Kate Bush gave popular music a new palette of techniques, crafting unorthodox performances that are part sonic experiment, part theater.
Bush draws us into the world of her imagination through complex arrangements, striking visual presentations and inventive use of technology.
Kate Bush has maintained a level of control and integrity within her spellbinding music that few artists have matched – even more remarkable for a singer, multi-instrumentalist, writer and producer in a field where a very small percentage of producers are women.
In 1980, Bush was the first British solo female artist to have a #1 album on the UK charts. More than three decades later, in 2014, on the heels of her historic return to the stage in London, Bush had eight albums on the chart simultaneously – the first woman in history to do so.
As critic Owen Myers wrote in The Fader, “Unfazed by a lack of precedent to her visions, Bush’s genre-spanning music didn’t just push pop forward with its embrace of avant-garde styles [but] left the tools for other artists to do the same.” She opened the door for women to experiment more radically in their music and imagery, inspiring Björk, Lady Gaga, Solange, Tori Amos and countless others.
Her early use of sampling won her hip-hop admirers including Big Boi and Tupac. And her highly stylized music videos and performances, which combined dance, mime, magic and theater, were novel in 1978 but “set a benchmark for people’s shows in the future,” per Elton John.
Now, virtually every performer is expected to pair visual spectacle or choreography with music. How would most pop artists tour without the headset microphone, created for Bush’s 1979 “Tour Of Life”?
“The direction I’m going in in my art is the way I want to go,” Bush said in 1982. This autonomy, dedication to her unconventional visions, and insistence on pushing herself creatively – often against the advice of her studio bosses – changed the world in unexpected but profound and indelible ways, not only for musicians but for all of us who dare to imagine the world as a magical place.
“Wuthering Heights,” The Kick Inside • Lionheart (1978) • Never For Ever (1980) • The Dreaming (1982) • “Cloudbusting,” “Running Up That Hill,” Hounds Of Love (1985) • The Sensual World (1989) • The Red Shoes (1993) • Aerial (2005) • Director’s Cut • 50 Words For Snow (2011) • Before The Dawn (2016)