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The traditional folk song that inspired Kate Bush to write a song about incest


It’s not like Kate Bush is entirely unfamiliar with despairingly creepy romantic and familial relationship dynamics, her most famous song is called ‘Wuthering Heights’ after all. But there’s one track hidden within her discography that might come off a little odd to those who have actually listened to the words.

Actually, not a little odd. Probably very odd, considering that this song is quite literally about incest. So, what exactly pushed this English national treasure to write a song about siblings doing the unspeakable? Well, she didn’t come up with it out of her own head.

In fact, her track was actually inspired by a traditional folk song, which contains just as concerning subject matters embedded in the lyricism. The traditional English folk number is called ‘Lucy Wan’, and when Kate Bush heard the song for the first time, she recalled: “It was an area that I wanted to explore because it’s one that is really untouched and that is one of incest. There are so many songs about love, but they are always on such an obvious level”.

So if that’s where the inspiration came from, what song did the tale inspire? If you’ve heard Kate Bush’s song ‘The Kick Inside’, congrats. You’ve been listening to a song about incest.

The song itself is written to be a suicide note, penned by a woman who fell in love with her brother and became pregnant with his baby, hence the title ‘The Kick Inside’. In the song, the woman tells her brother not to feel responsible for her death or the choices she made. The lyrics go extremely dark, which is honestly appropriate for the subject matter.

In the song, Bush sings: “I’m giving it all in a moment or two, giving it all in a moment for you. This kicking here inside, makes me leave you behind. No more under the quilt to keep you warm. Your sister I was born, you must lose me like an arrow shot into the killer storm”. It’s pretty unmistakable—the song is absolutely about a brother and sister who do the unspeakable.

Alongside her smash hit single ‘Wuthering Heights’, Bush also penned this song when she was just 19. Of course, this shocked plenty of listeners, considering that she was young, and had been educated in a convent. However, she did say that her characters were a part of keeping her faith and that she made sure never to pass judgement on them.

The track croons in her classic high register, with full orchestral and piano backing. It’s undeniably a beautiful musical arrangement, almost enough to make you forget the lyrical drama behind it and the folk song that inspired it.

Appearing on the same album as ‘Wuthering Heights’, Bush made the bold move of titling the entire album after her song, leaving it as the last track on The Kick Inside. The album came out in 1978. If the topic strikes people as controversial now, you can only imagine what it was like to write about the taboo back then.

If you’re curious about this Kate Bush song and want to listen a little closer, you can do so below.