AKA Catherine Mary Bush
Birthplace: Bexleyheath, Kent, England
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Executive summary: The Hounds of Love
There is perhaps no other creative vision of a more distinctive and unusual character to emerge from the popular music field of the twentieth century than that of Kate Bush: an artist who not only accomplished the rare feat of combining musical innovation with commercial success, but who also managed to do so while operating largely on her own terms, maintaining creatve control of her output when even the largest names in the industry were unable to do so. Add in the fact that Kate began her career as a teenager, performing entirely self-created material at a time when precious few women had overcome the still male-dominated nature of the music business, and you have a truly remarkable story. Kate's supportive family lies at the heart of her many accomplishments, as well as her care in surrounding herself with constructive personalities rather than becoming enmeshed in the ego traps that are the downfall of most pop performers.
The youngest child of country doctor Robert Bush and his wife Hannah, Catherine Mary Bush was born in Bexleyheath and raised on the family farm at East Wickham. Kate's mother, who was working as a nurse at the time of her marriage to Robert, had formerly been an Irish folk dancer and encouraged the musical interests of all of her children. Her father was an accomplished pianist and provided her with her first lessons on the instrument. Both of Kate's older brothers became active in the local folk music scene, and as a result the young girl was constantly surrounded by music and music-making. For a brief period in the early 1960s the Bush family relocated to Australia, but less than a year later they would return to East Wickham, and it was here that Kate's own musical talent was given its opportunity to unfold.
During her first year at grammar school Kate was compelled to study the violin, but the piano always remained the focus of her enthusiasm and she switched her attention to it full-time as soon as she was able. Despite her aversion to school, a youthful interest in English literature and writing also made itself apparent at this time; by the age of 13 she had already come up with the basis of what would eventually become her second top 10 single The Man With The Child In His Eyes. With the help of her brothers, Kate began to make demo recordings of original material, and in 1975 she left school with the hopes of securing a publishing deal and becoming a professional songwriter. It was family friend Ricky Hopper that was instrumental in making this hope a reality: the previous year Hopper had played a cassette of Kate's demos to Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, who was impressed enough with the material that he immediately arranged for her to record some more professional-sounding demos at his home studio in Harlow.
Gilmour's efforts to generate interest in Kate's work were initially unsuccessful, but eventually a sympathetic ear was found in the form of EMI Records producer Andrew Powell; with Gilmour funding the sessions, Powell produced three more demos (The Man With The Child In His Eyes, Saxophone Song and Maybe) for the 17-year-old performer at AIR Studios in London. Gilmour then used his access to EMI excecutives to insinuate these new recordings into the consciousness of the label's general manager Bob Mercer. An interview was arranged soon afterwards. It wouldn't be until July of 1976 that a record deal was finalized, however, and Kate was left to spend the next year in a state of uncomfortable uncertainty: out of school, but with no definite prospects for the future. It was during this period that she was introduced to the work of mime artist Lindsay Kemp through his performance of Jean Genet's Flowers in London; Kate's imagination was captured and she subsequently enrolled in a series of classes being taught by Kemp at the Collegiate Theatre. From this point onwards, movement and dance would become an intergral part of her creative output.
After having made the decison to add the young songwriter to their roster, EMI took a very unusual course of action for a major record label: they provided her with a combined recording/publishing advance of £3500 and told her to take the next year developing her material. Much to Kate's frustration, they also acted in a manner very typical of a major record label by constantly pressuring her to make the songs more commercial. In early 1977 she assembled a live band with her brother Paddy Bush (The KT Bush Band) and spent several months cutting her teeth on the London pub circuit; a few originals were performed, but most of the material consisted of cover songs such as The Rolling Stones' Brown Sugar, Marvin Gaye's I Heard It Through The Grapevine and The Beatles' Come Together. It was the creation of this band that provided Kate with her introduction to bassist Del Palmer, who would remain one of her most supportive collaborators and gradually become an important figure on both sides of the mixing desk.
The opportunity to return to AIR Studios and begin work on her debut release finally arrived in July of 1977. On the strength of his demo sessions Andrew Powell was once again chosen to serve as producer; EMI refused to allow Kate to use her live band, however, instead chosing backing musicians from amongst several of the label's other acts (although some of these -- such as drummer Stuart Elliott -- would remain loyal contributors to her albums throughout the decades to come). Two songs from Powell's demo, The Man With The Child In His Eyes and Saxophone Song, were judged to be strong enough for inclusion, and the 10 new tracks were polished off in a mere seven weeks. With this first release Kate was already determined to assert creative control over her material: EMI had wanted the guitar-driven James And The Cold Gun to be the first single, but Kate insisted that the Emily Brontė-inspired Wuthering Heights be used instead. She also vetoed their choice for the sleeve design, causing its release to be delayed by two months. Response to the song was mixed, but Kate's choice was ultimately vindicated: by March of 1978 Wuthering Heights had climbed to the top of the UK charts. The full-length effort The Kick Inside would peak at #3 on the album charts a month later.
The question of whether the success of Wuthering Heights was only a fluke was answered in June, when Kate's second single The Man With the Child In His Eyes climbed to #6. Meanwhile, the singer had been caught up in a whirlwind of promotional appearances that took her across the UK and Europe, as well as involving a festival performance in Tokyo to a crowd of 11,000 and a television audience numbering in the millions. The following month recording for her second effort Lionheart was undertaken in Nice -- again making use of Andrew Powell and several of the musicians on the first album, while making more extensive use of Paddy's eclectic instrumental skills. Lionheart, released in November, was not quite able to match the impact of her debut, and its lead single Hammer Horror only reached #44 due to lukewarm radio support; however, the second single Wow (despite somewhat controversial lyric content) climbed to #14, while the album itself reached a very respectable #6. Not a shabby accomplishment for a 20-year-old performer still only in her first year as a professional musician.
Kate's first proper tour turned out to be an enormous undertaking, designed to her exacting specifications. Named The Tour of Life, the ensemble involved included 7 musicians (most of them from her earlier KT Bush Band), 2 backing singers, 2 dancers and a magician -- as well as 17 costume changes for the ambitious lead performer and various stage sets. The death of lighting technician Bill Duffield in the opening week of the show cast a profound shadow on the participants (he had suffered a serious fall the day before the first official show), but the elaborate production functioned remarkably smoothly throughout its 5 week run and received an enthusiastic reception from the public and (most of) the press. It also raised the bar so high that it would prove to be Kate's last attempt at any kind of tour. The final two shows were staged at London's Hammersmith Odeon on the 13th and 14th of May, the first of which was professionally recorded and videotaped; audio selections were issued in August on a 4-track EP titled On Stage and a video release of most of the performance would eventually be made available in 1981. On the night prior to these shows, a benefit concert for Duffield's family had been organized at the same venue, featuring guest performances by Peter Gabriel and Steve Harley.
In January of 1980 Kate returned to the studio to begin work on her third album Never For Ever. Her established roster of backing musicians were again enlisted, but this time Kate chose to produce the sessions herself with assistance from Kick Inside and Lionheart engineer Jon Kelly. The musical approach used for these new recordings broadened in a number of different directions: brother Paddy provided an ever wider selection of traditional instruments (sitar, balalaika, koto, musical saw, etc.) while Peter Gabriel introduced her to the new technology of drum machines and the Fairlight sampling keyboard. Gabriel had made a guest appearance on a television special Kate created for BBC2 in December, and he invited her in turn to add vocals to two of the tracks (No Self Control and Games Without Frontiers) planned for his Peter Gabriel 3 album; Kate was intrigued by his use of rhythms and programming for the recordings and quickly procured the necessary tools for her own studio. Despite the more sinister tone evident on many of the new songs, Never For Ever immediately returned Kate to the top of the album charts upon its release in September, while all three of the associated singles found their way into the top 20 -- an unusual feat, given that they addressed fairly grim subject matter such as nuclear holocaust (Breathing), infidelity (Babooska) and the untimely deaths met by young men deluded by romanticized notions of war (Army Dreamers).
The remainder of 1980 found Kate Bush caught up in her usual hectic post-release schedule of promotional appearances and performances, with a Christmas single titled December Will Be Magic Again being issued at the end of the year. Her next single Sat In Your Lap was completed relatively quickly and released in the summer of 1981 (the music apparently inspired by a Stevie Wonder concert in London), but it would take more than a year after that before another full-length album materialized. By this point Kate had taken complete control of the production side of things: each track was approached in a different way and given plenty of room to find its own identity. This resulted in some of her most challenging material, and although it proved too challenging for many reviewers and even some of her own audience, her fourth album The Dreaming would still find its way up to #3 by the end of 1982.
Both the music and lyrics the songs on The Dreaming represented the most unsettling material Bush had ever created, the most extreme examples being Pull Out The Pin (a track including backing vocals by former patron Gilmour and written from the point of view of a Viet Cong soldier facing the invading American military), Leave It Open (consisting of layers of decidedly odd vocals that explain the importance of letting your impulses out rather than bottling them up) and Get Out Of My House (a very dark piece describing the mindset of someone who has suffered an extreme personal violation). The album's title track examined the plight of the Australian Aborigine, making extensive use of Fairlight samples and featuring Australian artist Rolf Harris playing their traditional instrument the digeridoo years before the sound became a fashionable ingredient of "world music" acts. Members of the Irish bands Planxty and The Chieftans were enlisted to help Kate to utilize a completely different traditional sound for Night Of The Swallow, which included an arrangement of Uillean pipes, penny whistle, bouzouki and Irish fiddle.
None of the singles issued after Sat In Your Lap (The Dreaming, Suspended In Gaffa, There Goes A Tenner, the French language Ne T'Enfuis Pas and the Ireland-only release of Night Of The Swallow) had much commercial impact, but the work established Kate as one of the most inventive (and fearless) performers of her time. It would be a few months shy of three years following the November '83 release of Night Of The Swallow before any new material by the singer was issued, the gap being filled only by two collections called The Single File: the first being a compilation of her videos and the second being a boxed set of all of her singles to date. In summer of 1983 she took the next step in assuming complete creative control of her output by installing a fully-outfitted 24-track studio in one of the barns behind the East Wickham farm; this allowed her to explore and experiment freely without the financial pressures associated with using a commercial facility. The studio was up and running by September, and work on her next album would continue for nearly two years afterwards.
The results of all this work materialized in September of 1985 as the Hounds Of Love, a record that managed to blend the adventurous spirit of The Dreaming with the popular appeal of her earlier releases. Its contents were divided into two sections: the first section Hounds Of Love containing short songs in a more conventional pop format (although, as always, not at all conventional in their arrangements and subject matter) and the second being a continuous, side-long suite titled The Ninth Wave. This second part was Kate's most ambitious production to date, its abrupt stylistic changes narrating the hallucinatory shifts in consciousness of someone lost out on the open water. The album's arrival was preceeded in August by the single Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God), which immediately climbed to #3 in Britain and gave Kate her biggest worldwide success since Wuthering Heights; the album itself made its way up to the top of the album charts within a week of its release, and eventually achieved double platinum sales.
The usual sequence of promotional appearances in the UK, Europe and the States continued into early 1986, alternating with video work for the next three singles -- Cloudbusting (which enlisted actor Donald Sutherland to portray revolutionary naturalist Wilhelm Reich and featured a Cloudbuster designed by Swiss artist H. R. Giger), Hounds Of Love and The Big Sky. A duet with Peter Gabriel on his single Don't Give Up was issued in October, closely followed by the first Kate Bush "best of" collection The Whole Story and a single release of its new track Experiment IV; the elaborate video created for the single saw Kate's making her first venture as a film director, and featured special effects created by the Image Animation studio and appearances by British comedians such as Dawn French, Hugh Laurie and Peter Vaughan. The Whole Story also included an new version of her first single Wuthering Heights, with the now 28-year-old singer replacing the original vocals she had created at the age of 19.
Despite the long gaps between albums that had come to be Kate's standard operating procedure, her following continued to remain loyal throughout, and when her sixth effort The Sensual World arrived in 1989 it was given a rapid push up the UK album charts to the #2 position. By this time the music had shifted away from the Fairlight-based constructions of the previous two albums, but the singer continued her integration of different traditional styles and instruments, utilizing the Bulgarian vocal group Trio Bulgarka (Deeper Understanding, Never Be Mine, Rocket's Tail), Celtic harpist Alan Stivell (The Fog, Between A Man And A Woman), Uillean pipes and Irish whistles player Davey Spillane (The Sensual World, The Fog, Never Be Mine), the Balanescu Quartet arranged by Michael Nyman (Reaching Out) and orchestral arrangements by Michael Kamen (The Fog, Heads We're Dancing, This Woman's Work). Paddy Bush provided his typically eclectic array of instruments (valiha, tupan, mandolin and even some whips), while the tracks Love And Anger and Rocket's Tail marked the first guitar contributions from David Gilmour to a Kate Bush recording.
The period from the mid-to-late 80s proved to be Kate's most active as a guest performer, her earlier appearances having been limited to backing vocals on the 2 tracks from Peter Gabriel's Peter Gabriel 3 album (1980), You (The Game, Part III) from Roy Harper's The Unknown Soldier (also 1980 -- Harper had also added his own vocals to Kate's track Breathing around this time) and Flowers from "New Romantic" performer Zane Griff's obscure 1982 release Figures (although a barely-detectable presence in the chorus backing Lesley Duncan's charity single Sing Children Sing also took place in 1979). In addition to the successful Don't Give Up duet included on Gabriel's fifth album So, in 1986 Kate also added her vocals to the Big Country single The Seer (included on the full-length release of the same name); this was followed in 1987 by a contribution to the Go West track The King Is Dead (from their album Dancin' On The Couch) and a verse on the Ferry Aid benefit rendering of The Beatles' Let It Be, and in 1988 by an appearances on Midge Ure's Answers To Nothing (duetting on the track Brother And Sister). In 1990 she resumed her collaboration with Harper and lent vocals to the title track of his album Once.
Following The Sensual World a gap of four years would pass before the arrival of Kate's seventh effort The Red Shoes (1993), the title track of which was derived from a fairy tale originally published by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen in 1845. Most of the album's songs displayed a further musical shift towards more conventional pop forms, but her love of folk instruments and unusual arrangements was still clearly evident -- the Trio Bulgarka yet again featuring on three tracks (The Song of Solomon, Why Should I Love You?, You're the One) and a four-piece horn section being used on on four (Rubberband Girl, Eat the Music, Consellation of the Heart, Why Should I Love You?). This change in sound was in part attributable to a corresponding change in the musicans used for the sessions, which included a new selection of high-profile guest artists such as Eric Clapton, Prince, Jeff Beck and Procol Harum organist Gary Brooker, while principal guitar duties for the first time were assumed by ex-Bandit Danny McIntosh (longtime guitarist Alan Murphy having succumbed to HIV-related complications in 1989). In addition to the creation of the album, during the period between 1989 and 1992 Kate conceived and directed an accompanying short film titled The Line, the Cross and the Curve, also based on The Red Shoes tale and integrating six of the songs from the album into the narrative; Kate herself took on the lead role of the ensnared dancer in the film, while British actress Miranda Richardson, mime mentor Lindsay Kemp and most of her band and performance collaborators rounded out the rest of the cast. Response to the film was somewhat mixed, but the album made a quick jump to #2 in the UK album charts and provided her with her highest position to date (#28) in the US.
Once the promotional obligations for The Red Shoes and The Line, the Cross and the Curve had been met, Kate removed herself almost entirely from public activity. The passing of her mother Hannah in 1992 and the loss of several other people close to her had taken a considerable toll upon the singer, and she spent the next several years focusing on her personal life; the subsequent arrival her first child Bertie (fathered by partner Danny McIntosh) in 1998 completely transformed her priorities, and the next seven years were primarily devoted to raising her son. It wasn't until November of 2005, after years of speculation and false rumors, that Kate at last delivered her 8th album Aerial, a 2-disc set that expanded the short song/extended suite pairing of The Hounds of Love into two distinct but related full-length works. Individually titled A Sea of Honey and A Sky of Honey, the first disc of the set contained a collection of tracks that reflected on the profound aspects of the daily routine of life, while the latter disc was made up of a continuous suite of songs that celebrates the passing of a single day. Many of Kate's long-time collaborators -- Stuart Elliot, Del Palmer, Eberhard Weber and, of course, her brother Paddy amongst them -- were still present for the recordings, as were past guest contributors such as Gary Brooker and Rolf Harris. The album proved to be once of the most critically well-received of Kate's career, and despite the minimal number of promotional appearances undertaken by the singer Aerial moved straight to #3 in the UK upon its release.
Father: Robert John Bush (doctor, b. 1920)
Mother: Hannah Daly (nurse, b. 1917)
Brother: John Carder Bush (photographer, b. 1944)
Brother: Paddy Bush (musician, b. 1952)
Boyfriend: Del Palmer (musician)
Boyfriend: Danny McIntosh (musician)
Son: Albert ("Bertie")
High School: St. Joseph's Convent School, London
Irish Ancestry Maternal
Risk Factors: Former Smoker
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
The Secret Policeman's Third Ball (1987) · Herself
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