John Lennon's Imagine has become a song much like Woody Guthrie's This Land Is Your Land - a song whose sentiment the mainstream culture and dominant power structure likes, but whose specifics cause problems. You rarely hear the FULL version of Guthrie's song, which was actually written as a response to God Bless America; the verses often dropped are
As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.
In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?
The same goes for Imagine, one of the most beautiful songs every written, but whose anti-religion stance has caused people to edit or alter it over time (when I was a young man in my school glee club we skipped the religion verse).
The latest misuse of the song? Cee Lo Green, the guy who took his great song 'Fuck You' and bent over backwards to make it friendly to as many demographics as possible and then became a judge on the dreadful singing competition The Voice, sang the track on NBC's New Year's Eve show. He changed the lyrics from "nothing to kill or die for / and no religion too" to "nothing to kill or die for / and all religion's true."
Besides 'all religion's true' being an unbelievably wishy washy sentiment - finally someone recognizes the Babylonian gods! - it undermines the point of Lennon's song. For Lennon not only was religion an inherent divider, but it turns focus away from the here and now. In fact Cee Lo really half assed his own ruining of the song, because he includes the lyric "Imagine there's no heaven/it's easy if you try/No hell below us/And above us only sky,' before launching into the changed words. See, that's a key part of the 'no religion' message of the song, the idea that we should focus on our world and the people around us now, not some imaginary concept of God or the afterlife. We should be working to make the world a better place, not working to ensure our spot in the next world.
The reality here? That as the clock ticked over into 2012 there is still a need to appease people who maintain Stone Age concepts of the cosmos. This isn't the future I thought I'd be living in.
Cee Lo begins the song at the 3:55 mark of the video above.