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Sunday, July 20, 2014

50 Words For Kate: #38 - Imitation

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

Kate Bush is an original. By that I mean she has no predecessors, nobody who came before you can point to and say "oh, she's like so and so". Don't believe me? Try it.

There is certainly a long line of artists that came along in Kate's wake that have been influenced by her: indeed, many are more than happy to admit to it. I bear no judgement on this, it's just a fact of life; some lead, others follow.

Of course some of Kate's imitators are not riffing off her muse, they are quite literally taking her off. Impressionists were a mainstay of comedy and light entertainment in the UK, their heyday was undoubtedly in the 1970's and 80's, around the time Kate was at her most visible. Given her unique style of performance, it was inevitable that she would be the subject of parody.

Her most frequent imitator was the impressionist Faith Brown, who specialised in mimicking singers. Among her most popular turns was Kate, seen here in 1980 being "interviewed" by Faith and premiering a song from her third album, Kick A Lion Inside The Heart. (Excuse the poor video quality... it's old!).

Far from being upset by Faith's take on her quirks, Kate found them hilarious. As well as reportedly writing Faith a four-page fan letter, Kate also expressed her admiration for the detail in Faith's sketches in this interview from March 1979.

For my money though, the best Kate parody was by Pamela Stephenson, on the satirical sketch show, Not The Nine O'Clock News. In a number dubbed Oh England My Leotard, Kate's media image is cleverly deconstructed, alongside a wry commentary on the sexism directed at female musicians. What I particularly love about this though is the careful construction of the track from iconic bits of Kate; it must have been written by a true fan.

Impressions are no longer a staple of comedy, partly as tastes have changed, but also because I think there are just fewer originals around these days to inspire such affectionate caricatures. It's good to know that Kate saw the funny side; flattery gets you everywhere, after all.

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