When Cee Lo Green performed at NBC’s televised New Year’s Eve party, he offered his own rendition of the classic John Lennon song, “Imagine.”

It would seem that the Lennon song would make a great choice for a diverse crowd celebrating together and looking forward to beginning a new year — since the lyrics are all about how peaceful the world would be if we didn’t find ridiculous ish like nationality, class and religion to kill each other over.

Lennon’s version of the song asks the listener to picture a world in which the things that divide us are not in the way:

“Imagine there’s no countries it isn’t hard to do
nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too…”

For reasons Cee Lo later clarified via his Twitter account, he sang:

“…nothing to kill or die for, and all religions true…”

Lennon’s fans apparently didn’t appreciate Green’s editing, and the profane backlash at Twitter was instantaneous:

Cee Lo argued back and forth with the irate tweeters into the early hours of New Year’s Day, beginning with this explanation for the lyric change:

“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,” Green wrote. “I meant all faith or belief is valid…that’s all.” 

Green’s apology didn’t stem the flow of vicious tweets, but seemed to bring out even more extreme hate, such as,

Cee Lo exchanged tweets with a few of the more rabid tweeters, shooting off a few expletive-laced messages of his own, including an (expenses paid) invitation to one angry tweeter to come to Los Angeles and deliver his message to Cee Lo in person, and another that read, “F— you! Happy New Year!”

As of this morning, Cee Lo removed all of the tweets on his Twitter timeline related to the controversy, leaving only a holiday greeting for his followers:

The level of rage, the racism and the threats of violence Green’s performance incited is beyond ironic, since the song’s composer was a man known for his devotion to the ideals of peace and brotherhood. Interestingly, John Lennon was not against religion, he just imagined a world in which it was not the cause of hatred and bloodshed.

“I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.” -John Lennon

Sounds like Lennon and Cee Lo are saying the same thing. Give the brother a break already.

By Kathleen Cross for rollingout.com