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Tribute bands

To encourage students to consider the extent to which they may be tempted to rely too much on others for their personal identity.

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To encourage students to consider the extent to which they may be tempted to rely too much on others for their personal identity.

Preparation and materials

  • None required, although images of artists mentioned may be displayed.


  1. May sees the start of the music festival season. Up and down the country you’ll be able to see and listen to the top music acts – if you have the money to do so and managed to get hold of a ticket. They seem to get snapped up within minutes of being released.
  2. There’s something very special about a live band. Listening to a recording, whether it is on download, CD or even original vinyl is one thing, but listening to that sound live is a different experience entirely. There’s the atmosphere created by the fans, the visual effects and the sense that it’s happening right here, right now, in front of us. The good news is that actually we can all share the experience of the live event. We, too, can listen live to the sound of Take That (with or without Robbie Williams), Abba, Pink Floyd, even Elvis, Queen or the Beatles. Think about that for a moment.

    How? We simply need to find the tribute band.
  3. There are musicians who have built their entire career on recreating the sound and the showmanship of artists such as those named above. It’s not merely the singing voice and the harmonies they recreate, it’s the whole arrangement of the songs, the dance moves, the costumes, the accents and the spoken links between songs. If you were to close your eyes you’d believe it was the original artists playing. There is, of course, no originality in what a tribute band does. If any of them were to introduce a personal touch to the performance it would break the spell entirely. It’s all about accuracy, from the pronunciation and musical phrasing to the drum roll and the guitar riffs. The audience has come to the performance to enjoy an accurate fake. It’s simply a multi-sensory step further on from going to Madame Tussaud’s to stand in front of a waxwork figure.
  4. Who’s your style icon? Who do you try to look like, to sound like, to act like? We all do it in one way or another. Those interested in sport buy the gear worn by their heroes and practise the tricky moves they use. Some even learn to dive in the penalty area or argue with the ref! Film stars and musicians develop their cult followings, who reproduce every detail of what they see their idols wear, eat and do. Hair and clothing fashions change season by season, led by the pictures in the media. Who’s going up and who’s going down? Even within a school it’s possible to see students copy the style of certain individuals. Sometimes this is in terms of dress, music choice and the latest ‘must have’ gear, but it might also be in terms of certain types of behaviour, both those that are socially acceptable and those that are anti-social. The truth is that we can all be tempted to copy the style of others. Even teachers do it, but you’ll have to look closely.
  5. Why do we do this? On the one hand, it might be simply because we like what someone else is doing and want to try it. Because it works for them, we hope it will also work for us. There’s a certain amount of independence to that way of thinking because, if we don’t think it works, then we’re likely to find something else that does. At other times, it might be because we want to impress the person we’re copying. There’s a saying: imitation is the highest form of flattery. Dressing and acting like someone is one way to show that we want to be part of the group to which they belong. Or else we copy a look because we want to attract the attention of a member of the opposite sex. Finally, sometimes it might simply be that we copy because we think we haven’t any original ideas ourselves and don’t want to get left behind in a changing world. We don’t want to be thought of as old-fashioned. The result of all this copying is a series of tribute images, all trying to look, sound and act the same.
  6. I believe that we’re worth more than that. When, in the Creation story, the Bible talks about our being made in the image of God, it isn’t saying that we’re all clones, identical to one another. It actually means that we are each a unique, beautiful individual who has the infinite potential that the creative life of God places in us. There is no one quite like you or me, and we both have a unique contribution to make to the world in which we live. The world is a richer place because we inhabit it. We each have the right to stand in the spotlight and take a bow. For one person it may be because of a singing voice; for another because of the ability to solve a problem. For one it may be because of a beautiful head of hair; for another because of infinite patience. For one it may be sprinting speed; for another it may be quick thinking in a crisis. We have no need to copy and become tribute acts of those around us. We are ourselves. I am me, you are you and that’s more than enough to be proud of.

Time for reflection

Spend a moment considering the following thoughts. You may wish to turn them into a prayer:

Be thankful for who you are and all you are proud of in yourself.
Be sorry for denying yourself, for being ashamed of who you are.
Make a plan to take some action that arises out of today’s assembly.

As a final action, I’d like you all to stand.
Now together, take a bow! You are all stars.


‘Thank you for the music’ by Abba (the song is all about the singer’s personal attributes and her thankfulness for them).

Publication date: May 2011   (Vol.13 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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