Bush was born in Bexleyheath, Kent, (now also part of the London Borough of Bexley) to English medical doctor Robert Bush (1920–2008) and Hannah Daly (1918–1992; from County Waterford, Ireland). She was raised as a Roman Catholic in their farmhouse in East Wickham, an urban village in the neighbouring town of Welling, with her older brothers, John and Paddy. Bush came from an artistic background: her mother was an amateur traditional Irish dancer, her father was an amateur 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 – the loud verbalisation accompanying some martial arts attacking manoeuvres. 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 Bush to teach herself 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.
Bush attended St Joseph's Convent Grammar School, a Catholic girls' school (later part of St Mary's and St Joseph's School, Sidcup), in Woolwich Road, Abbey Wood, south east 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. Three tracks in total were recorded and paid for by Gilmour. The tape was produced by Gilmour's friend Andrew Powell, who would go on to produce Bush's first two albums, and sound engineer Geoff Emerick. The tape was sent to EMI executive Terry Slater. Slater was impressed by the tape and signed her. 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 that if the album failed it would be demoralising and if it was successful Bush was too young to handle it. However, in a 1987 interview, Gilmour disputed this version of events, blaming EMI for initially using "wrong" producers.
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 enroll 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.
As part of her preparation for entering the studio, Bush toured pubs with the KT Bush Band. However, for her début album, The Kick Inside (1978), she was persuaded to use established session musicians, some of whom she would retain even after she had brought her bandmates back on board. Her brother Paddy played the harmonica and mandolin, unlike on later albums where he would play more exotic instruments such as the balalaika and didgeridoo. Stuart Elliott played some of the drums and would become her main drummer on subsequent albums.
Bush released The Kick Inside when she was 19 years old, but some of the songs had been written when she was as young as 13. EMI originally wanted the more rock-oriented track "James and the Cold Gun" to be her debut single, but Bush insisted that it should be "Wuthering Heights". Even at this early stage of her career, she had gained a reputation for her determination to have a say in decisions affecting her work. "Wuthering Heights" topped the UK and Australian charts and became an international hit. Bush became the first woman to reach number one in the UK charts with a self-penned song. Despite her considerable subsequent chart success it is still her only No. 1 single (as of 2016). A second single, "The Man with the Child in His Eyes", reached number six in the UK charts. It also made it onto the American Billboard Hot 100 where it reached number 85 in early 1979, and went on to win her an Ivor Novello Award in 1979 for Outstanding British Lyric.
Bob Mercer felt that Bush's relative lack of success in the United States compared to the rest of the world was due to her music being a poor fit for American radio formats, and that there were no outlets for the visual presentation central to Bush's appeal. EMI capitalised on Bush's appearance by promoting the album with a poster of her in a tight pink top that emphasised her breasts. In an interview with NME magazine in 1982 Bush criticised this marketing technique, stating: "People weren't even generally aware that I wrote my own songs or played the piano. The media just promoted me as a female body. It's like I've had to prove that I'm an artist in a female body." In late 1978, EMI persuaded Bush to quickly record a follow-up album, Lionheart, to take advantage of the success of The Kick Inside. Bush has often expressed dissatisfaction with Lionheart, feeling that she had needed more time to get it right. The album was produced by Andrew Powell, assisted by Bush. While it had spawned several hit singles, most notably "Wow", it did not garner the same reception as her first album, reaching number six in the UK album charts.
Bush was displeased with being rushed into making the second album. She set up her own publishing company, Kate Bush Music, and her own management company, Novercia, to maintain complete control over her work. Members of her family, along with Bush herself, composed the company's board of directors. Following the album's release, she was required by EMI to undertake heavy promotional work and an exhausting tour. The tour, named The Tour of Life, began in April 1979 and lasted six weeks. This live show was co-devised and performed on stage with magician Simon Drake. Typical of her determination to have creative control, she was involved in every aspect of the production, choreography, set design and staff recruitment for the show. The shows were noted for her dancing, complex lighting and her 17 costume changes per show. Because of her intention to dance as she sang, her sound engineers used a wire coat hanger and a radio microphone to fashion the first headset microphone to be used by a rock performer since the Swedish group the Spotnicks used a very primitive version in the early 1960s.
Released in September 1980, Never for Ever saw Bush's second foray into production, co-producing with Jon Kelly. Her first experience as a producer was on her Live on Stage EP, released after her tour the previous year. The first two albums had resulted in a definitive sound evident in every track, with orchestral arrangements supporting the live band sound. The range of styles on Never for Ever is much more diverse, veering from the straightforward rocker "Violin" to the wistful waltz of hit single "Army Dreamers".
Never for Ever was the first Kate Bush album to feature synthesisers and drum machines, in particular the Fairlight CMI, to which she was introduced when providing backing vocals on Peter Gabriel's eponymous third album in early 1980. It was her first record to reach the top position in the UK album charts, also making her the first female British artist to achieve that status, and the first female artist ever to enter the album chart at the top. The top-selling single from the album was "Babooshka", which reached number five in the UK Singles Chart. In November 1980, she released the standalone Christmas single "December Will Be Magic Again", which reached number 29 in the UK charts.
September 1982 saw the release of The Dreaming, the first album Bush produced by herself. With her new-found freedom, she experimented with production techniques, creating an album that features a diverse blend of musical styles and is known for its near-exhaustive use of the Fairlight CMI. The Dreaming received a mixed critical reception in the UK, and many were baffled by the dense soundscapes Bush had created to become "less accessible". In a 1993 interview with Q (magazine), Bush stated: "That was my 'She's gone mad' album." However, the album became her first to enter the US Billboard 200 chart, albeit only reaching number 157. The album entered the UK album chart at number-three, but is to date her lowest-selling album, garnering only a silver disc.
"Sat in Your Lap" was the first single from the album to be released. It pre-dated the album by over a year and peaked at number 11 in the UK. The album's title track, featuring the talents of Rolf Harris and Percy Edwards, stalled at number 48, while the third single, "There Goes a Tenner", stalled at #93, despite promotion from EMI and Bush. The track "Suspended in Gaffa" was released as a single in Europe, but not in the UK.
Continuing in her storytelling tradition, Bush looked far outside her own personal experience for sources of inspiration. She drew on old crime films for "There Goes a Tenner", a documentary about the war in Vietnam for "Pull Out the Pin", and the plight of Indigenous Australians for "The Dreaming". "Houdini" is about the magician's death, and "Get Out of My House" was inspired by Stephen King's novel The Shining.
Hounds of Love was released in 1985. Because of the high cost of hiring studio space for her previous album, she built a private studio near her home, where she could work at her own pace. Hounds of Love ultimately topped the charts in the UK, knocking Madonna's Like a Virgin from the number-one position.
The album takes advantage of the vinyl and cassette formats with two very different sides. The first side, Hounds of Love, contains five "accessible" pop songs, including the four singles "Running Up that Hill", "Cloudbusting", "Hounds of Love", and "The Big Sky". "Running Up that Hill" reached number-three in the UK charts and re-introduced Bush to American listeners, climbing to number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November 1985. The second side of the album, The Ninth Wave, takes its name from Tennyson's poem, "Idylls of the King", about the legendary King Arthur's reign, and is seven interconnecting songs joined in one continuous piece of music.
The album earned Bush nominations for Best Female Solo Artist, Best Album, Best Single, and Best Producer at the 1986 BRIT Awards. In the same year, Bush and Peter Gabriel had a UK Top 10 hit with the duet "Don't Give Up" (Dolly Parton, Gabriel's original choice to sing the female vocal, turned his offer down), and EMI released her "greatest hits" album, The Whole Story. Bush provided a new lead vocal and refreshed backing track on "Wuthering Heights", and recorded a new single, "Experiment IV", for inclusion on the compilation. Dawn French and Hugh Laurie were among those featured in the video for Experiment IV. At the 1987 BRIT Awards, Bush won the award for Best Female Solo Artist.
The increasingly personal tone of her writing continued on 1989's The Sensual World. One of the quirkiest tracks on the album, touched by Bush's black humour, is "Heads We're Dancing", about a woman who dances all night with a charming stranger only to discover in the morning that he is Adolf Hitler. The title track drew its inspiration from James Joyce's novel Ulysses.
The Sensual World went on to become her biggest-selling album in the US, receiving an RIAA Gold certification four years after its release for 500,000 copies sold. In the United Kingdom album charts, it reached the number-two position.
In 1990, the boxed-set This Woman's Work was released and included all of her albums with their original cover art, as well as two discs of all single B sides recorded from 1978 to 1990. In 1991, Bush released a cover of Elton John's "Rocket Man", which reached number 12 in the UK singles chart, and went as high as number-two in Australia, and in 2007, was voted the greatest cover ever by readers of The Observer newspaper. She recorded "Candle in the Wind", as the single's b-side.
Bush's seventh studio album, The Red Shoes, was released in November 1993. The album features more high-profile cameo appearances than her previous efforts, including contributions from composer and conductor Michael Kamen, comedy actor Lenny Henry, Prince, Eric Clapton, Gary Brooker of Procol Harum, Trevor Whittaker, and Jeff Beck. Both The Sensual World and The Red Shoes featured contributions from Trio Bulgarka, the Bulgarian female vocal trio, who sang on six tracks, including "You're The One" and "Rocket's Tail". The album gave Bush her highest chart position in the US, reaching number 28, although the only song from the album to make the US singles chart was "Rubberband Girl", which peaked at number 88 in January 1994. In the UK, the album reached number-two, and the singles "Rubberband Girl", "The Red Shoes", "Moments of Pleasure", and "And So Is Love" all reached the top 30. In 1994, Bush released an accompanying short film, The Line, the Cross & the Curve. Written, directed by, and starring Bush, along with English actress Miranda Richardson, the film was based around the concept of The Red Shoes and featured six of the songs from the album.
The initial plan had been to take the songs out on the road, but no new tour transpired. Thus, Bush deliberately aimed for a live-band feel, with less of the studio trickery that had typified her last three albums and which would have been too difficult to re-create on stage. The result alienated some of her fan base, who had enjoyed the intricacy of her earlier compositions, but others found a new complexity in the lyrics and the emotions they expressed.
This period had been a troubled time for Bush. She had suffered a series of bereavements, including the loss of guitarist Alan Murphy, who had started working with her on The Tour of Life in 1979, and her mother Hannah, to whom she was exceptionally close. Many of the people she lost are honoured in the ballad "Moments of Pleasure." However, Bush's mother was still alive when "Moments of Pleasure" was written and recorded. Bush describes playing the song to her mother, who thought the line where she is quoted by Bush as saying, "Every old sock meets an old shoe", was hilarious and "couldn't stop laughing."
After the release of The Red Shoes, Kate Bush dropped out of the public eye for many years, although her name occasionally cropped up in the media with rumours of a new album release. Bush had originally intended to take one year off, but despite working on material, twelve years passed before her next album release. The press often viewed her as an eccentric recluse, sometimes drawing a comparison with Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens's Great Expectations. In 1998, Bush had given birth to Albert, known as "Bertie", fathered by her guitarist and now husband Danny McIntosh. In 2001, Bush was awarded a Q Award as Classic Songwriter. In 2002, she was awarded an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music, and performed "Comfortably Numb" at David Gilmour's concert at the Royal Festival Hall in London.
Kate Bush's eighth studio album, Aerial, was released on double CD and vinyl in November 2005. The first single from the album was "King of the Mountain", which was played for the first time on BBC Radio 2 on 21 September 2005.
As on Hounds of Love (1985), the album is divided into two sections, each with its own theme and mood. The first disc, subtitled A Sea of Honey, features a set of unrelated themed songs, including "King of the Mountain"; "Bertie", a Renaissance-style ode to her son; and "Joanni", based on the story of Joan of Arc. In the song " π ", Bush sings 117 digits of the number Pi, but misses 22 digits from the 80th to the 101st place of the value of pi. The second disc, subtitled A Sky of Honey, features one continuous piece of music describing the experience of being outdoors after waking at dawn, moving through afternoon, dusk, to night, then back to the following dawn of a single summer's day. All the pieces in this suite refer or allude to sky and sea in their lyrical content. Bush mixed her voice with cooing woodpigeons to repeat the phrases "A sea of honey, a sky of honey", and "You're full of beauty" throughout the piece, and uses recordings of actual birdsong throughout. A Sky of Honey features Rolf Harris playing the didgeridoo on one track, and providing vocals on "The Painter's Link". Other artists making guest appearances on the album include Peter Erskine, Eberhard Weber, Lol Creme, and Gary Brooker. Two tracks feature string arrangements by Michael Kamen, performed by the London Metropolitan Orchestra. A CD release of the single "King of the Mountain" included a cover of "Sexual Healing" by Marvin Gaye.
"King of the Mountain" entered the UK Downloads Chart at number-six on 17 October 2005, and by 30 October it had become Bush's third-highest-charting single ever in the UK, peaking at number-four on the full chart. Aerial entered the UK albums chart at number-three, and the US chart at number 48. Bush herself carried out relatively little publicity for the album, only conducting a handful of magazine and radio interviews. Aerial earned Bush two nominations at the 2006 BRIT Awards, for Best British Female Solo Artist and Best British Album.
In late 2007, Bush composed and recorded a new song, "Lyra", for the soundtrack to the fantasy film The Golden Compass.
On 16 May 2011, Bush released the album, Director's Cut. The album, which Bush has described as an entirely new project rather than a collection of mere remixes, contains 11 tracks of substantially reworked material from her earlier albums, The Sensual World and The Red Shoes, all of which have been recorded using analogue, rather than digital, equipment to create "a warmer sound". All the tracks have new lead vocals, new drums, and radically reworked instrumentation. Some of them have been transposed to a lower key to accommodate her lowering voice. Three of the songs, including "This Woman's Work", have been completely re-recorded, with lyrics often changed in places. The album has been met with a wide range of reviews with most reviewers a bit confused about the concept of the album itself, while responding with varying degrees of enthusiasm about its revamped tracks. Of particular note is the warmer, more intimate tone of the songs and the richer, more mature sound of her voice. This is the first album on her new label, Fish People, a division of EMI Records, with whom she's had a relationship since she started recording. In addition to the album, Director's Cut in both its single CD form and in a box-set with The Sensual World and the analogue re-mastered The Red Shoes, Fish People re-issued the original versions of Hounds of Love and The Dreaming. The album debuted at number-two on the United Kingdom chart.
The song "The Sensual World" has been renamed "Flower of the Mountain" and contains a passage of Molly Bloom's famous soliloquy from James Joyce's novel Ulysses. Bush said, "Originally when I wrote the song 'The Sensual World', I had used text from the end of Ulysses. When I asked for permission to use the text I was refused, which was disappointing. I then wrote my own lyrics for the song, although I felt that the original idea had been more interesting. Well, I'm not James Joyce am I? When I came to work on this project I thought I would ask for permission again and this time they said yes."
The first single released from the album was "Deeper Understanding" and contains a new chorus featuring computerised vocals from Bush's son, Albert. A video for the song, directed by Bush, has been released through her channel on YouTube. It features Robbie Coltrane as a man consumed by his relationship with his computer (voiced by Bush's son). Frances Barber plays the man's wife, and Noel Fielding also appears.
Bush's next studio album, 50 Words for Snow, was released on 21 November 2011. The album contains seven new songs "set against a backdrop of falling snow", with a total running time of 65 minutes. A radio edit of the first single, "Wild Man", was played on BBC Radio 2's The Ken Bruce Show on 10 October. and was released as a digital download on 11 October. The album is distributed in the United States by Anti-Records.
On 14 November 2011, NPR played 50 Words for Snow in its entirety for the first time. Australia's ABC Radio National declared 50 Words for Snow album of the week of 12 November 2011.
The album's songs are built around Bush's quietly jazzy piano and Steve Gadd's drums, and utilise both sung and spoken word vocals in what Classic Rock critic Stephen Dalton calls "a ... supple and experimental affair, with a contemporary chamber pop sound grounded in crisp piano, minimal percussion and light-touch electronics ... billowing jazz-rock soundscapes, interwoven with fragmentary narratives delivered in a range of voices from shrill to Laurie Anderson-style cooing." Bassist Danny Thompson appears on the album, which also features performances by Elton John and actor Stephen Fry.
On the first track, "Snowflake", in a song written specifically to use his still high choir-boy voice, Bush's son Albert (Bertie) sings the role of a falling snowflake in a song expressing the hope of a noisy world soon being hushed by snowfall. "Snowflake" drifts into "Lake Tahoe", where choral singer Stefan Roberts and Bush sing about a rarely seen ghost: a woman who appears in a Victorian gown to call to her dog, Snowflake. Bush explained to fellow musician Jamie Cullum in an interview on Dutch Radio that she wished to explore using high male voices in contrast to her own, deeper, voice. "Misty" is about a snowman lover who melts away after a night of passion, while "Wild Man" tells the story of a group of climbers in the Himalayas who, upon finding evidence of a nearby Yeti, erase all traces of it to protect it from discovery. Elton John and Bush as eternally divided lovers trade vocals on "Snowed in at Wheeler Street", while Stephen Fry recites the "50 Words for Snow". The quiet "Among Angels" finishes the album.
50 Words for Snow received general acclaim from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 88, based on 26 reviews, which indicates "universal acclaim". She was nominated for a Brit Award in the "Best Female Artist" category, and the album won the 2012 Best Album at the South Bank Arts Awards, and was also nominated for Best Album at the Ivor Novello Awards. In 2013, Bush became the first (and to date, only) female artist to have top five albums in the UK charts in five successive decades.
Bush turned down an invitation by the organisers of the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony to perform at the event; instead, a recording of a new remix of her 1985 hit "Running Up that Hill" was played at the end of the ceremony. Bush released an exclusive limited-edition 10" picture disc of the 2012 remix as part of Record Store Day 2013 on 20 April 2013.
In March 2014, Bush announced her first live concerts in several decades: a 22-night residency called Before the Dawn in London from 26 August – 1 October 2014 at the Hammersmith Apollo. Tickets sold out in 15 minutes. The concerts received positive reviews. In August 2014, bolstered by the publicity around her upcoming performances, she became the first female performer to have eight albums in the Official UK Top 40 Albums Chart simultaneously, putting her at number three for simultaneous UK Top 40 albums (behind Elvis Presley with 12 albums in 1977, and The Beatles in 2009 with 11 albums. Note that in January 2016 following his death, David Bowie joined Elvis in the number one position with 12 albums); altogether she had 11 albums in the top 50. An eponymous three-disc album of recordings from Before the Dawn was released 25 November 2016.
Bush's musical aesthetic is eclectic, and is known to employ varied influences and meld disparate styles, often within a single song or over the course of an album. Even in her earliest works, with piano the primary instrument, she wove together many diverse influences, drawing on classical music, glam rock, and a wide range of ethnic and folk sources. This would continue throughout her career. By the time of Never for Ever, Bush had begun to make prominent use of the Fairlight CMI synthesizer, which allowed her to sample and manipulate sounds, expanding her sonic palette. She has been compared with other "'arty' 1970s and '80s British pop rock artists" such as Roxy Music and Peter Gabriel. The Guardian called Bush "the queen of art-pop."
Bush has a dramatic soprano vocal range. Her vocals contain elements of British, Anglo-Irish and most prominently (southern) English accents and, in its utilisation of musical instruments from many periods and cultures, her music has differed from American pop norms. Reviewers have used the term "surreal" to describe her music. Many of her songs explore melodramatic emotional and musical surrealism that defies easy categorisation. It has been observed that even her 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.
Elements of Bush's lyrics often employ historical or literary references, as embodied in her first single "Wuthering Heights", which is based on Emily Brontë's novel of the same name. She has described herself as a storyteller who embodies the character singing the song and has dismissed efforts by others to conceive of her work as autobiographical. Bush's lyrics have been known to touch on obscure or esoteric subject matter, and New Musical Express noted that Bush was not afraid to tackle sensitive and taboo subjects in her work. "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. She has referenced G. I. Gurdjieff in the song "Them Heavy People", while "Cloudbusting" was inspired by Peter Reich's autobiography, A Book of Dreams, about his relationship with his father, Wilhelm Reich. "The Infant Kiss" is a song about a haunted, unstable woman's almost paedophilic 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 a fetus.
Other non-musical sources of inspiration for Bush include horror films, which have influenced the gothic nature of several of her songs, such as "Hounds of Love", which samples 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. Bush has also cited comedy as a significant influence. She has cited Woody Allen, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and The Young Ones as particular favorites.
Many artists cite her as an influence, including Tori Amos, Ellie Goulding, Charli XCX, Tegan and Sara, k.d. lang, Paula Cole, Kate Nash, Bat for Lashes, Erasure, Alison Goldfrapp of Goldfrapp, Tim Bowness of No-Man, Chris Braide, Kyros, Aisles and Darren Hayes. Nerina Pallot was inspired to become a songwriter after seeing Bush play "This Woman's Work" on Wogan. Coldplay took inspiration from "Running Up That Hill" to compose their hit single "Speed of Sound".
In addition to those artists who state that Bush has been a direct influence on their own careers, other artists have been quoted expressing admiration for her work including Viv Albertine, Chrissie Hynde, Annie Lennox, Björk, Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine, Little Boots, Dido, Sky Ferreira, St. Vincent, Lily Allen, Anohni of Antony and the Johnsons, Big Boi of OutKast, Tupac Shakur, Steven Wilson, Steve Rothery of Marillion, and André Matos. Courtney Love of Hole mentioned Bush among other artists as one of her favourites as a teenager. Tricky wrote an article about The Kick Inside, saying: "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". Suede front-man Brett Anderson stated about Hounds Of Love: "I love the way it's a record of two halves, and the second half is a concept record about fear of drowning. It's an amazing record to listen to really late at night, unsettling and really jarring". John Lydon, better known as Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, declared her work to be "beauty beyond belief". Rotten once wrote a song for her, titled "Bird in Hand" (about exploitation of parrots) that Bush rejected. Bush was one of the singers who Prince thanked in the liner notes of 1991's Diamonds and Pearls. In December 1989, Robert Smith of The Cure chose "The Sensual World" as his favourite single of the year, The Sensual World as his favourite album of the year and included "all of Kate Bush" plus other artists in his list, "the best things about the eighties".
Kele Okereke of Bloc Party said about "Hounds of Love": "The first time I heard it I was sitting in a reclining sofa. As the beat started I was transported somewhere else. Her voice, the imagery, the huge drum sound: it seemed to capture everything for me. As a songwriter you're constantly chasing that feeling". Rufus Wainwright named Bush as one of his top ten gay icons. Outside music, Bush has been an inspiration to several fashion designers, including Hussein Chalayan.
Bush's first tour took place 2 April – 13 May 1979; 35 years later she embarked on a series of 22 concerts at the Hammersmith Apollo, London, beginning 26 August 2014. Apart from these two concert series, she has given only occasional live performances. Several reasons have been suggested as to why she abandoned touring, among them her reputed need to be in total control of the final product, which is incompatible with live stage performance; a rumour of a crippling fear of flying; and the suggestion that the death of 21-year-old Bill Duffield severely affected her. Duffield, her lighting engineer, was killed in an accident during her concert of 2 April 1979 at Poole Arts Centre. Bush held a benefit concert on 12 May 1979, with Peter Gabriel and Steve Harley at London's Hammersmith Odeon for his family. Duffield would be honoured in two later songs: "Blow Away" on Never for Ever and "Moments of Pleasure" on The Red Shoes. Bush explained in a BBC Radio 2 interview with Mark Radcliffe that she actually enjoyed the tour but was consumed with producing her subsequent records. A BBC film crew followed the preparation for the tour which was shown as a 30-minute special on the Nationwide programme.
During the same period as her tour, she made numerous television appearances around the world, including Top of the Pops in the United Kingdom, Bios Bahnhof in Germany, and Saturday Night Live in the United States (with Paul Shaffer on piano)—her only appearance on American television to date. On 28 December 1979, BBC TV aired the Kate Bush Christmas Special. It was recorded in October 1979 at the BBC Studios in Birmingham, England; choreography by Anthony Van Laast. As well as playing songs from her first two albums, she played "December Will Be Magic Again", "Violin", "The Wedding List", "Ran Tan Waltz" and "Egypt" from her forthcoming album, Never for Ever. Peter Gabriel made a guest appearance to play "Here Comes the Flood", and a duet of Roy Harper's "Another Day" with Bush.
After the Tour of Life, Bush wanted to make two more albums before touring again. At that point, she got involved with production techniques and sound experimentation that took up a lot of time and prevented her from touring. She came close to touring again following the release of The Dreaming and The Red Shoes, but live shows never materialised.
In 1982, Bush participated in the first benefit concert in aid of The Prince's Trust alongside artists such as Madness, Midge Ure, Phil Collins, Mick Karn and Pete Townshend. On 25 April 1986 Bush performed live for British charity event Comic Relief, singing "Do Bears... ?", a humorous duet with Rowan Atkinson, and a rendition of "Breathing". In March 1987, Bush sang "Running Up That Hill" at The Secret Policeman's Third Ball accompanied by David Gilmour. On 28 June 1987, she made a guest appearance to duet with Peter Gabriel on "Don't Give Up" at Earl's Court, London as part of his So tour.
On 17 January 2002, Bush appeared with her long-time champion, David Gilmour, singing the part of the doctor in "Comfortably Numb" at the Royal Festival Hall in London.
In 2011, Bush told the magazine Classic Rock: "I do hope that some time I get a chance to do some shows. Maybe not a tour, but something."
In March 2014, Bush announced a 22-night residency called Before the Dawn in London from 26 August – 1 October 2014 at the Hammersmith Apollo. The BBC reviewed the concert positively. The set list comprised most of Hounds of Love featuring the entire Ninth Wave suite, most of Aerial including the entire second disc, two songs from The Red Shoes, and one song from 50 Words for Snow. Bush's first four albums and The Sensual World were noticeably excluded from the set list.
In 1978 Bush made her debut on Dutch television in "De Efteling Special", which was broadcast on 11 May 1978. The amusement park De Efteling served as a backdrop for six songs from The Kick Inside: "Moving", "Wuthering Heights", "Them Heavy People", "Strange Phenomena", "The Man With The Child In His Eyes" and "The Kick Inside". In early 1978, the amusement park's Haunted Castle was completed and the opening was scheduled on 10 May that year. Bush, who just had a big hit in the Netherlands with "Wuthering Heights", made her debut on Dutch television in this special. Her popularity was used to draw the attention to the Haunted Castle (and the popularity of De Efteling drew attention to Kate).
In 1979 Bush's one live show, The Tour of Life, was recorded for the BBC and for release on VHS as Kate Bush Live at Hammersmith Odeon.
Bush has appeared in innovative music videos designed to accompany her singles releases. Among the best known are those for "Running Up that Hill", "Babooshka", "Breathing", "Wuthering Heights", "The Man with the Child in His Eyes", and "Cloudbusting", featuring actor Donald Sutherland, who made time during the filming of another project to take part in the video. EMI has released collections of her videos, including The Single File, Hair of the Hound, The Whole Story, a career video overview released in conjunction with the 1986 compilation album of the same title, and The Sensual World.
In 1993, she directed and starred in the short film, The Line, the Cross and the Curve, a musical co-starring Miranda Richardson, featuring music from Bush's album The Red Shoes, which was inspired by the classic movie of the same name. It was released on VHS in the UK in 1994 and also received a small number of cinema screenings around the world. In recent interviews, Bush has said that she considers it a failure, and stated in 2001: "I'm very pleased with four minutes of it, but I'm very disappointed with the rest." In a 2005 interview, she described the film as "A load of bollocks."
In 1994, Bush provided the music used in a series of psychedelic-themed television adverts for the soft drink Fruitopia that appeared in the United States. The same company aired the adverts in the United Kingdom, but the British version featured singer Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins instead of Bush.
In late 2006, a DVD documentary titled Kate Bush Under Review was released by Sexy Intellectual, which included archival interviews with Bush, along with interviews with a selection of music historians and journalists (including Phil Sutcliffe, Nigel Williamson, and Morris Pert). The DVD also includes clips from several of Bush's music videos.
On 2 December 2008, the DVD collection of the fourth season of Saturday Night Live, including her performances, was released. A three DVD set of The Secret Policeman's Balls benefit concerts that includes Bush's performance was released on 27 January 2009.
Bush has released four short videos for the album 50 Words for Snow. One is an advertisement for the album. Two stop-motion "Animation Segments" were posted on the Kate Bush Official website and YouTube, one to accompany a 2-minute 25 second section of "Misty", called "Mistraldespair", the other to accompany a 2-minute 33 second section of "Wild Man". "Mistraldespair" was directed by Bush and animated by Gary Pureton, while the "Wild Man" segment was created by Finn and Patrick at Brandt Animation. On 24 January 2012, a third piece called "Eider Falls at Lake Tahoe", was premiered on her website and on YouTube. Running at 5:01, the piece is a sepia tone shadow puppet animation. Directed by Bush and photographed by award-winning British cinematographer Roger Pratt, the shadow puppets were designed by Robert Allsopp. Bush stated that "Eider Falls at Lake Tahoe" is intended to be a "self contained piece" separate from the song "Lake Tahoe".
In 1990, Bush starred in the black comedy film Les Dogs, produced by The Comic Strip for BBC television. Aired on 8 March 1990, Bush plays the bride Angela at a wedding set in a post-apocalyptic version of Britain. While Bush's is a silent presence in a wedding dress throughout most of the film, she does have several lines of dialogue with Peter Richardson in two dream sequences. In another Comic Strip Presents film, GLC, she produced the theme song "Ken", which includes a vocal performance by Bush. The song was written about Ken Livingstone, the leader of the Greater London Council, who would later be elected as mayor of London and at the time was working with musicians to help the Labour Party garner the youth vote.
Bush wrote and performed the song "The Magician", using a fairground-like arrangement, for Menahem Golan's 1979 film The Magician of Lublin. The track was scored and arranged by Michael Kamen. In 1986, she wrote and recorded "Be Kind to My Mistakes" for the Nicolas Roeg film Castaway. An edited version of this track was used as the B-side to her 1989 single "This Woman's Work". In 1988, the song "This Woman's Work" was featured in the John Hughes film She's Having a Baby, and a slightly remixed version appeared on Bush's album The Sensual World. The song has since appeared on numerous television shows, and in 2005 reached number-eight on the UK download chart after featuring in a British television advertisement for the charity NSPCC.
In 1999, Bush wrote and recorded a song for the Disney film Dinosaur, but the track was ultimately not included on the soundtrack. According to the winter 1999 issue of HomeGround, a Bush fanzine, it was scrapped when Disney asked her to rewrite the song and she refused. Also in 1999, Bush's song "The Sensual World" was featured prominently in Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan's film "Felicia's Journey". "The Man with the Child in His Eyes" is on the soundtrack for the 2007 British romantic comedy film Starter for 10.
In 2007, Bush was asked to write a song for The Golden Compass soundtrack which made reference to the lead character, Lyra Belacqua. The song, "Lyra", was used in the closing credits of the film, reached number 187 in the UK Singles Chart and was nominated for the International Press Academy's Satellite Award for original song in a motion picture. According to Del Palmer, Bush was asked to compose the song on very short notice and the whole project was completed in 10 days. The song was produced and recorded by Bush in her own studio, and features the Magdalen College, Oxford choir.
Bush provided vocals on two of Peter Gabriel's albums, including the hits "Games Without Frontiers" and "Don't Give Up", as well as "No Self-Control". Gabriel appeared on Bush's 1979 television special, where they sang a duet of Roy Harper's "Another Day". She has sung on two Roy Harper tracks, "You", on his 1979 album, "The Unknown Soldier"; and "Once", the title track of his 1990 album. She has also sung on the title song of the 1986 Big Country album The Seer; the Midge Ure song "Sister and Brother" from his 1988 album Answers to Nothing; Go West's 1987 single "The King Is Dead"; and two songs with Prince – "Why Should I Love You?", from her 1993 album The Red Shoes, and "My Computer" from Prince's 1996 album Emancipation. In 1987, she sang a verse on the Beatles cover charity single "Let It Be" by Ferry Aid. She sang a line on the charity single "Spirit of the Forest" by Spirit of the Forest in 1989.
In 1990 Bush produced a song for another artist, Alan Stivell's "Kimiad" for his album Again; this is the only time she has done this to date. Stivell had appeared on The Sensual World. In 1991, Kate Bush was invited to perform a cover of Elton John's 1972 song "Rocket Man" for the tribute album Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin. In 2011, Elton John collaborated with Bush once again in "Snowed in at Wheeler Street" for her most recent album 50 Words for Snow. In 1994, Bush covered George Gershwin's "The Man I Love" for the tribute album The Glory of Gershwin. In 1996, Bush contributed a version of "Mná na hÉireann" (Irish for "Women of Ireland") for the Anglo-Irish folk-rock compilation project Common Ground: The Voices of Modern Irish Music. Bush had to sing the song in Irish, which she learned to do phonetically.
Artists who have contributed to Bush's own albums include Elton John, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, David Gilmour, Nigel Kennedy, Gary Brooker, Danny Thompson, and Prince. Bush provided backing vocals for a song that was recorded during the 1990s titled Wouldn't Change a Thing by Lionel Azulay, the drummer with the original band that was later to become the KT Bush Band. The song, which was engineered and produced by Del Palmer, was released on Azulay's album Out of the Ashes.
Bush declined a request by Erasure to produce one of their albums because "she didn't feel that that was her area".
Bush is married to guitarist Dan McIntosh and they have a son, Albert, born 1998, known as Bertie. Bertie featured prominently in the 2014 concert "Before the Dawn". She previously had a long-term relationship with bassist and engineer Del Palmer.
Bush is a former resident of Eltham, southeast London. In the 1990s, she moved to a canalside residence in Sulhamstead, Berkshire, and subsequently moved to Devon in 2004. Bush is a vegetarian.
Raised a Roman Catholic, she said in 1999:
I was a Roman Catholic and brought up in Roman Catholic schools. I would never say I was a strict follower of Roman Catholic belief, but a lot of images are in there; they have to be; they're so strong. Such powerful, beautiful, passionate images! There's a lot of suffering in Roman Catholicism. I think I'm looking for not necessarily religion, but ways of helping myself to become more understanding, more complete, a happier person – what we all want in life. But I really don't think I've found a niche.
The length of time between album releases has led to rumours in the media concerning her health or appearance. In 2011 Bush told BBC Radio 4 that the amount of time between album releases is extremely stressful, noting: "It's very frustrating the albums take as long as they do ... I wish there weren't such big gaps between them". In the same interview Bush denied she was a perfectionist in the studio, saying: "I think it's important that things are flawed ... That's what makes a piece of art interesting sometimes – the bit that's wrong or the mistake you've made that's led onto an idea you wouldn't have had otherwise", and reiterated her prioritisation of her family life.
During an interview with Canadian magazine Maclean's' Elio Iannacci in 2016 about the fear of women in power following Hillary Clinton's defeat to Donald Trump in the United States presidential election, 2016, Bush expressed admiration for British Prime Minister Theresa May: "We have a female prime minister here in the UK. I actually really like her and think she's wonderful. I think it's the best thing that's happened to us in a long time. She's a very intelligent woman but I don't see much to fear. I will say it is great to have a woman in charge of the country. She's very sensible and I think that's a good thing at this point in time".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)50 Words for Snow (2011)