EMI signed Kate Bush in 1974 when she was still a 16-year-old schoolgirl.
She was given the deal on the strength of demo tapes sponsored by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, but the record company decided to let her highly personal style – words, music, dance, mime, squeaky voice – develop in its own good time.
It would be four years before she made a record. In the meantime, she continued to play small London venues with her group, The KT Bush Band.
Her record company’s patience paid off when Kate’s debut single, Wuthering Heights, became UK #1 for four weeks, also topping the charts in Australia.
Her debut album, The Kick Inside (1978), was dominated by Bush’s startling falsetto and such imaginative songs as Them Heavy People, Wuthering Heights and Kite.
The record’s huge popularity didn’t seem to faze Bush, who returned before the end of the same year with another well-crafted album, Lionheart.
Kate played her first large gig at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool (UK) on 3 April 1979.
Shortly thereafter, she released a live 7-inch EP of four songs from her first two albums.
Demonstrating new-found studio expertise, she arranged and co-produced Never for Ever (1980), which yielded three British hits (Breathing, Babooshka and Army Dreamers) and further proved her compositional depth.
A credit line thanking Richard Burgess and John Walters for “bringing in the Fairlight” gains significance in hindsight, given how integral the sampling instrument subsequently became to her music-making.
Exhausted by the apparently endless, budget-haemorrhaging sessions for 1982’s The Dreaming – and bruised by its comparative lack of success – Kate retreated to her 17th-century farmhouse in Kent in 1984 to secretly craft what would become her masterpiece.
With Hounds Of Love (1985), she delivered four precise, if typically obtuse, hits – including the infectiously euphoric The Big Sky and the Fairlight-driven chamber pop of Cloudbusting.
The Ninth Wave ate up the whole of the second half of the record – a dreamlike (and sometimes nightmarish) piece in seven movements, centred around the waterlogged thoughts of a girl adrift in the ocean after a storm.
Launched with much fanfare in September 1985 at that most 80s of London tourist attractions, the Planetarium, Hounds Of Love provided the oxygen to revive Kate’s commercial fortunes – debuting at #1 – while creatively cutting her loose to plot future head-spinning experiments.
Kate Bush is too English to have enjoyed consistent success in America.
Her only Top 40 Billboard single was Running Up That Hill (which she reluctantly agreed could be renamed because radio stations wouldn’t play it under its original title, Deal With God) and she is probably still best known in the US as the woman who provided the angelic soprano on Peter Gabriel’s Don’t Give Up.
Kate retired into motherhood in 1993 (following the release of her seventh studio album, The Red Shoes), and twelve years would pass before her next album release – Aerial (2005).
While there was relatively little publicity for the album, it earned Bush nominations at the 2006 BRIT Awards for Best British Female Solo Artist and Best British Album.
In May 2011, Bush released the album Director’s Cut, with 11 reworked tracks from The Sensual World and The Red Shoes, recorded using analogue rather than digital equipment.
All the tracks had new lead vocals, drums, and instrumentation. It debuted at #2 on the UK chart.
50 Words for Snow (2011) featured a cameo appearance from Elton John on the duet Snowed in at Wheeler Street.
The album received widespread critical acclaim, and Kate was nominated in the Best Female Artist category at the 2012 Brit Awards.
The album won the 2012 Best Album award at the South Bank Arts Awards and was also nominated for Best Album at the Ivor Novello Awards.
In 2013, Kate Bush became the only female artist to have top five albums in the UK charts in five successive decades.
In 2022, the inclusion of Running Up That Hill in a Netflix science fiction show called Stranger Things resulted in the song going to #1 in the UK singles chart.
The song also reached #1 in Norway, Sweden, Australia, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Austria and gave Bush her first-ever top 10 hit in the US. Running Up That Hill also became the most-streamed song in the world, with more than 57 million global plays.