for radio play: instead of “‘Cause I don’t want to get caught up in any of that funky shit goin’ down in the city”, it was changed to “funky kicks goin’ down in the city”. The single edit was included on the original release of Miller’s Greatest Hits 1974–78 compilation, although the full album version has been used for later reissues of the title.

  16. tfkreference says

    Sometimes the changed version is better. In the TV edit of The Blues Brothers, Elwood’s line, “I took the liberty of bullshitting you,” was changed to “I took the liberty of bamboozling you,” which seems to better fit his character.

    The strangest censorship I’ve heard was the line from Queen’s Death on Two Legs, “Now you can kiss my ass goodbye,” being beeped on Live Killers. I mean, what Queen fan willing to buy a crappy live album wouldn’t already own Night at the Opera with the uncensored version?

    The funniest beeping is the Count.

  17. Pseudonym says

    That’s positively idiotic. And the exact opposite of what John Lennon intended with the song.

    Actually, no it isn’t. It’s completely in line with what John Lennon intended with the song, though it’s orthogonal to the point he was trying to make.
    Here’s the excerpt from the famous last Rolling Stone interview with Dave Sholin, in which Lennon laid out exactly what he meant.

    John Lennon: But the point of the song, right, is… because people kept saying, ‘What are you doin’? What are you doin’ in the bed-in? What are you doing in Two Virgins? What are you doin’ together? What are you doin’, what are you doin’?’ That was where we first came out with ‘All we’re sayin’ is give peace a chance’ – literally came out of my mouth as a spoken word to a reporter after being asked millions and millions of times, ‘what are you doin’?’ ‘Well, all I’m sayin’ is give peace a chance’. Not that I have the answer, or I’ve got a new format for society – ‘cause I don’t, and I don’t believe anybody else has. ‘Show me the plan’ as Revolution said, you know? Uh, the Beatles Revolution, or my Revolution song: ‘show me the plan!’ Before we knock all the buildings down, you know?

    But Give Peace a Chance is… Imagine is the same thing, you hit it right on the head. It’s, ‘just imagine if there were no countries.’ Not, ‘no places where we each had our little spot’. But, imagine… there was a time, you know, when you didn’t have to have a passport to go from country to country. What kind of world are we creat-… really! It used to be you go around, you know? What is this game that you can’t get, that somehow this is America and then just across the field is Canada and you have to have all kinds of papers and pictures and stamps and passports and, you know, I mean, when you think about it it’s insane! It’s insane, carving up the world into little patches like that. We’re all different.

    Dave Sholin: There will always be the Idi Amins and the Ayatollahs and whoever that kind of make that very difficult at some…

    John Lennon: But, well, I don’t know my history well enough to know how people got on in the past, you know? But when Marco Polo went to visit the Chinese no doubt it was risky leaving Rome. And goin’ through all those countries. And when Crusaders left – not as a mass army – but just as peasants getting up and trickling off across, they must have gone through… and of course, you’re gonna come across some… maybe there’s always gonna be nuts, I don’t know.

    But still, the concept of imagining no countries, imagining no religion – not imagining no God. Although you’re entitled to do that, too. Imagine no denominations. Imagining that we revere Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Krishna, Milarepa equally. We don’t have to worship either one that we don’t have to, but imagine there’s no Catholic/Protestant. No Jew/Christian. That we allow it all – freedom of religion for real, I mean. For real. Just imagine it! Would it be terrible?

    The relevant bit of the interview, for the curious.

  18. says

    It’s also ironic this someone mangles the meaning of this song given John Lennon asserts in the lyrics he’s at least advocating for this sort of society while simultaneously enjoying immense personal wealth.

    Why is that “ironic?” He got rich because: a) the sort of economy he seemed to vaguely advocate didn’t exist in his lifetime, and b) in the unequal economy of his time, lots of people liked his music enough to pay for it.

    Seriously, why does it have to be “ironic” or “hypocritical” every time a liberal gets rich?

  19. says

    …to “Nothing to kill or die for, And all religion’s true.”

    There’s two sides to this form of accomodationism. On one hand, it can mean everyone respects all beliefs equally, without fighting over relatively minor particulars. OTOH, however, it can (and these days it really does) also mean that all churches, sects and cults agree never to criticize each other’s dangerous lies or delusions, and instead join in the common cause of discouraging all skepticism and inquiry, and ganging up on atheists and secularists. Cee Lo Green may think he’s supporting the former, but by mangling a clearly atheist song, he’s really supporting the latter, intentionally or not.

  20. says

    Here’s the excerpt from the famous last Rolling Stone interview with Dave Sholin, in which Lennon laid out exactly what he meant…

    You call that rambling “exact?” Not to diss a talented, unique, and well-meaning singer, but Lennon’s rambling here isn’t all that “exact.”

  21. The Lorax says

    @25,

    You’re right in that he is rambling. He’s trying to get across a concept that exists in his head and that’s not an easy thing to do. It’s like trying to explain to a blind person what “blue” is. However, I believe I understand what Lennon was trying to say, so let me have a go at it:

    I believe he means not to get rid of countries or religions or possessions, but to remove the concept of the labels associated with them. For example, you can worship Allah, but you wouldn’t be a Muslim, you’d just be a person. You can worship God, but you wouldn’t be a Christian, you’d just be a person. You could live in a plot of land nearby McDonalds and Wallmarts and freeways, but you wouldn’t be living in America. You could have a closet full of expensive fur coats, but they aren’t really your possessions, they’re just near you more often than they are near other people. By removing the labels, you remove the attachment to the labels, and that offers a perspective that is more general. Imagine if America and Canada weren’t divided; imagine if there was no border, and you could just walk from one to the other, the same way you’d walk down your driveway. Imagine if someone broke into your house and stole your expensive new video game sets. Wouldn’t you feel better (relatively speaking, of course) if you weren’t attached to something that was a possession? If you accepted before you obtained it that it was transient, and so its loss wouldn’t affect you as much? If two people with different religious views looked at each other and said, “This person is different, therefore they’re different” as opposed to “This person believes an a different God than I do, therefore they’re wrong and stupid”, wouldn’t that be better?

    I believe this is why Lennon created Nutopia and Bagism; both sort of reflected that way of thinking.

    Anyway, that’s what I got out of that. Maybe I’m wrong, or maybe I’m rambling too.

  22. Michael Heath says

    Raging Bee writes:

    Seriously, why does it have to be “ironic” or “hypocritical” every time a liberal gets rich?

    It is ironic and I never claimed he was a hypocrite. I think you threw hypocrite in there given you knew your criticism of my describing the irony involved was not a winning argument. And I wasn’t criticizing John Lennon either, Imagine is art where people should take on different personas or push ideas beyond where they’re willing to personally go. I’m a big Lennon fan in spite of my gagging at some of the arguments he made outside his music. Especially as a fan of process where he was pushing himself to improve and was a very young man growing in maturity when we first encountered him.

  23. Pseudonym says

    uzza @27: Lennon was not a prophet, but nor was he down with gnu atheism. Groups like the FFRF like to say “imagine no religion”, clearly alluding to the song, but the guy who wrote “jai guru deva om” did not have the same agenda.

    I think The Lorax has it more or less correct. What Lennon meant by “imagine no religion” is exactly the same as what he meant by “imagine no heaven”, “no hell”, “no countries” and “no possessions”. He didn’t mean no spirituality, no faith, no land or things you can call your own.

    It’s a naive hippie-style utopia, not a naive “science and reason”-style utopia.

    But more to the point, Cee Lo’s lyric, while inauthentic, is more or less in line with Lennon’s vision. And in that sense, he had a point.

  24. says

    Heath: you still haven’t explained why it’s “ironic” that Lennon got rich. The only way I see it being “ironic” is because he sang of a world without concentrated wealth. That argument (whether or not it’s the argument you intended to make) sounds like the same right-wing dodge, where a liberal who criticizes moneyed interests is called a “hypocrite” for having money himself. That’s why I brought the “hypocricy” bit into the discussion: most of the people who use the word “ironic” in this way are actually trying to insinuate hypocricy.

  25. says

    Even more obnoxious than clumsily mangling Lennon’s original song (dude, you’re a singer — if Lennon’s lyrics don’t suit you, you can make up your own song in your own name!), was his blustering tweet of “muthafucker u don’t know john or me!” Seriously? Was he actually trying to imply that he, personaly, knew Lennon better than anyone else? What a joke!

    As for getting Lennon’s “original intent” right, “all religion’s true” means something very different from “no religion too.” Cee Lo’s rewrite may not be all that far from Lennon’s general beliefs, but it’s still a radical change from what the original song says. If you have to change the words to another guy’s song that radically, then, again, WRITE YOUR OWN DAMN SONG AND STOP MESSING WITH SOMEONE ELSE’S WORK! Seriously, how fucking hard is that?

  26. Michael Heath says

    Raging Bee to me:

    Heath: you still haven’t explained why it’s “ironic” that Lennon got rich.

    I don’t think it’s ironic John Lennon became rich. No irony involved there, he was incredibly successful in a field which is very lucrative for top talent.

    Raging Bee:

    The only way I see it being “ironic” is because he sang of a world without concentrated wealth. That argument (whether or not it’s the argument you intended to make) sounds like the same right-wing dodge, where a liberal who criticizes moneyed interests is called a “hypocrite” for having money himself.

    It’s ironic because in the song he’s promoting the following:

    Imagine no possessions
    I wonder if you can
    No need for greed or hunger
    A brotherhood of man

    A relative handful among billions equaled or surpassed the volume of his possessions. That’s ironic since he has control of the amount of possessions he owns. You also seem to misunderstand my use of the term, “ironic”. It’s not necessarily a pejorative relative to the people and actions being described, and I certainly wasn’t criticizing Mr. Lennon for maximizing the volume of his possessions nor was I criticizing his ‘imagining’ a different world. In fact I love this song, got it rated 5 stars in my iTunes library, and have it in numerous manually-created playlists (as opposed to smart playlists where it also shows up given my rating of the song).

    Raging Bee:

    That’s why I brought the “hypocricy” bit into the discussion: most of the people who use the word “ironic” in this way are actually trying to insinuate hypocricy.

    That’s certainly true of the people Ed lampoons in this venue. But I wasn’t in any way thinking of Mr. Lennon as a hypocrite; especially since most of the music I listen to have their artists frequently stepping outside themselves when writing lyrics. I don’t assume there’s an overt or hidden message that attempts to change our minds; instead I assume most lyrics, particularly in rock and roll, are instead meant to capture sentiments we already hold and help us re-live, enhance, or expand upon those sentiments – along with also revealing we’re not alone in holding such sentiments. That’s why narrative music videos were a relative flop, because they take-over what many of us instead prefer to create in our minds. The video for ‘Imagine’ was well done because it was predominately Lennon performing in front of a piano; so Lennon’s video didn’t supplant what I visualize when listening to the song.

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