Francis Ford Coppola’s gangster saga, The Godfather, will go down in history as one of the most influential films of all time. Using the subtle expression of familial bonds and underlying loyalty across a backdrop of intense violence and criminal undertakings, the director, along with his cast, provided us all with a masterpiece movie that will live long in the memory. It’s a film that has become embedded in our pop culture landscape from the moment it was released.
As such, the film has been connected to all manner of artistic expressions. Whether they be cinematic nods to the trilogy or inspired tomes of literature or other pop culture reverence. However, one of the more peculiar connections is to the uniquely talented Kate Bush and her song ‘Between a Man and a Woman’.
Kate Bush began her career with a literary influence too. Starting life in the charts as a teenager, Bush quickly became heralded as one of Britain’s finest songwriters after she penned and performed the gigantic classic ‘Wuthering Heights’, a track which shot to number one and made Bush the first woman to both write and record a chart-topping single. She told Record Mirror in 1978, “Great subject matter for a song. I loved writing it. It was a real challenge to precis the whole mood of a book into such a short piece of prose.”
Bush continued, “Also, when I was a child, I was always called Cathy, not Kate, and I just found myself able to relate to her as a character. It’s so important to put yourself in the role of the person in a song. There’s no half measures. When I sing that song, I am Cathy. (Her face collapses back into smiles.) Gosh, I sound so intense. ‘Wuthering Heights’ is so important to me. It had to be the single. To me, it was the only one.” While the song had certainly started out as a homage to the book, it was a movie that sealed the deal.
The story goes that Bush didn’t read Emily Brontë’s book but caught the final ten minutes of the 1967 BBC mini-series based on the famous novel, writing the entire song in just under a few hours. “When I was in Canada, I found out that Lindsay Kemp, my dance teacher, was in town,” she confessed, “Only ten minutes away by car, so I went to see him. When I came back, I had this urge to switch on the TV – it was about one in the morning – because I knew the film of Wuthering Heights would be on. I tuned in to a thirties gangster film, then flicked through the channels, playing channel roulette, until I found it. I came in at the moment Cathy was dying, so that’s all I saw of the film. It was an amazing coincidence.”
That’s all well and good. However, there is a slight jump in pace and potency from a TV film about a heavily romantic book and one of the grittiest gangster films of all time. But, for Bush’s 1989 album Sensual World, the connection happened much the same way; Bush drew inspiration directly from Coppola’s work. “It’s about a relationship being a very finely balanced thing that can be easily thrown off by a third party,” she told NME.
“The whole thing really came from a line in The Godfather, during some family argument, when Marlon Brando says, ‘Don’t interfere, it’s between a man and a woman.’ It’s exploring the idea of trying to keep a relationship together, how outside forces can break into it.” Bush was actually a little incorrect in this description as it was actually Mama Corleone who said those famous lines.
The words are uttered during the famous family dinner scene, a pivotal moment to access Coppola’s aforementioned subtlety instilled in the film. Sonny responds angrily when he sees his sister be verbally abused by her husband but, quick as a whip, Mama Corleone puts Sonny in his place with that fateful line.
It would spark a moment of intrigue for Bush and send her on her way to creating one of the best moments on her 1989 album. Below, you can watch the family dinner scene from The Godfather and then listen to Kate Bush’s ‘Between a Man and a Woman’.