Who is Kate Bush?

Madison Mahady

If you’ve been on TikTok lately, odds are you’ve heard of Kate Bush. Her song Running Up That Hill was featured in the newest season of Stranger Things and has since been climbing worldwide charts since. With this renewed interest in the song, many of its young fans wonder, ‘Who is Kate Bush’?

Born June 30th, 1958 in Bexleyheath, England, Bush was surrounded by the arts from a young age. Her family is full of artists and musicians who encouraged her musical pursuits. By age sixteen, Bush was peddling her mixtape in hopes that a record label would notice her. Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour ended up getting Bush’s self-made demos and helped her produce three professional demos. Thanks to these new demos Bush was signed to EMI. Bush has released ten albums: The Kick Inside (1978), Lionheart (1978), Never for Ever (1980), The Dreaming (1982), Hounds of Love (1985), The Sensual World (1989), The Red Shoes (1993), Aerial (2005), Director’s Cut (2011) and 50 Words for Snow (2011). She also has a compilation album, The Whole Story (1986), and a live album Before the Dawn (2016).

The Kick Inside, Bush’s debut album, was released when she was only 19. The leading single Wuthering Heights became an international hit, topping the UK and Australian charts. With the success of this single Bush became the first British woman to top the UK charts with a self-written song. The album itself earned Bush a Guinness World Record, becoming the first woman in pop history to completely write an album that sold over one million copies. 

Her third album, Never for Ever, helped Bush break even more records. The album debuted at number 1 on the UK album charts, marking her as the first British woman to achieve a number 1 UK album, as well as becoming the first solo woman to debut #1 on the UK albums chart. Although quite successful in the UK, it wouldn’t be until her fourth album The Dreaming, that Bush would finally crack the US charts. The 1993 album Red Shoes would be Bush’s highest-charting album in America, reaching a peak of 28.

With her fifth album, Hounds of Love, Bush took advantage of the vinyl and cassette formats. Side A of her album was made to appeal to mass audiences, the type of pop music people expected to see in the 80s. Side B is where Bush let her full artistry take root, creating seven songs that were all interconnected. It was on this album that Bush released Running Up That Hill, the song that is making her name known to an entirely new generation. 

With a career spanning decades, I initially thought I’d find a long list of tours and live shows. To my surprise, I found Bush had only one tour in 1979, called The Tour of LifeThis tour emphasized the visual medium that Bush crafted to not just accompany her music, but to enhance the musical and artistic experience of her work. Movement and modern dance have been just as important as Bush’s music when speaking of her artistry. To many, Bush is an innovator in modern dance. Bush’s emphasis on dance created a unique challenge for her tour crew. They had to create a mic that Bush could use while dancing. The sound engineers fashioned a headset with a wireless mic built into it, making Bush and her team pioneers in the technology. 

In March 2014, Bush announced a 22-night residency at the Hammersmith Apollo from late August to early October. Titled Before The Dawn, this residency was the first time Bush would perform consistently in over thirty years. The tickets for her residency sold out in minutes. A recording of the performances was released as a live album in November 2016.

The release of Before the Dawn landed Bush eight simultaneous albums on the UK Top 40 Albums chart, a feat no other female artist had ever accomplished. She currently ranks third for simultaneous UK Top 40 albums, only beaten out by Elvis and the Beatles. In 2018, Bush became the only female artist to have top five albums on the UK charts in five consecutive decades. 

A long history of record-breaking success leads us to today, where a whole new generation is being introduced to Kate Bush. Although none of Gen-Z were alive when Running Up That Hill was first released, the song has been embraced thanks to its popularity on TikTok. Originally, the song peaked at #3 on the UK charts and #30 on the Billboard Hot 100. With the renewed interest the song skyrocketed to number four on the Billboard Top 100, her first-ever song to land in the Top 10.  The parent album Hounds of Love rose to number one on the Billboard Top Alternative Albums, giving Bush her first US number one album.

With a career that spans over forty years, it’s safe to say that Kate Bush’s contributions to music cannot be minimized. A new generation is being introduced to the British icon, ensuring that her music will live on for generations to come.