Is it possible to ruin “Imagine”?

posted at 1:25 pm on January 2, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

I have never understood the affection for “Imagine,” John Lennon’s least-imaginative pop hit.  The music is dull and dreary, the lyrics a paean to an utterly childish Utopianism, and practically a prescription for surrender.  At least “Power to the People” imagined that people could change the world.  The ballad that many consider to be Lennon’s best work in his career did nothing but dream that all dissent and individual perspective would drain magically from the human race so that we could all live in peace, or perhaps a boredom-induced stupor.  It’s existential nonsense to which it’s not even terribly pleasant to listen, let alone contemplate.

I accept that I’m firmly in the minority on this point, which was driven home when a performer had the gall to adjust one line in the song to fit his own personal childish Utopianism on New Years Eve, and get castigated for a kind of secular heresy:

Cee Lo Green upset John Lennon fans on Saturday night by performing a soulful version of the songwriter’s classic “Imagine” with the lyrics changed from “nothing to kill or die for / and no religion too” to “nothing to kill or die for / and all religion’s true.” According to some fans, Green changed the meaning of the song by switching out the line. “The whole point of that lyric is that religion causes harm,” tweeted someone with the handle @geekysteven. “If ‘all religion’s true’ it would be a pretty bleak place.”

No more so than imagining no heaven, I’d argue.  Frankly, if I liked the original, I’d be more irritated with Cee-Lo’s vocal rendition than with the change of lyrics.  There’s a certain amount of irony, as one atheist wrote, in Cee-Lo’s presentation, too:

Cee-Lo Green claims that he was merely attempting to be tolerant and inclusive, but his alteration is anything but tolerant and inclusive and it is also nonsensical (especially since he sung the part about no Hell below us and above us only sky). But what can we expect from someone who sings, “Imagine no possessions” while wearing a fur coat.

As a matter of fact, all religions believe that they are in possession of “the Truth” and yet none have presented any valid evidence for their claims. Most religions conflict with each other at the core and their value on faith rather than evidence leaves believers with no independent way of judging which religion(s) if any is actually true. The only way to settle the matter is often through violence and a quick history of religion supports this very problem. John Lennon understood that and that was one of the main themes of the song.

Well, atheism hasn’t proven itself either; it’s a belief in no God at all.  The only approach based on objective proof would be agnosticism, not atheism.  As for religions causing violence, perhaps the author in this case should familiarize himself with the histories of the explicitly atheist communist nations in the 20th century for a better understanding that violence comes from human nature, not religious belief.

Besides, remakes don’t ruin songs.  Anyone who wants to hear the original recording of “Imagine” can, unfortunately, hear it just about everywhere on the radio, as well as buy a copy for replay at any time.  I’ll just keep changing the channel when it starts playing on my stereo.

What do you think of “Imagine”? Take the poll:

Update: From the comments, what do you get when you cross the instrumental from “Imagine” and the vocals from Van Halen’s “Jump”? A much duller version of “Jump,” really:

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Comment pages: 1 2 3 4

Isn’t it funny? Used to be that a lot of atheists just called themselves agnostics to play it safe, now it’s the other way around. We’ve become so addicted to the head-butting is-or-isn’t school of debate that we follow though with the style even if at heart we don’t agree with the premise we’re spouting.

sistrum on January 2, 2012 at 7:46 PM

Atheism is a cult.

ExpressoBold on January 2, 2012 at 7:55 PM

Lennon’s Christmas tune is a drag as well, EM. Thank you for setting the record straight on that sorry tune, Imagine.

Sherman1864 on January 2, 2012 at 8:17 PM

Atheists just looking for something to whine about as usual. boring.

If they want to stare at their navels and wait for random events, let them STFU and do it. It’s when they start mouthing off and whining that they become tedius.

DaMav on January 2, 2012 at 8:18 PM

Dumb dumb is so lazy/dumb/clueless about what the song is actually about that he changes one line but leaves the rest, thinking he’s making some awesome statement, when he actually makes the song make no sense whatsoever. What a f*cking dumb clown.

Dave Rywall on January 2, 2012 at 8:34 PM

Atheists just looking for something to whine about as usual. boring.

If they want to stare at their navels and wait for random events, let them STFU and do it. It’s when they start mouthing off and whining that they become tedius.

Yeah, just like Christian waiting for the second coming of Christ…Until then, STFU about it!

mazer9 on January 2, 2012 at 8:48 PM

Thanks for a good chuckle. I needed that! I’m still laughing.

richardporter on January 2, 2012 at 8:50 PM

Atheism is a cult

I find it highly ironic that religious folks try to delegitimize atheist by making them out to be exactly what they are.

mazer9 on January 2, 2012 at 8:52 PM

For what it’s worth, during my college years I considered myself an agnostic. After college, I sought the truth and found it.

ITguy on January 2, 2012 at 9:04 PM

The culture has pretty much become what Lennon envisioned, at least the “imagine no religion” part.

Ward Cleaver on January 2, 2012 at 9:10 PM

The culture has pretty much become what Lennon envisioned, at least the “imagine no religion” part.

Ward Cleaver on January 2, 2012 at 9:10 PM
——-

ha ha ha ha give me some of that glue you’re sniffing

Dave Rywall on January 2, 2012 at 9:21 PM

As usual the athiests show themselves to be hateful, elitest, bigots in need of psychiatric conseling. Sad, but predictible.

Hard Right on January 2, 2012 at 10:13 PM

The music is dull and dreary, the lyrics a paean to an utterly childish Utopianism, and practically a prescription for surrender. At least “Power to the People” imagined that people could change the world. The ballad that many consider to be Lennon’s best work in his career did nothing but dream that all dissent and individual perspective would drain magically from the human race so that we could all live in peace, or perhaps a boredom-induced stupor. It’s existential nonsense to which it’s not even terribly pleasant to listen, let alone contemplate.

I accept that I’m firmly in the minority on this point…

Ed, if there was ever an affirmation that I’m reading the right blogs, this is it. I have been saying exactly the same thing, almost verbatim, for years now. I loathe this song, and maybe we’re both in the minority but it sure does feel good to know I’m not the only one.

Caiwyn on January 2, 2012 at 10:21 PM

Were the Beatles good players? Sure, but so were hundreds of others from that era.

guitarman67 on January 2, 2012 at 7:05 PM

“hundreds”, Gracie?”

“Dozens”, perhaps. I’m from that era so I know them all.

Of those main lead guitarists from the “Big 4″ back in those days (Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks) only the first and the last bands had lead guitarists that had heavy country music influences. George Harrison was a young disciple of Chet Atkins and Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, and Dave Davies of The Kinks likewise happily played his brother Ray’s country songs as that band matured.

On the other hand, Richards and Townshend were more or less all-blues and R & B influenced, and their early attempts at the country-tinged stuff never equaled The Beatles’ covers of Carl Perkins.

Del Dolemonte on January 2, 2012 at 10:22 PM

ha ha ha ha give me some of that glue you’re sniffing

Dave Rywall on January 2, 2012 at 9:21 PM

Would that be Gorilla Glue Tape, or LePage Easy Flow Outdoor Glue, Uncle Red? Canadian Tyre just told me they have both In Stock. All I have to do is drive all night up to Quebec thru -15 F to get them.

http://canadianhomeworkshop.com/3910/ask-a-pro/removing-glue-from-cement-floors

Del Dolemonte on January 2, 2012 at 10:28 PM

As usual the athiests show themselves to be hateful, elitest, bigots in need of psychiatric conseling. Sad, but predictible.

Because we believe in talking snakes, walking on water, and the living dead…

mazer9 on January 2, 2012 at 10:30 PM

The irony is that he.didn’t really change the lyrics. If all religions are true then none of them can be true. There can only be one truth.

ThorFather on January 2, 2012 at 10:41 PM

“hundreds”, Gracie?”

“Dozens”, perhaps. I’m from that era so I know them all.

If that is the number of players you think could have covered those tunes back then–and covered them well–you should probably think again. There literally were (and are today) hundreds of studio musicians who could have covered those tunes as well, if not better in terms of chops, than the players in those bands. Don’t mean to burst your bubble, but the chops required to cover these bands’ tunes really aren’t much. I’m no Keaggy, but even I can cover these tunes pretty darn well.

Today, hate to say it, but there really are thousands of guitarists who could cover these as well as the original. I know, it hurts me to me admit it too, but these players are legends primarily because they were “cool” and in some cases, innovative. But MAYBE outside of a few true “chops” masters (e.g. Hendrix and Stevie Ray, who did Hendrix better than Hendrix), most pop and rock guitar parts are really not hard to play. This is a word of experience from a cover band guitarist.

Still, style and “cool” should not be underestimated ingredients for success!

guitarman67 on January 2, 2012 at 10:52 PM

You can’t argue with the superstitious religious mind. Reasonable and objective people don’t believe in creation myths, people disappearing and reappearing, hundreds of people being raised from the dead, animals talking, God punishing people with hemorrhoids, and all sorts of other biblical nonsense. These people know how silly and backward their beliefs are, but are forced to defend them in a desperate attempt to keep their belief systems intact. It isn’t necessary to prove the Christian “God” doesn’t exist; The fact that the Bible is nothing more than a collection of fables full of myth and mysticism that was cobbled together by powerful men to control, exploit, and oppress the masses is all the proof one needs.

Bandit13 on January 2, 2012 at 11:09 PM

The twisted irony of “Imagine” is that the guy who killed Lennon didn’t do it because of politics, didn’t do it because or religion, didn’t do it because of any of the things that he listed out in the song as the sources of all violence. He did it because he wanted to *be* Lennon was crazy enough to think that he could do that if the real Lennon wasn’t around any more, and was amoral enough to actually do it.

In Lennon’s imaginary utopia, murder still existed, and for the same real reasons it exists in the real world.

Voyager on January 2, 2012 at 11:26 PM

You can’t argue with the superstitious religious mind. Reasonable and objective people don’t believe in creation myths, people disappearing and reappearing, hundreds of people being raised from the dead, animals talking, God punishing people with hemorrhoids, and all sorts of other biblical nonsense. These people know how silly and backward their beliefs are, but are forced to defend them in a desperate attempt to keep their belief systems intact. It isn’t necessary to prove the Christian “God” doesn’t exist; The fact that the Bible is nothing more than a collection of fables full of myth and mysticism that was cobbled together by powerful men to control, exploit, and oppress the masses is all the proof one needs.

Who can blame them when their “after life” is at stake? Of course they will believe such nonsense for a shot at “eternal life”. What exactly do we Atheist have to look forward too? Perhaps I should rethink this a little bit…;)

mazer9 on January 2, 2012 at 11:30 PM

The twisted irony of “Imagine” is that the guy who killed Lennon didn’t do it because of politics, didn’t do it because or religion, didn’t do it because of any of the things that he listed out in the song as the sources of all violence. He did it because he wanted to *be* Lennon was crazy enough to think that he could do that if the real Lennon wasn’t around any more, and was amoral enough to actually do it.

In Lennon’s imaginary utopia, murder still existed, and for the same real reasons it exists in the real world.

It’s called “mental illness”. And yes, it unfortunately still exists in the world.

mazer9 on January 2, 2012 at 11:32 PM

maybe we’re both in the minority but it sure does feel good to know I’m not the only one.

Caiwyn on January 2, 2012 at 10:21 PM

Heh. I see what you did there. :-)

ITguy on January 3, 2012 at 3:20 AM

It would appear that (at least at present) the majority thinks that Lennon’s Melodic Communist Manifesto “Imagine” is “Dreck that’s best forgotten”.

:-)

ITguy on January 3, 2012 at 3:21 AM

You can’t have it both ways. Either there is a god AND unicorns, or there is no god AND no unicorns. There is the same amount of proof for both (or lack thereof).

No one I know believes in unicorns. Why? I wold assume because they have never seen on. Sure, there are plenty of books written about them. Even paintings, etc to look at. But even children know that there are no such thing as a unicorn.

BierManVA on January 2,

Unicorn, if such existed, would be a creation.If such creation id not found, it does not exist.
But GOD is the Creator, so that would be HIS chosing to reveal Himself to one, or not. Cannot be compared to Unicorns or any other thing, living or otherwise.

magone on January 3, 2012 at 4:27 AM

The song was inane drivel to begin with…so it’s hard to ruin something that was already garbage.

zoyclem on January 3, 2012 at 7:42 AM

“It isn’t necessary to prove the Christian “God” doesn’t exist;

Bandit13 on January 2, 2012 at 11:09 PM”

Then why are most atheists always chasing God. For years whenever some moron brings up religion as the reason for all the wars, I bring up communist and socialism. You see a psychotic murdering lunatic doesn’t need religion to run about the world to rob someone of their possesions, freedom and their life.

I have no problem with reasonable atheists who understand it’s better to just leave people to their beliefs. It’s the ones who act ten times worst than any Christian trying to convert you to their particular religion. Okay, your an atheist, go about and live your life!

Africanus on January 3, 2012 at 8:37 AM

Then why are most atheists always chasing God. For years whenever some moron brings up religion as the reason for all the wars, I bring up communist and socialism. You see a psychotic murdering lunatic doesn’t need religion to run about the world to rob someone of their possesions, freedom and their life.

I have no problem with reasonable atheists who understand it’s better to just leave people to their beliefs. It’s the ones who act ten times worst than any Christian trying to convert you to their particular religion. Okay, your an atheist, go about and live your life!

You assume that atheists are communist and socialist. Atheism is simply the rejection of god, whereas communism and socialism are political, social, and economic ideologies. Sure an atheist could be a either one, but an atheist could just as well be a conservative. I’m very much an atheist as well as a conservative/slash libertarian. In a way, one could argue that Socialism and Communism are state religions, where the state or party is viewed as a sort of god. I mean look at the way liberals and Obama view the role of government as a perfect example of this. Even more, look how some liberals view Obama himself.

To argue that Atheists are “worse” than Christians at attempting to “convert” people to “their particular religion” is laughable. One, none of us are born with a concept of god. We typically are brainwashed, er converted, at a young age by our parents. It’s no wonder that the majority of people probably share the same religious beliefs of their parents or the environment in which they were born. Consequently, we are all born as atheists and are “converted” to some form of religion. Secondly, when was the last time an Atheist knocked on your door at 8AM on a Saturday morning in an attempt to introduce you to their “anti-god”?

mazer9 on January 3, 2012 at 9:43 AM

Well, atheism hasn’t proven itself either; it’s a belief in no God at all. The only approach based on objective proof would be agnosticism, not atheism.

Not quite. Atheism and agnosticism both work from objective observations, atheism holds that there are enough objective observations to arrive at a conclusion, while agnosticism doesn’t find quite enough to make a conclusion but tilts toward the atheist.

There there are the prostelyzing religious atheists, who are nutters.

Jason Coleman on January 3, 2012 at 9:51 AM

I see what you did there. :-)

ITguy on January 3, 2012 at 3:20 AM

Hah! Purely unintentional, I assure you. :D

Caiwyn on January 3, 2012 at 11:30 AM

To my great surprise, I kind of liked the “Jump Unplugged/Imagine Remix” But I think that speaks more to my eclectic music tastes than to the actual quality of the song.

rihar on January 3, 2012 at 12:41 PM

The music is dull and dreary, the lyrics a paean to an utterly childish Utopianism, and practically a prescription for surrender. At least “Power to the People” imagined that people could change the world. The ballad that many consider to be Lennon’s best work in his career did nothing but dream that all dissent and individual perspective would drain magically from the human race so that we could all live in peace, or perhaps a boredom-induced stupor. It’s existential nonsense to which it’s not even terribly pleasant to listen, let alone contemplate.

Consider this, Ed. John Lennon probably had a little practice turning out dreary, plodding music with convoluted, mushy, utopian lyrics with both “Across the Universe,” and “Blue Jay Way,” IMO two of the worst Beatles songs ever written. You could possibly draw a very amorphous line (LOL) from those songs to “Imagine.”

The minute I hear the opening chords of either song, the radio goes to another channel and even though I own virtually all the Beatles CDs, neither song is on my iPod. I’ve always hated those two songs, even when I had the Beatles’ vinyl LPs as a kid.

Years ago, on some music forum discussion about the Beatles, I happened to mention my antipathy for both “Across the Universe,” and “Blue Jay Way” and you would have thought the world was going to end because I dared to criticize John Lennon. I’ve read reams of stuff about the Beatles over the years and even he admitted that a lot of stuff he wrote sucked.

PatriotGal2257 on January 3, 2012 at 1:11 PM

The only Lennon song I have on my Ipod is “watching the wheels”. Very libertarian themes, if ya think about it.

As for “imagine”, I knew when I was a kid how unworkable the concepts presented were. That didn’t mean I didn’t like the concepts, just that I was smart enough to know better.

runawayyyy on January 3, 2012 at 2:07 PM

Ed,

I’ve agreed with your politics nearly 99% of the time.

As far as entertainment is concerned, I can’t recall where we have been in agreement until now.

The ballad that many consider to be Lennon’s best work in his career did nothing but dream that all dissent and individual perspective would drain magically from the human race so that we could all live in peace, or perhaps a boredom-induced stupor.

shick on January 3, 2012 at 4:08 PM

Ditto on the song.
As for atheists, they are an angry intolerant bunch. Sort of like Muslims, ironically enough.

pat on January 2, 2012 at 1:31 PM

Funny you say that. Those atheists I know (with the exception of AP), side with Muslims more than Christians. Pick a topic: Ground zero mosque, burning the Quran, historical writings.

but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles – 1 Corinthians 1:23.

shick on January 3, 2012 at 4:15 PM

Maybe I’m in the minority too but I HAAAAATE that song.

And what does that say about a culture when people celebrate absolute pablum as a great lyrical achievement?

whatthecrap on January 4, 2012 at 10:12 AM

David Bowie used to sing, according to liner notes on Ziggy Stardust album, “Now the workers have struck for fame/’Cos Lennon’s on sale again”. I always believed Bowie was actually writing “Lenin’s on sale again”, but record company ahistorical… or covering for their new star who they planned to make mucho money off of.

Now, I’m not so sure… and that’s a riff, cause I have trouble believing Bowie would release in 1972 that Lennon was motivating workers to strike, although “Working Man’s Hero”* was included in Lennon’s first “solo” effort in 1970.

Lennon wrote/sang many, many great tunes. I still plan to open my funeral with “Twist and Shout”. “The End”, from Abbey Road, a powerful – almost conservative – way to say goodbye in last words the Beatles, as a group, ever offered:

Oh yeah, all right
Are you gonna be in my dreams tonight?

Love you, love you
Love you, love you
Love you, love you

And in the end, the love you take
Is equal to the love you make.

————————————

* As soon as you’re born they make you feel small
By giving you no time instead of it all
Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all
A working class hero is something to be

They hurt you at home and they hit you at school
They hate you if you’re clever and they despise a fool
Till you’re so ****ing crazy you can’t follow their rules
A working class hero is something to be

When they’ve tortured and scared you for twenty-odd years
Then they expect you to pick a career
When you can’t really function you’re so full of fear
A working class hero is something to be

Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
And you think you’re so clever and classless and free
But you’re still ****ing peasants as far as I can see
A working class hero is something to be

There’s room at the top they’re telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like the folks on the hill

A working class hero is something to be
If you want to be a hero well just follow me

Shivas Irons on January 4, 2012 at 11:04 AM

Funny you say that. Those atheists I know (with the exception of AP), side with Muslims more than Christians. Pick a topic: Ground zero mosque, burning the Quran, historical writings.

shick on January 3, 2012 at 4:15 PM

Funny you say that, the atheists I know (including myself) are firmly against the GZMosque for a number of reasons, have no problem burning or not burning a Quran, and definitely don’t want any damage done to
“original” historical writings.

Funny also that most atheists I know are firmly aware that Islam/militant Muslims want our heads on pikes and wouldn’t even let us pay the Jizya should they come to power over us.

I suggest the “atheists” you know may largely be merely anti-Christians.

Jason Coleman on January 4, 2012 at 7:32 PM

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