When I’m at the piano writing a song, I like to think I’m a man…
Who is Kate Bush?
A girl from humble beginnings? An idol of creativity? A crazed performer? A musical genius? Kate Bush is all of these things simultaneously, and she is the beginning and the end of pure un-sexed music.
“When I’m at the piano writing a song, I like to think I’m a man,” a nineteen-year-old Kate Bush says in the March 4, 1978 issue of Melody Maker, “not physically, but in the areas they explore… When I’m at the piano I hate to think I’m a female because I automatically get a preconception.” Feminine music may have progressed from the “sweet and lyrical” described by the past Kate, but female music is still contained by preconception. Striving to impress their power on a world still emphatically perceived as chauvinistic, women like Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, and Demi Lovato favor ‘showcase songs’, songs that display them in all in their badass womanly glory, songs that say ‘this is who I am’. That is the ‘female music’ brand, and it most certainly sells.
Once the song is being written whoever is singing that song isn’t necessarily me anymore, it becomes the character.
One artist dared to fight the burgeoning tide of girl power and become both a queen and a king. The release of Kate Bush’s first album The Kick Inside, featuring number one single “Wuthering Heights”, marked the beginning of her valiant battle with commercial audiences, to prove herself as more than a sex symbol in spandex. She did it by reaching beyond her own inspirational sphere, writing songs from the minds of anyone — everyone.
“Once the song is being written,” Kate says to Countdown Australia in 1980, “whoever is singing that song isn’t necessarily me anymore, it becomes the character.” Thus, Kate explains, every element of her performances and music videos further the characters, whether its through extensive costuming or interpretive choreography. The many years between 1978 and 1985 feature Kate as Wuthering Heights‘ Cathy, an actor playing Quasimodo, an army mother, an unborn child, Houdini’s wife and the son of Wilhelm Reich, to name a mere few. In “Babooshka”, released in 1980, Kate plays two women in one, embodying both an old, bitter housewife and her free, sensual pseudonym in the same song. And when she’s not playing parts she’s tackling satire, philosophy, theology, and political activism, often on the same album or in the same breath. Kate challenged commercial music and its perception of what women sing, even how women sing, conquering both high-pitched mewling and deep, exorcised screaming.
Kate Bush, and her music provides a brilliant example of how to channel the male mind without becoming men
“I think it’s awful what’s happening to people’s sense of their own sexuality,” Kate said in an October 21, 1989 issue of Melody Maker. “Women are made to feel awkward about expressing themselves as women in a man’s world… a lot of the time, they’re behaving like men, because they don’t know how strong they’re supposed to be.”
No one supports the advancement of women in the music industry with more passion than Kate Bush, and her music provides a brilliant example of how to channel the male mind without becoming men and, thereby, defeating the purpose of female empowerment. By playing men and women, Kate draws their fears, emotions and deepest thoughts into one body, her body, the vessel that holds a hundred personalities compelled by the power of undiluted music.
…the most blessedly crazy artist you can add to your music queue.
Everyone who has yet to experience Kate Bush’s music has an encyclopedia from which to choose, – the ‘crazy album’ (The Dreaming), the ‘feminine album’ (The Sensual World), the album that actually addresses the possibility of having sex with a snowman (50 Words for Snow), – with her, nothing is impossible.
Kate guides her listeners into worlds all too similar to our own, using sensuality that is strictly human to reach artistic enlightenment. She is a primitive idol, a modern day goddess, and the most blessedly crazy artist you can add to your music queue.
Pull her up, hit play, and put gender identification aside. Reach for the jams of the immortals.
“A man and a woman, can’t understand each other because we are a man and a woman. And if we could actually swap each other’s roles, if we could actually be in each other’s place for a while, I think we’d both be very surprised! … And I think it would lead to a greater understanding.” – Kate Bush, Radio One Classic Albums Interview, 1992
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.