"My life and my work are very interlocked. That's partly why I like to keep my private life private,” Kate Bush said in 2005. Privacy is an integral part of the British pop star’s nature. She rarely updates her social media accounts, her latest published interview was in 2016, and her last tour was in 1979. When it comes to projects, Bush has always followed her own agenda. Her most recent album was released nine years ago and came six years after the album before that. In other words, being a fan of the singer-songwriter is a never-ending waiting game supplemented by diving into the 10 studio albums she’s produced so far. Bush’s extensive discography, which has been described as complex and ethereal, has the range to keep fans immersed, no matter how lengthy the waiting period.
Bush never intended on being a star in the limelight, which she’s been straightforward about since her early years. In 2011 she told The Sydney Morning Herald, "I kind of adopted a philosophy a long time ago that I wanted my work to speak for me. I don't really think of myself as a personality or a celebrity." She loathes the idea of promotion and only takes part so people know she’s created something new. Music has always been something she produced and never something that produced her. And like her music, her impact speaks for itself, keeping Bush’s name well and alive into her 62nd birthday.
"[Kate Bush] embodied the punk spirit by just being completely herself. She blew things apart with things like ‘Running Up That Hill’ because it defied the classic logic of pop.” – Boy George
For the last three decades, Bush has been crowned the queen of art-pop without ever winning a Grammy or touring after the releases of new albums. You won’t catch her in the audience at an award show or giving lengthy interviews on a talk show. In fact, it isn’t even certain where she is spending her time, but many fans assume she’s tucked away somewhere in South Devon. With her pioneering legacy of experimental sound, masterful storytelling, and unconventional lyrics and structure, Bush’s influence in the music industry has stretched across genres and borders. “Kate Bush has always been a typewriter in a renaissance," Boy George explained. "She appeared out of nowhere at the tail end of punk and sort of embodied the punk spirit by just being completely herself. She blew things apart with things like ‘Running Up That Hill’ because it defied the classic logic of pop.”
In 1978, at the age of 19, Bush began breaking barriers for women in pop. Topping the UK Singles Chart for four weeks with her debut single "Wuthering Heights," Bush became the first female artist to reach number one in the UK with a self-written song. Additionally, and equally impressive, she was the first British solo female artist to ever top the UK album charts and the first female artist to enter the album chart at No. 1. By her fourth studio album, Bush gained artistic independence in album production, an uncommon circumstance for women in the music industry during the ‘80s. “The big thing for me, and it has been from quite early on, is to retain creative control over what I’m doing. If you have creative control, it’s personal,” she told Independent in 2016. Her ability to work on her own agenda and release atypical work influenced many younger artists to do the same.
"The big thing for me, and it has been from quite early on, is to retain creative control over what I’m doing. If you have creative control, it’s personal." – Kate Bush
“When I was 17 and getting my first record deal, it was the likes of Kate Bush who had contributed to labels taking me seriously as a girl who knew what she was doing and wanted,” Imogen Heap once said. “I was able to experiment and left to my own devices in the studio. Kate produced some truly outstanding music in an era dominated by men and gave us gals a license to not just be ‘a bird who could sing and write a bit,’ which was the attitude of most execs.” Bush is credited for her early-on, revolutionary use of the Fairlight synthesizer, the headset microphone onstage, and exploring controversial themes wrapped into an ultramodern sound.
After Bush’s seventh album in 1993, The Red Shoes, she took a 12-year hiatus. The break can be attributed to the birth of her first son in 1998, which was even kept a secret until two years later when it was revealed by Peter Gabriel during an interview. A nine-year hiatus followed that, pushing the idea that Bush had become a recluse and was nearing her final years in music. Whether that be true or not, her eclectic music style has yet to go out of fashion. Even modern film has made space for the work of Bush. The iconic sex scene in Love and Basketball wouldn’t be nearly as steamy or moving without Maxwell’s cover of “This Woman’s Work.” More recently, “Running Up That Hill” was coined as a symbol of Angel and Stan’s relationship in Pose. Even “Cloudbusting” and Bush’s original “This Woman’s Work” helped set the tone in The Handmaid’s Tale.
If you haven’t been as lucky to come across Kate Bush’s music in a film or through the recommendation of a friend, there's a chance you’ve unknowingly grown accustomed to the sounds she pioneered. From FKA Twigs’ Magdalene to Billie Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, Bush’s influence—whether direct or not—exists in so many modern pop projects today. Hints of her dramatic vocals carry on through Florence Welch’s delivery and her experimental, futuristic production provided a blueprint for artists like Charli XCX to push pop forward. Her mime-like dance moves coupled with intimate orchestration is echoed in Lorde’s performances. Sinead O’ Connor’s penetrating lyrics in “Troy” and Sia’s roaring vocals in “Chandelier” both conjure the spirit of Kate Bush. Her heirs include other greats like Tori Amos, Björk and Enya. Even electronic artists like Grimes and rock artists like Stevie Nicks have been compared to the UK artist.
Music critics often award talent to musicians who effectively create songs that are transformative and albums that generate a different vibe than the previous. In 2011, Kate Bush told Interview Magazine, “My desire was never to be famous. It was to try and create something interesting musically if I could.”
Through storytelling and literary themes, Bush created engaging, thought-provoking material that transports listeners to different eras and places. With her music, Bush spawned a melodic synopsis for Emily Brontë’s best-selling novel (Wuthering Heights), a detailed perspective of the death of a magician ("Houdini") and entertained the idea of switching genders for deeper understanding ("Running Up That Hill"). As a result, Bush’s diverse and boundless collection of songs has led to an international, devoted fan base. From a worldwide holiday dedicated to re-enactments of “Wuthering Heights,” hosted by fans, to a 53-minute documentary showcasing different people's moving stories about how Bush's work has affected their lives, the musical phenomenon Bush has given rise to is abiding.
She is highly praised by her peers, too. Big-time artists like St. Vincent and Adele have publicly expressed how Bush’s music influenced their own work. Prince noted her as his favorite lady. Even Tupac was a Kate Bush fan. Big Boi, a longtime stan of “Running up That Hill,” shared that he would listen to the song everyday on his bike ride to and from school. During a phone call earlier this month he told us, “I fell in love with her songwriting and how her songs would tell stories. It was deep. From there she became one of my two favorite artists." The connection he formed to Bush's music grew so deep that he spent a week in England trying to pin her down while he was in town for press meetings.
After texting and talking over the phone for years, the two finally linked in 2017 for dinner which the Outkast member tells me “was the coolest experience ever.” He continues, "We talked mainly about our children... She wasn't really recording at the time because she wanted to focus on her kid. That's another thing that really brought us together—centering our family. We had a nice little dinner and we just sat there and chatted for like an hour or two."
“I fell in love with [Kate Bush's] songwriting and how her songs would tell stories. It was deep. From there she became one of my two favorite artists." – Big Boi
Big Boi was one of the many celebrities who attended Bush’s “Before The Dawn” show in 2014. The 22-night concert residency, which was held at the Hammersmith Apollo in London, sold out within 15 minutes online, 35 years after Bush’s last tour. Big Boi has been hinting that a Kate Bush collaboration of some sorts might be in the works, but he's hesitant to say more. "And there's a big surprise coming as well," he told us. "I can't tell you all the details right now, but yeah, something is coming."
For fans, it can be quite frustrating to admire someone who is so distant, especially in the digital age. Very little is known about Bush’s day-to-day life, and social media doesn’t provide a stance on her political views or evolving taste and perspective. It isn’t even certain when and if another Kate Bush album will ever come, leaving fans with no choice but to be patient with her timeline and dive deeper into music that already exists. Luckily, powerful art coupled with a mystifying personality has left a lot to explore since the release of her debut album in 1978. Maybe that is why Bush has continued to persist over time. After all, an artist who is not yet fully understood can often be the most compelling.
“I think when you don’t give people anything, they make things up. It’s both flattering on lots of levels... The fact that people are still concerned about writing about me,” Bush said in a 1992 interview. “The fact that they still remember me and are hanging onto me, it’s very flattering.“ While her low profile has kept her out of the public eye, the public ear will continue to wait for the groundbreaking musician that is Kate Bush to reappear, whenever she decides it's time.