Imagine Cee Lo Killing Lennon

Ego and self-serving commercialism trumps lyricism and art, it seems.

January 4, 2012

I was fortunate enough to spend New Year’s Eve with my family and my beautiful fiancée. I had a slight breakdown, but I’m better now. The massive doses of caffeine I’d been depriving myself are working better than before. We watched the ball drop on Mexican television, which is an odd thing to say because the ball is in Times Square and we watched the feed from Mexico City.

I was also fortunate enough to not have watched Cee Lo’s performance of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” one of the classics of pop culture from one of the 20th century’s most celebrated artists. If I had, I’m sure I would have foamed at the mouth and rushed the television.

See if you can spot the point at which my brain would have decided to induce in me a 28 Days Later-style rage.

Did you miss it? The iconic lyrics “Nothing to kill or die for/ And no religion true” were changed to “Nothing to kill or die for/ And all religion’s true.”

Changing a lyric, adapting a work of any kind, to suit the new artists or a new audience is nothing new. Tim Burton managed to turn “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” into a full-on horror movie and made it work. Jimi Hendrix turned “All Along the Watchtower” into one of the definitive rock songs of all time. These covers and adaptations took the original and made it something greater.

Cee Lo dug up John Lennon and humped the corpse to keep warm.

John Lennon 2 by ~kikisang3ls on deviantART

And before anyone starts claiming that I’m just some Lennon ubber-fan who can’t stand someone messing with his idol, I’m not. I’m always weary, though. I watch those who would take Star Trek and cast someone besides Shatner and Nemoy as Kirk and Spock and await in the wings for the new film with napalm at the ready. I listened the Susan Boyle’s cover of “Enjoy the Silence” and thought she did service to Depeche Mode. These adaptations kept the message of the original and put it through the filter of a new artist.

I do the same here. These are my words. Take them. Do with them what you will.

But do NOT make it sound like I endorse a Republican, think censorship is good, or believe teachers are overpaid. I will find you. I will hunt you for sport. I’ll nail your dog’s head to the coffee table and have a tea party.

By changing one line, Cee Lo said something Lennon would never have said. Lennon was an atheist, pure and simple. The song is a dream of a communist utopia complete with atheism and lack of religious magical thinking. This isn’t a dream of a world where the religions of the world come together and we find out all faiths are expressions of the one true god. “Imagine” is a world where we find out the ultimate hoax of religion, a world where heaven and hell are gone and humanity is left alone to realize the beauty of life and communion with our fellow brothers and sisters.

imagine. by *this-is-the-life2905 on deviantART

What Cee Lo did was intellectual hijacking. It would be like making Lord of the Rings about the benefits of industrialization. It would be like making every slasher film about the benefits of premarital sex and rampant drug use. It would be like inserting actual characterization and plot into a Michael Bay movie.

If you don’t like the message in the song, write your own song. You can interpret lyrics differently, sometimes coming out with wildly different themes that are a reflection of the listener’s thought process, but to change the lyrics to suit your needs is an insult.

And I don’t care if it’s John Lennon or a first-year writing student. When you do a cover, you agree to care for the source material. Sometimes you make it your own, like Hendrix did. Other times, you create something so horrible and so numbing that your only real reaction is to gag on your own bile as you charge the so-called artist with the full intent of choking them with the original lyrics printed on steel wool.

Oh, and one more thing. Did he have to sing a song about no possessions while wearing a fur coat and enough jewelry to stock Tiffany’s!?

The Lessons of Tequila and Home Movies

I can see you.

January 2, 2012

I am a writer. I write.

I’ve been out of the loop for a few weeks, and even when I was still writing the last articles in December, I felt it. I’ve been feeling it for months, maybe a year. Something was off. It was like putting on your contacts and accidently putting one inside out. You think there’s an eyelash or something inside and you can’t figure it out, and when you do, it’s so painfully obvious you hate yourself.

The feeling was subtle at first. It was a pebble in my shoe. It was one crooked picture frame on the wall. Something was off and I couldn’t place it.

New Year rolled around yesterday. I was drunk with champagne and tequila. I was filled, brown sugar-glazed pork, Mary’s salad, and New Year’s grapes. We watched home movies. I broke down. I saw too many dead faces in green-tinted VHS. I heard my grandfather laugh and saw my uncle dancing. I saw another uncle arriving with his happy wife. I remember the uncle who was kidnapped and murdered. I remember my grandfather’s sister whom we lost a few months ago. I remembered too many faces I’d never kiss again and too many voices I’d never hear laugh.

Champagne by ~NikkyMalfoy on deviantART

Between chocking back screams and trying to get that mental pebble out of my head, something clicked. I felt it go off like an old light bulb. It flickered and the picture on the wall was crystal-clear for an instant before the light shone through in malaria yellow and everything faded ito view like the Second Coming.

I had no fangs, no claws, and someone had sucked out my poison.

A few years ago, one of my bosses said I was one of the better tutors she knew, one the better teachers, and when she saw me working with students and teaching, she finally figured out why they learned, why they listened, and why I kept going.

I didn’t care. I wasn’t a counselor or an editor. I cared about writing. Sometimes, I’d suppress the urge to jump across the table or run through a classroom and choke the ever-loving crap out of someone who was there for an easy answer or wanted information just dumped on them. I wanted to give them understanding. I wanted them to think critically. I didn’t care about the day their dog died. I didn’t care their girlfriend or boyfriend dumped them. My only mission was to teach.

I never gave a multiple-choice test in my life. If I did that, I’d add chance to the equation. I don’t want chance.

Multiple Choice by ~TheNebs on deviantART

I want to know what you think. I want to get behind those little orbs of jelly and nerves and find out what goes on in your brain. It’s the predator in me, the part that I held back for almost two, maybe three years, so I could be as normal as possible, so I could integrate with the community and be a part of it and make too many people around me happy.

A friend and fellow writer once nicknamed me “The Demon of Guanajuato.” I think it’s time I lived up to it again.

I’m going to press buttons. I’m going to say the uncomfortable things that have fermented in my head for the last two years and I kept hidden out of fear I thought I’d killed years ago. I’m going to be the snake in the garden. I’m going to be the writer I once was, maybe even before I started this blog. Old journals and stories remind me of the way I used to say things, the way I used to write, and I miss that edge.  I want my edge back, and I want it to be sharp enough so I cut my own fingers off if I don’t handle it properly.

It’s not that I have the answers. I’ll even be willing to admit I’ll be wrong once in a while, but if you want my words to be your words, here they are. This is my currency, my gift to anyone who likes my writing, likes the way I think. In a perfect world, my words would spread like a virus.

Randomology is two years old now. I feel like I’m back from the dead. It’s Easter. Gorge yourselves on candy and chocolate and bust out the bourbon.

I’m back. Wear a cup.

I’m a writer. I’m going to write.