Kate Bush is one of the most unique artists ever to have graced the audience’s ears. Her music is a beautiful patchwork of ideas, themes and styles, and in addition to her trademark, otherworldly voice, she has inspired countless numbers. Without her, there would be no Florence, Grimes, Björk or Charli XCX, to name but a few iconic female artists who have followed in her footsteps.
Her artistry is lodged somewhere between pop music and expressionism, and she has carved out a path that many have followed from across the board. In an op-ed in 2003, Bristol rap legend Tricky perfectly described Bush’s work, stating: “Her music has always sounded like dreamland to me… I don’t believe in God, but if I did, her music would be my bible.”
It wouldn’t be outrageous to posit that any of our favourite musicians, who make anything remotely interesting, will cite the influence of Kate Bush on their work. Embodying the grace of Tennyson’s mythical Lady of Shallot, Bush has drawn fans from every corner of the globe and from every walk of life, adding to her distinct artistry.
In addition to her iconic tracks such as ‘Wuthering Heights’, ‘Running Up That Hill’ and ‘Babooshka’, Bush has also gained much respect for her independence as a female artist in a male-dominated industry. After all, it was 1978 when she released her debut single ‘Wuthering Heights’, and the snotty, male-dominated first wave of punk was in its supremacy.
Her opaque work has been taken as referring to political and social themes, including that of feminist and LGBT issues. However, the intentions of her lyrics have long been debated, as in 1985, Bush claimed: “I’ve never felt I’ve written from a political point of view, it’s always been an emotional point of view that just happens to perhaps be a political situation.” Regardless of her opinion, her songs have become anthems to marginalised groups worldwide, and she has expertly straddled the mainstream and the peripheries since her debut.
In this train of thought, Bush has an element inherent to her music that one would argue is actually punk because she rails against the musical and gender norms. Furthermore, in terms of her artistry, she has always remained fiercely independent but still manages to reap the rewards the mainstream has to offer. In 2016, when addressing misogyny, she even defended then UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, and after much criticism, readdressed her statement and explained that she liked May purely because of “the defence of women in power.”
This idea of Kate Bush containing a punk ethos was even somewhat embodied by Britain’s self-appointed king of the punk’s, John Lydon, who called her work “beauty beyond belief”. He didn’t stop there, either; allegedly, he wrote a song for Bush called ‘Bird in Hand’, about the exploitation of Parrots, that she strangely, never used.
Given the era when Bush first burst onto the scene, and the love that Lydon shows for her music, it makes you wonder what Bush made of the leather-clad, faux-nihilist hordes that Lydon was leading. Believe it or not, the ‘Hounds of Love’ star did weigh in on the movement. Looking back on it from the early ’80s, she told an interviewer: “I thought that the whole thing really was just like a game. You know, it was just like a big business game…It was all people acting and becoming roles and playing their roles.”
We’ve heard of Britpop as a government conspiracy, but never of punk as a conspiracy by the major labels, which has a weird, proto-4chan-esque ring to it. The irony of Bush’s comment is that it did actually have some weight. Punk had become a caricature of itself by the onset of the ’80s, and the post-punk movement showed this. The futility of characters such as Sid Vicious and the fact that the spectacle had more significance than the tunes led to the original British wave tarnishing its reputation, although its game-changing effect cannot be understated. After her appearance on Bill Grundy as a Sex Pistols hanger-on in 1976, even Siouxsie Sioux was quick to distance herself from the movement.
Either way, given her “interesting” character as a musician, there is no wonder that Bush had provided us with some rather left-field insights over the years. However, these only serve to add to the unmistakable character of Kate Bush. There will never be anyone quite like her again.
Listen to Kate Bush and others talk about the punk movement, below.