is an English singer-songwriter, musician and record producer. Her eclectic musical style and idiosyncratic vocal style have made her one of the United Kingdom's most successful solo female performers of the past 30 years. On 27 November 2011, Bush's tenth studio album, 50 Words for Snow, entered the UK album charts at #5, making Bush the first female recording artist to have an album of all new material in the top five during each of the last five decades.
In 1978, at the age of 19, Bush topped the UK Singles Chart for four weeks with her debut single "Wuthering Heights", becoming the first woman to have a UK number one with a self-written song. She was also the most photographed woman in the United Kingdom the following year.
After her 1979 tour — the only concert tour of her career — Bush released the 1980 album Never for Ever, which made her the first British solo female artist to top the UK album charts and the first female artist ever to enter the album chart at Number 1. In 1987, she won a BRIT Award for Best British Female Solo Artist. She has released ten albums, three of which topped the UK Albums Chart, and has had 25 UK Top 40 hit singles including "Wuthering Heights", "Running Up that Hill", "King of the Mountain", "Babooshka", "The Man with the Child in His Eyes", and "Don't Give Up" (a duet with Peter Gabriel). All of them reached the Top 10.
In 2002, Bush's songwriting ability was recognised with an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music. In 2005, she released Aerial, her first album in 12 years. The album earned her a BRIT Award nomination for Best Album and another for Best Solo Female Artist. During the course of her career, she has also been nominated for three Grammy Awards.
Early lifeBush was born in Bexleyheath, Kent, to English physician Robert Bush and his Irish wife, Hannah Daly. She was raised in their farmhouse in East Wickham, Kent, with her older brothers, John and Paddy. Bush came from an artistic background: her mother was a former Irish folk dancer, her father was an accomplished pianist, Paddy worked as a musical instrument maker and John was a poet and photographer. Both brothers were involved in the local folk music scene.
John was a karateka at Goldsmiths College karate club and Kate also trained there, becoming known as "Ee-ee" because of her squeaky kiai. One of the instructors, Dave Hazard, later noted in his autobiography that her dance moves seemed to owe something to karate.
Her family's musical influence inspired the young Kate to teach herself to play the piano at the age of 11. She also played the organ in a barn behind her parents' house and studied the violin. She soon began writing her own tunes and eventually added lyrics to them.
CareerBush attended St Joseph's Convent Grammar School (later the St Joseph's campus of Bexley College) and a Catholic girls' school on Woolwich Road in Abbey Wood, London, in the mid-1970s. During this time her family produced a demo tape with over 50 of her compositions, which was turned down by record labels. David Gilmour of Pink Floyd received the demo from Ricky Hopper, a mutual friend of Gilmour and the Bush family. Impressed with what he heard, Gilmour helped the sixteen-year-old Bush get a more professional-sounding demo tape recorded that would be more saleable to the record companies. The tape was produced by Gilmour's friend Andrew Powell, who would go on to produce Bush's first two albums, as well as by sound engineer Geoff Emerick. The tape was sent to EMI executive Terry Slater, who would become famous for signing The Sex Pistols. Slater was impressed by the tape and signed her. At that time, Pink Floyd was an important act to EMI. The British record industry was reaching a point of stagnation. Progressive rock was very popular and visually oriented rock performers were growing in popularity, thus record labels looking for the next big thing were considering experimental acts.
Bush was put on retainer for two years by Bob Mercer, managing director of EMI group-repertoire division. According to Mercer he felt Bush's material was good enough to be released but felt if the album failed it would be demoralizing and if it was successful Bush was too young to handle it. For the first two years of her contract, Bush spent more time on school work than making an album. She left school after doing her mock A-levels and having gained ten GCE O-Level qualifications. In 2005, Bush stated in an interview with Mark Radcliffe on BBC Radio 2 that she believed EMI signed her before she was ready to make an album so that no other record company could offer her a contract. After the contract signing, EMI forwarded her a sizeable advance which she used to enrol in interpretive dance classes taught by Lindsay Kemp, a former teacher of David Bowie, and mime training with Adam Darius.
Bush also wrote and made demos of close to 200 songs, a few of which today can be found on bootleg recordings and are known as the Phoenix Recordings. From March to August 1977, she fronted the KT Bush Band at public houses around London – specifically at the Rose of Lee public house (now Dirty South) in Lewisham. The other three band members were Del Palmer (bass), Brian Bath (guitar), and Vic King (drums). She began recording her first album in August 1977, although two tracks had been recorded during the summer of 1975.
Musical styleBush's music is eclectic, using various styles of music even within the same album. Her songs have spanned genres as diverse as rock, pop, alternative and art rock. Even in her earliest works where the piano was a primary instrument, she wove together many diverse influences, melding classical music, rock, and a wide range of ethnic and folk sources, and this has continued throughout her career.
In an interview with Melody Maker magazine in 1977, she revealed that male artists had more influence on her work than females, stating: "Every female you see at a piano is either Lynsey De Paul, or Carole King. And most male music—not all of it but the good stuff—really lays it on you. It really puts you against the wall and that's what I like to do. I'd like my music to intrude. Not many females succeed with that."
The experimental nature of her music has led it to be described as a later, more technological, and more accessible manifestation of the British progressive rock movement. Southern England was the home to the most influential and successful acts of the progressive rock movement and, like other artists in this genre, Bush rejects the classic American style of making pop music, which was adopted by most UK pop artists. Bush's vocals contain elements of British, Anglo-Irish and most prominently (southern) English accents and, in its utilization of musical instruments from many periods and cultures, her music has differed from American pop norms. Elements of Bush's lyrics tend to be more unusual and less clichéd than American-style pop lyrics, often employing historical or literary references and avoiding autobiographical lyrics. She considers herself a storyteller who embodies the character singing the song and strenuously rejects efforts by others to insist that her songs are autobiographical.
Reviewers have used the term "surreal" to describe her music. Many of her songs have a melodramatic emotional and musical surrealism that defies easy categorisation. It has been observed that even the more joyous pieces are often tinged with traces of melancholy, and even the most sorrowful pieces have elements of vitality struggling against all that would oppress them.
Bush is not afraid to tackle sensitive and taboo subjects. "The Kick Inside" is based on a traditional English folk song (The Ballad of Lucy Wan) about an incestuous pregnancy and a resulting suicide. "Kashka from Baghdad" is a song about a homosexual male couple; Out magazine listed two of her albums in their Top 100 Greatest Gayest albums list. "The Infant Kiss" is a song about a haunted, unstable woman's almost paedophile infatuation with a young boy in her care (inspired by Jack Clayton's film The Innocents (1961), which had been based on Henry James's famous novella The Turn of the Screw); and "Breathing" explores the results of nuclear fallout from the perspective of an unborn child in the womb. Her lyrics have referenced a wide array of subject matter, often relatively obscure, as in "Cloudbusting", which was inspired by Peter Reich's autobiography, "Book of Dreams", about his relationship with his father, Wilhelm Reich, and G. I. Gurdjieff in "Them Heavy People", while "Deeper Understanding", from The Sensual World, portrays a person who stays indoors, obsessively talking to a computer and shunning human contact.
Comedy is also a big influence on her and is a significant component of her work. She has cited Woody Allen, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and The Young Ones as particular favourites. Horror movies are another interest of Bush's and have influenced the gothic nature of several of her songs, such as "Get Out of My House", inspired by Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, and "Hounds of Love", inspired by the 1957 horror movie Night of the Demon. Her songs have occasionally combined comedy and horror to form dark humour, such as murder by poisoning in "Coffee Homeground", an alcoholic mother in "Ran Tan Waltz" and the upbeat "The Wedding List", a song inspired by François Truffaut's 1967 film of Cornell Woolrich's The Bride Wore Black about the death of a groom and the bride's subsequent revenge against the killer.
The Kick Inside (1978)
Never for Ever (1980)
The Dreaming (1982)
Hounds of Love (1985)
The Sensual World (1989)
The Red Shoes (1993)
Director's Cut (2011)
50 Words for Snow (2011)