Happy Birthday Kate Bush: Five Reasons Why She Isn't Bigger In America

Categories: Birthday
Kate_Bush.jpg
Although hailed in her homeland as one of the most distinctive and inventive British artists of the past 30 years, appreciation for Kate Bush has been sadly elusive here in the States. Born 53 years ago today, Bush's American following has been limited to a small core of devotees, suggesting tshe's either simply ignored or shuffled below the radar. And yet, anyone who's heard her many masterpieces - including her extraordinary albums Never For Ever, The Dreaming, and Hounds of Love, as well as her remarkable singles "Wuthering Heights," "The Man with the Child in His Eyes," "Running Up That Hill" and "Don't Give Up" (which she sang with Peter Gabriel) -- can attest to her ability to bend pop boundaries and forge a new kind of sound that's extraordinarily imaginative and irresistibly seductive all in the same score.
Given her creative prowess, her sensual melodies, and a soprano singing voice that's both distinctive and assured, there's good reason to ask why Bush fails to resonate with American audiences. The fact that she's been at it since age of 16, and championed by Pink Floyd's David Gilmour ought to account for something. Frankly, we're a bit baffled, so we can only hazard a few guess as to why her success has been stymied. 

* She's from the U.K.: Okay, we know Americans have a certain fascination with British icons. The Beatles, Bowie, Winston Churchill and Peter Sellers were Brits and we adored them, despite the fact they possessed a certain English eccentricity. Wills and Kate are English and we're totally infatuated by them... although Prince Charles, not so much (and certainly not after he dissed Di) On the other hand, we prefer the Fergie of Black Eyed Peas fame to the Royals' Fergie, AKA Sarah Ferguson, whose only real talent seems to be centered on pitching weight loss programs. There are things that originated in England that we Yanks will never understand. For example, crumpets (as in "tea and... "). Likewise, bowler hats. Never much of a fashion trend there. Oasis was huge in the U.K., but in the U.S... well. those two battling brothers are simply seen as obnoxious. And could we get a show of hands for anyone who obsesses over Elbow? As for Ms. Bush, she sings with an English accent, lives in an isolated rural cottage and once took home an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music.What's an Ivor Novello Award anyway? There's reason enough why she falls victim to the culture clash. 

* She's kind of quirky: True, Lady Gaga is as weird as they come and she's a huge hit, but Bush was always bizarre in ways few of us could relate to. Her idiosyncratic style - often incorporating shrieks, whoops and songs that skitter about strangely - made for some odd expression Bush's videos found her combining modern dance techniques and mime-like moves, and for most Americans, that artsy approach is more annoying than inventive. 

* She's literary and intellectual: That's definitely a turn-off since we tend to favor performers who do dumb things. We're fascinated by the Britney Spears and Paris Hilton types, pea brains whose lives are like train wrecks and fodder for scandal sheets that can document every stupid move and bumble-headed blunder. Bush, on the other hand, is a model of British reserve and her private life is closely guarded and hidden from the tabloids. Her early hit, "Wuthering Heights," was inspired by a classic work of literature for chrissakes. Really? You think Americans would ever gravitate to someone so astute? Who's interested in intellect? No way! Give us Batman over Brontë any day! 

* The more famous Amos on hand is worth two of Ms. Bush: Although we can't prove it, it seems like Tori Amos stole a lot of her style from Kate Bush. Both women proffer angular, piano-driven melodies fraught with complicated themes and sung from the upper registers, all the while balancing themselves precariously between edginess and angst. Bush came along first and yet even early on, it was difficult to tell them apart. Eventually Amos crept up from behind and commandeered that sensitive singer/songwriter muse. If indeed they're twin daughters of different mothers, our Sophie's choice dictated that Amos became America's sweetheart. 

* Kate makes herself scarce: In three decades, Bush has only toured once, and that was in the beginning. She's not very prolific either. Her output slowed considerably in the '90s, and after 1993's Red Shoes, it was another 12 years until her next album, 2005's double disc Aerial. With the exception of this year's Director's Cut, essentially a recast of her seminal Sensual World packaged with a reissue of Red Shoes, Bush has been all but absent from the marketplace. Rumors abound that a new album may be coming later this year, but considering Bush's slow pace of productivity, no one's holding their breath. And let's face it -- in the world of entertainment, when you're out of sight, you're out of mind. 

Nevertheless, keep it coming, Kate. Up until now, we've hardly known ye.


Follow County Grind on Facebook and Twitter: @CountyGrind.


Advertisement

My Voice Nation Help
18 comments
Jay Sharp
Jay Sharp

i also read she is afraid of flying and only came to the US by boat. any truth in this?

Guest
Guest

I'm a huge fan of Kate Bush, and it is true that Tori Amos sounds like her; however, Amos is such a wonderful and talented singer as well. It is not fair to say that she "steals" from Bush. Tori Amos is unique in her own way.

Liam
Liam

Ah Lee, this is pretty weak stuff.You're making it out like Kate Bush is some sort of megastar in her homeland. She's not. She's the UK version of Scott Walker in many ways.Yes, Bush is a genius and a massive talent, but to basically boil down her lack of success in the States to 'Yanks are too dumb to get it' (as your article implies) is itself pretty dumb.I'm from neither the US nor the UK, but this attitude, which is far more prevalent here in Europe obviously, reflects more on the ignorance of those who hold it. Yes you've got your fair share of fools over there, but it's a big country. Your top literary figures are some of the most brilliant writers and minds in the Western world today. Your top TV shows at the moment are some of the finest and cleverest in the history of the medium. You gave the world jazz music. So don't give me any of that 'Yanks don't understand literary or intellectual'. Britain has plenty of idiots too, you know. Did Kings of Leon (notable song lyric: "Woooaaahhh, this sex is on fire") not have massive success in the UK, way before anyone in the US listened to them? Hardly a great recommendation for British listening tastes...Sure, Kate Bush might have greater respect in the UK than in the US, but not for any of the reasons you've put forth. You're just trotting out tired cliches that have nothing to do with what you're talking about.You like her. We get it. I like her too. But she's clearly not to everyone's taste. In fact, it's a bit bizarre that as many people in the UK like her as apparently do.

g00ner71
g00ner71

I'll add aloofness to your list of reasons why Kate Bush hasn't succeeded in the USA as well as her wonderful music should success.

Someone as uncompromising as Kate will always have a cult following, but if she won't even pretend to love us the way we love her, she'll have to content herself with being an influence to simply every interesting artist that followed in her wake. 

Slimz76
Slimz76

"And yet, anyone who's heard her many masterpieces - including her extraordinary albums Never For Ever, The Dreaming, and Hounds of Love, as well as her remarkable singles "Wuthering Heights," "The Man with the Child in His Eyes," "Running Up That Hill" and "Don't Give Up" (which she sang with Peter Gabriel) -- can attest to her ability to bend pop boundaries and forge a new kind of sound that's extraordinarily imaginative and irresistibly seductive all in the same score."It's the idea that ANYONE who hears her will find her IRRESISTIBLY SEDUCTIVE that Bush fans need to see past.  Unique?  Yes.  Interesting?  Undoubtedly.  Seductive? Never ~ quite the opposite in fact.  I first heard her in 1987 and have profoundly disliked her ever since.  And to the point of the other posters, isn't it comforting that your fandom elevates you to an exclusive cadre?  Why lament the fact that the rest of us plebs find her atonal, pretentious, and just a bit silly?

Debra
Debra

I'm an American (Alaskan actually) and I adore Kate Bush, always have, always will.

Corny2009
Corny2009

Bit of an iddiot who wrote this article...I never got kate bush, I thought she was a bit of a weirdo and to be honest I was quite scared of her. But then it was in the late ninties and I was a little girl terrifed of cathy the ghost in wuthering heights. Two years ago I stumbled across my mothers old copy of The kick inside, I curiously put it in the cd player and I have been hooked ever since. I now have all her albums, all masterpieces in my opinion. (Directors cut is awsome by the way) The real question we should be asking is why isnt she regarded as more of a national treasure here? She is one of the most ground breaking and influential artists of the past 40 years. If someone like Paul McCartney's contribution to music has been hounered with a title, why hasn't kates?

peterverkooijen
peterverkooijen

Comparisons to the horrible Tori Amos - Torrid Aimless as Kate Bush-fan Johnny 'Rotten' Lydon calls her - is a perfect illustration of Americans simply not getting Kate Bush.

Kate Bush is NOT the soprano fairy doing twee piano songs. Singles like "Wuthering Heights," "The Man with the Child in His Eyes," "Running Up That Hill" and "Don't Give Up" are NOT what Kate Bush is about.

'Wuthering Heights' and 'The Man ...' were songs she wrote as a teenager. 'Don't Give Up' was just a guest vocal. 'Running Up That Hill' was a ground-breaking single, but pales in comparison to the 'Ninth Wave' song cycle on the b-side of the 'Hounds of Love' album.

Since her second album Kate Bush writes, arranges and produces all her music. She is an artist with a unique personal vision like Prince, who was heavily influenced by her in the second half of the 1980s, or Jim Thirlwell. That is why uncompromising artists like 2Pac, Outkast and Dr Dre are self-declared Kate Bush fans.

Yesterday in an electronic/house/techno/dance vinyl record store in Brooklyn I saw a self-produced/bootlegged 12-inch on the shelf with Kate Bush songs Sunset, Pi and Egypt, inbetween similar 12-inches of Bjork and 1990s acid jazz. That is the real Kate Bush.

Cmg8691
Cmg8691

*raising hand* Umm...I obsess over Elbow. Even traveled to the UK this spring to see them in concert. Twice in 3 days. So, yeah...obsessed. Thank you for acknowledging their existence. That made me happy. :)

Thom Jones
Thom Jones

Happy Birthday Kate! Thank goodness she's her own person and was never driven to being "famous", in the touring stadiums and hitting the pages of the press every day, type of way!!Kates' sucessful and her creativity and artistry within her music, reaches deeper than most corporate pushed acts will ever achieve. She has paved the way for others who followed, grabbing the reigns of her career, not letting go and maintaining some normality to her personal and private life. An ordinary, everyday person with an extrordinary and exquisite talent.

HK
HK

Kate is quite simply the most important female artist ever!  Happy Birthday.

Bingobastard
Bingobastard

I only want Kate to be successful here because I love her and want her to make a lot of money ... I'm talking JK Rowling-type money.   Anyhoo, for me she's the Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Joni Mitchell all rolled up into one person.  AND she's incredibly beautiful.  Just an amazing and magical person.  I'm happy to keep her as my little secret - the hipsters here ruin everything once they discover it anyway.

Dave
Dave

She is amazing and a true talent. Unlike the dumb blonds who get to show themselves panty less or with an ankle bracelet, that will never happen with Kate. She is much to much a proper lady.There is no other and never will be. Tori is the poor persons Kate wannabe and always will be.Kate is brilliant in what she does and is untouchable. Yes, either you love her or hate her.I chose love a long time ago and have NEVER been disappointed.Thank you Kate, your music is a fresh breeze in a world of made up poop stars that think they are important.

Michael Curd
Michael Curd

Kate will always be one of the geniuses of rock, and it doesn't matter one bit about her level of success in America - not everyone cares about success there (I know I certainly couldn't care less!).

lanumanfan
lanumanfan

@Jay Sharp  Here is a rundown of all of Bush's albums, and how much they have sold in the U.S. since 1991 (when Nielsen began tracking sales data):


"The Kick Inside" - 74,000
"Lionheart" - 28,000
"Never for Ever" - 39,000
"The Dreaming" - 42,000
"Hounds of Love" - 206,000
"The Whole Story" - 195,000
"The Sensual World" - 242,000
"The Red Shoes" - 298,000
She has a definite cult status over here.. Her fear of flying and stage fright stopped her for touring- which would have built dramatically on her exposure/success over here. I am willing to bet she could easily sell out 5-10,000 seat venues on the coasts... L.A. in particular. Kraftwerk just sold out for a week!

Edkollin
Edkollin

Don't worry about money. She is I believe the second wealthiest Brit female musician behind Annie Lennox (whom Americans did like) We liked Squeeze very very British sound and references, and we adored Progressive Rock (the genre Bush came out of), little or nothing American about that genre, arty arty arty  British folk, stories about Kashmir, literature, turning rock into opera for goodness sakes. It is lack of touring those Prog rock acts had these massive tours toured the US like crazy, Bush has had one SNL appearance in 1978 and a few interviews here.       

itsme
itsme

kate bush is sublime, i never tire of listening to wuthering heights, she mesemerises and commands with her performance, a true artist.

Now Trending

Miami Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Events

Clubs

Loading...