Kate Bush

22 pieces
Notify me of new notes
By popularity
By popularity
Catherine Bush CBE (born 30 July 1958) is an English singer, songwriter, pianist, dancer, and record producer. In 1978, aged 19, she topped the UK Singles Chart for four weeks with her debut single "Wuthering Heights", becoming the first female artist to achieve a UK number one with a self-written song. Bush has since released 25 UK Top 40 singles, including the Top 10 hits "The Man with the Child in His Eyes", "Babooshka", "Running Up That Hill", "Don't Give Up" (a duet with Peter Gabriel) and "King of the Mountain". All ten of her studio albums reached the UK Top 10, including the UK number one albums Never for Ever (1980), Hounds of Love (1985) and the compilation The Whole Story (1986). She was the first British solo female artist to top the UK album charts and the first female artist to enter the album chart at number one.

Bush began writing songs at 11. She was signed to EMI Records after Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour helped produce a demo tape. Her debut album, The Kick Inside, was released in 1978. Bush slowly gained artistic independence in album production and has produced all her studio albums since The Dreaming (1982). She took a hiatus between her seventh and eighth albums, The Red Shoes (1993) and Aerial (2005). Bush drew attention again in 2014 with her concert residency Before the Dawn, her first shows since 1979's The Tour of Life. In 2022 her 1985 song "Running Up That Hill" received renewed global attention after being featured in season 4 of the Netflix series Stranger Things, which led to the single becoming her second UK number one and reaching the top of several other charts. The song also reached number 4 on the US Billboard Hot 100, Bush's first release to reach the top 10 of a US singles chart; its parent album, Hounds of Love, became Bush's first album to reach the top of a Billboard albums chart.

Bush's eclectic and experimental musical style, unconventional lyrics, performances and literary themes have influenced a diverse range of artists. She has been nominated for 13 Brit Awards, winning for Best British Female Artist in 1987, and has been nominated for three Grammy Awards. In 2002, Bush was recognised with an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music. Bush was appointed a CBE in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to music. She has been nominated three times for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: 2018, 2021 and 2022.

1958–1974: Early life

Bush was born on 30 July 1958 in Bexleyheath, Kent, to an English doctor, general practitioner Robert Bush (1920–2008), and Hannah née Daly (1918–1992), an Irish staff nurse, daughter of a farmer in County Waterford. She grew up with her elder brothers, John and Paddy, in a 350-year-old former farmhouse at East Wickham in Welling, which neighbours Bexleyheath. Bush came from an artistic background: her mother was an amateur traditional Irish dancer, her father was an amateur pianist, Paddy worked as a musical instrument maker, and John was a poet and photographer. Both brothers were involved in the local folk music scene. She was raised as a Roman Catholic.

Bush trained at Goldsmiths College karate club, where her brother John was a karate instructor. There, she became known as "Ee-ee" because of her squeaky kiai.

Her family's musical influence inspired Bush to teach herself the piano at the age of 11. She also played the organ in a barn behind her parents' house and studied the violin. She soon began composing songs, eventually adding her own lyrics.

1975–1977: Career beginnings

Bush attended St Joseph's Convent Grammar School, a Catholic girls' school in nearby Abbey Wood. During this time her family produced a demo tape with over 50 of her compositions, which was turned down by record labels. Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour received the demo from Ricky Hopper, a mutual friend of Gilmour and the Bush family. Impressed, Gilmour helped the 16 year-old Bush record a more professional demo tape. Three tracks in total were recorded and paid for by Gilmour. The tape was produced by Gilmour's friend Andrew Powell, who went on to produce Bush's first two albums, and sound engineer Geoff Emerick, who had worked with the Beatles. The tape was sent to EMI executive Terry Slater, who signed her.

The British record industry was reaching a point of stagnation. Progressive rock was very popular and visually oriented rock performers were growing in popularity, thus record labels looking for the next big thing were considering experimental acts. Bush was put on retainer for two years by Bob Mercer, managing director of EMI group-repertoire division. According to Mercer, he felt Bush's material was good enough to release, but felt that if the album failed it would be demoralising and if it was successful Bush was too young to handle it. However, in a 1987 interview, Gilmour disputed this version of events, blaming EMI for initially using the "wrong" producers.

After the contract signing, EMI gave her a large advance, which she used to enroll in interpretive dance classes taught by Lindsay Kemp, a former teacher of David Bowie, and mime training with Adam Darius. For the first two years of her contract, Bush spent more time on schoolwork than recording. She left school after doing her mock A-Levels and having gained ten GCE O-Level qualifications.

Bush wrote and made demos of almost 200 songs, some of which circulated as bootlegs. From March to August 1977, she fronted the KT Bush Band at public houses in London. The band included Del Palmer (bass), Brian Bath (guitar), and Vic King (drums). She began recording her first album in August 1977.

1978–1979: The Kick Inside and Lionheart

For her debut album, The Kick Inside (1978), Bush was persuaded to use established session musicians instead of the KT Bush Band. She retained some of these even after she had brought her bandmates back on board. Her brother Paddy played the harmonica and mandolin. Stuart Elliott played some of the drums and became her main drummer on subsequent albums. The Kick Inside was released when Bush was 19, with some songs written when she was as young as 13. EMI originally wanted the more rock-oriented track "James and the Cold Gun" to be her debut single, but Bush, who already had a reputation for asserting herself in decisions about her work, insisted that it should be "Wuthering Heights". Two music videos with similar choreography were created by Bush to accompany the song. The studio version sees her perform in a dark room with mist while wearing a white dress, suggesting her character is a ghost (as is the case with Cathy in the novel that inspired the song). The outside version sees Bush dancing in a grassy area in Salisbury Plain (inspired by the novel's moors) while wearing a red dress.

In the United Kingdom alone, The Kick Inside sold over a million copies. "Wuthering Heights" topped the UK and Australian charts and became an international hit. Bush became the first British woman to reach number one on the UK charts with a self-written song. "The Man with the Child in His Eyes" made it onto the US Billboard Hot 100 where it reached number 85 in early 1979, and went on to win her an Ivor Novello Award in 1979 for Outstanding British Lyric. According to Guinness World Records, Bush was the first female artist in pop history to have written every track on a million-selling debut album.

Bob Mercer blamed Bush's lesser success in the United States on American radio formats, saying there were no outlets for Bush's visual presentation. EMI capitalised on Bush's appearance by promoting the album with a poster of her in a tight pink top that emphasised her breasts. In an interview with NME in 1982, Bush criticised the choice: "People weren't even generally aware that I wrote my own songs or played the piano. The media just promoted me as a female body. It's like I've had to prove that I'm an artist in a female body." In late 1978, EMI persuaded Bush to quickly record a follow-up album, Lionheart, to take advantage of the success of The Kick Inside. The album was produced by Andrew Powell, assisted by Bush. While it gained high sales and spawned the hit single "Wow", it did not reach the success of The Kick Inside, reaching number six in the UK album charts. She went on to express dissatisfaction with Lionheart, feeling that it had needed more time.

Bush set up her own publishing company, Kate Bush Music, and her own management company, Novercia, to maintain control of her work. Members of her family, along with Bush herself, composed the board of directors. Following the release of Lionheart, she was required by EMI to undertake heavy promotional work and an exhausting tour. The Tour of Life began in April 1979 and lasted six weeks. It was described by The Guardian as "an extraordinary, hydra-headed beast, combining music, dance, poetry, mime, burlesque, magic and theatre". The show was co-devised and performed on stage with magician Simon Drake. Bush was involved in every aspect of the production, choreography, set design, costume design and hiring. The shows were noted for her dancing, complex lighting and her 17 costume changes per show. Because of her need to dance as she sang, sound engineers used a wire coat hanger and a radio microphone to fashion a headset microphone; it was the first used by a rock performer since the Spotnicks used a rudimentary version in the early 1960s.

1980–1984: Never for Ever and The Dreaming

Released in September 1980, Never for Ever saw Bush's second foray into production, co-producing with Jon Kelly. Her first experience as a producer was on her Live on Stage EP, released after her tour the previous year. The first two albums had resulted in a definitive sound evident in every track, with orchestral arrangements supporting the live band sound. The range of styles on Never for Ever is much more diverse, veering from the straightforward rocker "Violin" to the wistful waltz of hit single "Army Dreamers".

Never for Ever was her first album to feature synthesisers and drum machines, in particular the Fairlight CMI, to which she was introduced when providing backing vocals on Peter Gabriel's eponymous third album in early 1980. It was her first record to reach the top position in the UK album charts, also making her the first female British artist to achieve that status, and the first female artist ever to enter the album chart at the top. The top-selling single from the album was "Babooshka", which reached No. 5 in the UK Singles Chart. In November 1980, she released the standalone Christmas single "December Will Be Magic Again", which reached No. 29 in the UK charts.

September 1982 saw the release of The Dreaming, the first album Bush produced by herself. With her new-found freedom, she experimented with production techniques, creating an album that features a diverse blend of musical styles and is known for its near-exhaustive use of the Fairlight CMI. The Dreaming received a mixed reception in the UK, and critics were baffled by the dense soundscapes Bush had created to become "less accessible". In a 1993 interview with Q magazine, Bush stated: "That was my 'She's gone mad' album." However, the album became her first to enter the US Billboard 200 chart, albeit only reaching No. 157. The album entered the UK album chart at No. 3, but is to date her lowest-selling album, garnering "only" a silver disc.

"Sat in Your Lap" was the first single from the album to be released. It preceded the album by over a year and peaked at No. 11 in the UK. The title track, featuring Rolf Harris and Percy Edwards, stalled at No. 48, while the third single, "There Goes a Tenner", stalled at No. 93, despite promotion from EMI and Bush. The track "Suspended in Gaffa" was released as a single in Europe, but not in the UK.

Continuing in her storytelling tradition, Bush looked far outside her own personal experience for sources of inspiration. She drew on old crime films for "There Goes a Tenner", a documentary about the Vietnam War for "Pull Out the Pin", and the plight of Indigenous Australians for "The Dreaming". "Houdini" is about the magician's death, and "Get Out of My House" was inspired by Stephen King's novel The Shining.

1985–1988: Hounds of Love and The Whole Story

Hounds of Love was released in 1985. Because of the high cost of hiring studio space for her previous album, she built a private studio near her home, where she could work at her own pace. Hounds of Love ultimately topped the charts in the UK, knocking Madonna's Like a Virgin from the number-one position.

The album takes advantage of the vinyl and cassette formats with two very different sides. The first side, Hounds of Love, contains five "accessible" pop songs, including the four singles "Running Up That Hill", "Cloudbusting", "Hounds of Love", and "The Big Sky". "Running Up that Hill" reached No. 3 in the UK charts and re-introduced Bush to American listeners, climbing to No. 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November 1985. The second side of the album, The Ninth Wave, takes its name from Tennyson's poem, "Idylls of the King", about the legendary King Arthur's reign, and is seven interconnecting songs joined in one continuous piece of music.

The album earned Bush nominations for Best Female Solo Artist, Best Album, Best Single, and Best Producer at the 1986 Brit Awards. In the same year, Bush and Peter Gabriel had a UK Top 10 hit with the duet "Don't Give Up" (Dolly Parton, Gabriel's original choice to sing the female vocal, turned his offer down), and EMI released her "greatest hits" album, The Whole Story. Bush provided a new lead vocal and refreshed backing track on "Wuthering Heights", and recorded a new single, "Experiment IV", for inclusion on the compilation. Dawn French and Hugh Laurie were among those featured in the video for Experiment IV. At the 1987 Brit Awards, Bush won the award for Best British Female Solo Artist.

1989–1993: The Sensual World and The Red Shoes

Released in 1989, The Sensual World was described by Bush herself as "her most honest, personal album". One of the tracks, "Heads We're Dancing", inspired by her own black humour, is about a woman who dances all night with a charming stranger only to discover in the morning that he is Adolf Hitler. The title track drew its inspiration from James Joyce's novel Ulysses. The Sensual World went on to become her biggest-selling album in the US, receiving an RIAA Gold certification four years after its release for 500,000 copies sold. In the United Kingdom album charts, it reached the number-two position. Another single from the album, "This Woman's Work", was featured in the John Hughes film She's Having a Baby, and a slightly remixed version appeared on Bush's album The Sensual World. The song reached number-eight in 2005 on the UK download chart after featuring in a British television advertisement for the charity NSPCC.

In 1990, the boxed set This Woman's Work was released; it included all of her albums with their original cover art, as well as two discs of all her singles' B-sides recorded from 1978 to 1990. In 1991, Bush released a cover of Elton John's "Rocket Man", which reached number 12 in the UK singles chart, and reached number two in Australia. In 2007, it was voted the greatest cover ever by readers of The Observer newspaper. Another John cover, "Candle in the Wind", was the B-side. In the same year, she starred in the black comedy film Les Dogs, produced by The Comic Strip for BBC television. Bush plays the bride Angela at a wedding set in a post-apocalyptic Britain.

Bush's seventh studio album, The Red Shoes, was released in November 1993. The album gave Bush her highest chart position in the US, reaching number 28, although the only song from the album to make the US singles chart was "Rubberband Girl", which peaked at number 88 in January 1994. In the UK, the album reached number-two, and the singles "Rubberband Girl", "The Red Shoes", "Moments of Pleasure", and "And So Is Love" (featuring Eric Clapton on guitar) all reached the top 30. Bush directed and starred in the short film The Line, the Cross and the Curve, which featured music from her album The Red Shoes, itself inspired by the 1948 film of that name. It was released on VHS in the UK in 1994 and also received a small number of cinema screenings around the world.

The initial plan had been to tour with The Red Shoes release, but did not reach fruition. Thus, Bush deliberately produced her tracks live, with less studio production that had typified her last three albums and which would have been too difficult to re-create on stage. The result polarised her fan base, who had enjoyed the intricacy of her earlier compositions, with other fans claiming they had found new complexities in the lyrics and the emotions they expressed.

During this period, Bush had suffered a series of bereavements, including the loss of guitarist Alan Murphy, who had started working with her on The Tour of Life in 1979, and her mother Hannah, to whom she was exceptionally close. The people she lost were honoured in the ballad "Moments of Pleasure." However, Bush's mother was still alive when "Moments of Pleasure" was written and recorded. Bush describes playing the song to her mother, who thought the line where she is quoted by Bush as saying, "Every old sock meets an old shoe", was hilarious and "couldn't stop laughing."
1994–2006: Motherhood, hiatus, and Aerial

After the release of The Red Shoes, Kate Bush dropped out of the public eye. She had originally intended to take one year off, but despite working on material, twelve years passed before her next album release. Her name occasionally cropped up in the media with rumours of a new album release. The press often viewed her as an eccentric recluse, sometimes drawing a comparison with Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens's Great Expectations. In 1998, Bush gave birth to Albert, known as "Bertie", fathered by guitarist Dan McIntosh, whom she met in 1992. In 2001, Bush was awarded a Q Award as Classic Songwriter. In 2002, she was awarded an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music, and performed "Comfortably Numb" at David Gilmour's concert at the Royal Festival Hall in London.

Kate Bush's eighth studio album, Aerial, was released on double CD and vinyl in November 2005. The album single "King of the Mountain", had its premiere on BBC Radio 2 two months prior. The single entered the UK Downloads Chart at number six, and would become Bush's third-highest-charting single ever in the UK, peaking at number four on the full chart. Aerial entered the UK albums chart at number three, and the US chart at number 48.

Aerial, like Hounds of Love (1985), is divided into two sections, each with its own theme and mood. The first disc, subtitled A Sea of Honey, features a set of unrelated themed songs, including "King of the Mountain"; "Bertie", a Renaissance-style ode to her son; and "Joanni", based on the story of Joan of Arc. In the song " π {\displaystyle \pi } \pi ", Bush sings 117 digits of the number pi. The second disc, subtitled A Sky of Honey, features one continuous piece of music describing the experience of 24 hours passing by. Aerial earned Bush two nominations at the 2006 Brit Awards, for Best British Female Solo Artist and Best British Album.

2007–2013: Director's Cut and 50 Words for Snow

In 2007, Bush was asked to write a song for The Golden Compass soundtrack which made reference to the lead character, Lyra Belacqua. The song, "Lyra", was used in the closing credits of the film, reached number 187 in the UK Singles Chart and was nominated for the International Press Academy's Satellite Award for original song in a motion picture. According to Del Palmer, Bush was asked to compose the song on short notice and the project was completed in 10 days.

In May 2011, Bush released the album Director's Cut, comprising 11 reworked tracks from The Sensual World and The Red Shoes, recorded using analogue rather than digital equipment. All the tracks have new lead vocals, drums, and instrumentation. Some were transposed to a lower key to accommodate her lowering voice. Three of the songs, including "This Woman's Work", have been completely rerecorded, with lyrics often changed in places. Bush described the album as a new project rather than a collection of remixes. It was the first album on her new label, Fish People, a division of EMI Records. In addition to Director's Cut in its single CD form, the album was released with a box-set that contains the albums The Sensual World and the analogue re-mastered The Red Shoes. It debuted at number two on the United Kingdom chart.

Bush's next studio album, 50 Words for Snow, was released on 21 November 2011. It features high-profile cameo appearance of Elton John on the duet "Snowed in at Wheeler Street". The album contains seven new songs "set against a backdrop of falling snow", with a total running time of 65 minutes. The album's songs are built around Bush's quietly jazzy piano and Steve Gadd's drums, and use both sung and spoken word vocals in what Classic Rock critic Stephen Dalton calls "a ... supple and experimental affair, with a contemporary chamber pop sound grounded in crisp piano, minimal percussion and light-touch electronics ... billowing jazz-rock soundscapes, interwoven with fragmentary narratives delivered in a range of voices from shrill to Laurie Anderson-style cooing". Bassist Danny Thompson appears on the album, while the sixth track on the album, "50 Words for Snow", features the voice of Stephen Fry reciting a list of surreal words to describe snow.

50 Words for Snow received general acclaim from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 88, based on 26 reviews, which indicates "universal acclaim". At the 2012 Brit Awards she was nominated in the Best Female Artist category, and the album won the 2012 Best Album at the South Bank Arts Awards, and was also nominated for Best Album at the Ivor Novello Awards.

Bush turned down an invitation to perform at the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony in London. Instead, a new vocal remix of her 1985 single "Running Up That Hill" was played. In 2013, Bush became the only female artist to have top five albums in the UK charts in five successive decades.
2014–2021: Before the Dawn and remastered catalogue

In March 2014, Bush announced her first live concerts in decades: Before the Dawn, a 22-night residency in London running from 26 August to 1 October 2014 at the Hammersmith Apollo. Tickets sold out in 15 minutes. The concerts received universal acclaim. An album of recordings from the concerts, Before the Dawn, was released on 25 November 2016. Bolstered by publicity around Before the Dawn, Bush became the first female performer to have eight albums in the UK Top 40 Albums Chart simultaneously, putting her at number three for simultaneous UK Top 40 albums. The only artists ahead of Bush were Elvis Presley, who had 12 entries in the top 40 after his death in 1977 and The Beatles who had 11 in 2009. She had 11 albums in the top 50.

It was an extraordinary experience putting the show together. It was a huge amount of work, a lot of fun and an enormous privilege to work with such an incredibly talented team. This is the audio document. I hope that this can stand alone as a piece of music in its own right and that it can be enjoyed by people who knew nothing about the shows as well as those who were there. I never expected the overwhelming response of the audiences, every night filling the show with life and excitement. They are there in every beat of the recorded music. Even when you can't hear them, you can feel them.

On 6 December 2018, Bush published her first book, How to Be Invisible, a compilation of lyrics. In November 2018, Bush released two box sets of remasters of her studio albums. Vocals from Rolf Harris, who was convicted of multiple sexual assault charges in 2014, were replaced by versions by Bush's son Bertie. A compilation of rare tracks, cover versions and remixes from the boxsets, The Other Sides, was released on 8 March 2019. It includes the previously unreleased track "Humming," recorded in 1975. In September 2019, Bush released "Ne t'enfuis pas" / "Un baiser d'enfant" on vinyl, in France, as a limited-edition promotional single.

2022: "Running Up That Hill" resurgence

After being included on the soundtrack for series 4 of the Netflix series Stranger Things, Bush's 1985 single "Running Up That Hill" gained newfound popularity in May 2022, becoming the most-streamed song on Spotify in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and globally. Winona Ryder (who plays the character Joyce Byers on Stranger Things) stated she had pushed for Bush’s song to be on the show: "I've been obsessed with her since I was a little girl. I've also for the last seven years been dropping hints on set wearing my Kate Bush T-shirts." According to The Guardian, "Running Up That Hill" has become particularly popular with members of Generation Z, who were not born when the song was first released, and it has appeared in numerous videos on the social media platform TikTok. Bush released a statement praising Stranger Things and saying the resurgence was "really exciting". On 10 June 2022, it charted at number two on the UK Singles Chart, surpassing its peak of number three from 1985.

After "Running Up That Hill" had reached number two in the UK charts on 10 June, it was revealed to be the most popular track of the week in the UK, ahead of chart topper "As It Was" by Harry Styles, but a pre-existing chart rule penalised older songs that are streamed. The Chart Supervisory Committee responded by giving the record an exemption from the ACR accelerated decline rule due to its ongoing sales resurgence. On 17 June, the song reached number one in the UK, making it Bush's second UK number one single. It broke three UK Chart Records in the process. With 44 years between number ones (her last chart-topper "Wuthering Heights" was in 1978) Bush eclipsed Tom Jones’s 42-year gap between two number ones. She replaced Cher as the oldest female solo chart-topping artist at 63 years and 11 months. Her track also replaced "Last Christmas" (written by George Michael) for the longest period taken to reach number one with the single first entering the chart in August 1985 and getting to the top 37 years later, beating the previous record by a year.

On the US Billboard Hot 100 issue dated 11 June 2022, the song re-entered the chart at number eight, surpassing its original peak of number 30 in November 1985 to become Bush's first US top-ten hit. A week later it climbed to number four in the US. The parent album, Hounds of Love, also reached a new peak in the US, charting at number 28. The song topped the Australian ARIA Charts to become her second number one single in the country. In France, "Running Up That Hill" beat its original chart peak of 24, placing at number three. Hounds of Love also rose in popularity on various album charts, with it reaching number 1 on Billboard's Top Alternative Albums chart, making it Bush's first US chart-topping album in her career. On 10 June, The Whole Story rose from number 76 to number 19 on the UK Albums Chart.