Kate Bush’s song “Running up That Hill” recently broke a few records, thanks to playing an integral part in the TV show Stranger Things. Although the song peaked at #30 in the US charts when it was first released—in 1985!—it’s now in the top 5. It broke the record for the song that took the longest time to reach #1 in Great Britain (previously held by Wham!’s song “Last Christmas”), spanning 37 years between its release and its top status.
And, despite the fact that Kate Bush has legions of fans and has influenced countless musicians from Outkast’s Big Boi to Taylor Swift, “Running up That Hill” is her first top-ten hit in the United States.
It’s a testament to Bush’s songwriting genius that a song that deeply impacted Gen X is now influencing Gen Z. She continues to reach new audiences perhaps because, as she sings in “Leave It Open,” she doesn’t hesitate to “let the weirdness in.” Her work is eccentric and, while influential, hard to compare to other bands or solo artists, no matter what generation.
Her albums aren’t formed with a bunch of unrelated songs, but follow a theme or a storyline. She draws inspiration from literature, history, art, and society; the songs are dramatic and complex. They demand your focus and in return give you an escape from everyday, boring life. The key to understanding her music is knowing that it is deeply imaginative.
Not to mention just admiring the range of that voice.
If you’re interested in a deep dive into her work, here’s a Kate Bush primer, a few places to start exploring her oeuvre:
By Kate Bush
Hounds of Love is a perfect Kate Bush album to begin experiencing her expansive vision. It’s where you’ll find “Running up That Hill” and other seminal works like “Cloudbusting” and “Hounds of Love.” Side two of the original recording is called “The Ninth Wave”; beginning with the song “And Dreams of Sheep,” a narrative unfolds about a person lost at sea.
By Kate Bush
The Whole Story is a “greatest hits” album, with songs from early in Bush’s career. While you’ll miss out on the narrative through-line of her albums, this one is a good way of getting to know her most popular songs.
By Kate Bush
Director’s Cut is a remastering of songs from mid-career albums The Red Shoes and The Sensual World. The album delves deeper into Bush’s literary influences, including James Joyce’s novel Ulysses, and includes a blistering version of “Lilly.”
By Karyna McGlynn
Since Kate Bush has worked to ensure that her private life has remained private, there has yet to be an authorized biography, although two critical explorations of her work were written in the early 2000s. The book 50 Things Kate Bush Taught Me about the Multiverse by Karyna McGlynn contains poems that grow out of and intertwine with Kate Bush’s songs.
Written by Amy, Assistant Librarian