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Cee Lo Green caught in spat -- imagine that

Cee Lo Green performs at the 2010 Soul

Cee Lo Green performs at the 2010 Soul Train Awards at the Cobb Energy Center in Atlanta. (Nov. 10, 2010) Credit: Getty

Singer Cee Lo Green ushered in the new year on a controversial note by changing a key lyric of John Lennon's "Imagine" -- and then, after apologizing on Twitter, abruptly deleting his apology.

The lyric change came as Green, 37, performed the 1971 classic in Times Square on NBC's "New Year's Eve with Carson Daly" special. At the 11:57 p.m. mark, he changed the lines "nothing to kill or die for / and no religion, too" to "nothing to kill or die for / and all religion is true." That switch ignited numerous tweets, since removed, on Green's Twitter page, chastising him for "entirely subverting the meaning of the line," as E! Online described them. One Twitter post, saying the singer had "changed lyric to be pro-religion," also noted the irony of Green singing "Imagine no possessions" while dressed "in a fur coat & expensive jewelry."

Earlier in the song, Green did retain the original, unreligious lyrics "Imagine there's no Heaven / It's easy if you try / No Hell below us / Above us only sky."

Green -- best known for his 2006 hit "Crazy" as part of the duo Gnarls Barkley and for a 2010 solo hit with a profanity in its title -- tweeted in response, "Yo I meant no disrespect by changing the lyric guys! I was trying to say a world where u could believe what you wanted that's all." Shortly thereafter, that and the related tweets all were removed.

On Monday and yesterday, Green posted a handful of tweets saying what music he was listening to, beginning with the 1977 Dave Mason staple "We Just Disagree." In response to a tweet asking if this was a comment "regarding john lennon lyrics?" Green replied, "nope just indifference in general."

He later tweeted he was listening to his own song "Bridges" and then to "I'm Only Sleeping," from The Beatles' "Revolver" album.

Green's spokeswoman did not respond to a Newsday request for comment.

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