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Picking out the literature references featured in Kate Bush's music


With all the hype surrounding Kate Bush recently, it’s no wonder why fans both new and old would be getting a little more curious about the songstress and her story. Aside from her Stranger Things connection and the song ‘Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)’, the British singer-songwriter has been putting stories into her songs since the day she broke onto the scene.

Long before we had Lana Del Rey finding literary inspiration for her music, Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ was her very first single, and it catapulted her to fame, to say the least. The song, hence the title, was based on the Emily Bronte book of the same name. But her literary references don’t stop there—in fact, far from it.

Going for something a bit more wholesome and universal, another literary reference you can find in Bush’s work is that of Peter Pan. On her album Lionheart, the songs ‘In Search of Peter Pan’ and ‘Oh England My Lionheart’ both feature the character. Bush called the book “an absolutely amazing observation on paternal attitudes and the relationships between the parents”.

Some of her references to literature are a little more direct, even when they remain subtle—like the Othello quote in the song ‘Blown Away’, where the lyrics say: “Put out the light, then put out the light.” And this isn’t the only time Bush shows her love of Shakespeare. There’s actually a sneaky reference to Hamlet in ‘Cloudbusting’ with: “Your sun’s coming out”. However, ‘Cloudbusting’ is also inspired by the Book of Dreams by Peter Reich, which is a memoir that describes the close relationship he had with his father.

Beyond Shakespeare, Kate Bush has plenty more literary references to other parts of the classic canon, including James Joyce’s Ulysses, with the songs ‘The Sensual World’ and ‘Flower Of The Mountain’ both inspired by the book, the latter of which was the original version of the former, which was only released after the previously-denied permission from the Joyce estate was granted to use the monologue from Molly Bloom. It took quite a journey to get there, but nonetheless, the world has both songs now.

Although this gets into film inspiration territory, Bush also released the album The Red Shoes in 1993, which takes its title directly from the film of the same name. However, even though the film is about ballet and ballet dancing, the movie was actually based on Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fairytale, so one could make the argument that this, too, is a literary reference. The poetic story is that of a woman who puts on a pair of red shoes that she can’t take off, and therefore is unable to stop dancing.

Getting a little more contemporary, Kate Bush has also found inspiration in Stephen King’s The Shiningwith the song ‘Get Out Of My House’. This reference makes it more than clear—she has quite the range, and has an impeccable apt for literature and storytelling.

However, it makes plenty of sense, as Bush has been writing songs since she was 11-years-old, and has said that she thinks of herself as a writer before she thinks of herself as a musician. She told BBC in 2005, “I think of myself as a writer first, then a singer and performer.” Coincidentally, Lana Del Rey said nearly the exact same quote years later in one of her first interviews. Maybe she found a little inspiration with Kate Bush, too.

Here’s the full list of all of Kate Bush’s notable literary references mentioned. Did you catch any in her music that we missed?

The literary references Kate Bush’s music:

  • Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
  • Othello – William Shakespeare
  • Hamlet – William Shakespeare
  • Book of Dreams – Peter Reich
  • Peter Pan – James Matthew Barrie
  • The Red Shoes – Hans Christian Andersen
  • The Shining – Stephen King
  • Ulysses – James Joyce

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