Posted in music

Why I admire Kate Bush.

Kate Bush, arms outstretched in a white dress on a black background, shown from two views at once, performing in the music video to Wuthering Heights.
Kate Bush performing in the music video to “Wuthering Heights”.

It’s definitely not because her style of music is the sort of thing I would normally listen to. It’s actually not, and it’s taken a while for some of her songs to grow on me. Then there are others I still don’t really want to listen to. So that’s not what I’m talking about.

I wrote a post before praising the best aspects of dorkiness. And one of those things is doing what you do without giving a crap what it looks like to other people. And that is what I really admire about what Kate Bush has done with her music and her dance and everything else.

It’s her dancing style that really caught my eye. She’s trained in both dance and pantomime pretty extensively. And in her music videos, she does this extremely theatrical dance that goes with the characters she is portraying.

That’s another thing that’s unusual about her music. She is a singer-songwriter. But she rarely writes about herself. She writes songs that portray specific characters. Sometimes the character is one she makes up. Sometimes it’s a character from movies or literature. She has said that the reason she does this is the characters are far more interesting to her than anything she could say about her own life.

One of her most famous characters is Cathy from Wuthering Heights. She has a song called Wuthering Heights. She wrote it because she saw the ending of one of the movies to Wuthering Heights on TV once. And she was fascinated by the ghost character. So she read the books and wrote a song based on that character and the perspective of that character. And then she created this entire dance to enhance what she already had there. And the music video shows this dance she did as the character.


Another character she did was a fetus, in a song called “Breathing”. Specifically, a fetus who has noticed somehow that nuclear war has broken out, and is afraid to leave the womb because of radiation and fallout. This is a very unusual character, and one she created herself.

It’s not the only song she did about the Cold War either. Songs written about the Cold War during the Cold War are actually one of my interests. I collect them. But that’s a whole nother topic.

Anyway, in the music video, she does the same thing. She puts everything she has into acting out this character. Even when this character is a fetus inside the womb freaking out about the Cold War. Which a lot of people would find over-the-top, ridiculous, or something along those lines. She doesn’t care. She will put everything into her version of this character, and acting out this character on her entire body.

This is something that got her mocked from the moment she made it onto the music scene. People did not want to admit they were listening to her. People made fun of her at every possible turn. And she kept right on doing what she was gonna do. She kept right on with her particular artistic bent. And people, whether they would admit it or not, kept on listening to her and watching her. The sheer numbers speak volumes.

So throughout the 1980s and beyond, people were making fun of her in public and listening to her in private. It is only in recent years that people have admitted how much influence she had over an entire generation of musicians. And how innovative her music was, and how important she was.

This is because although her music has always been popular, it has never been cool. And it was never cool to admit you were listening to her. She was influenced by psychedelic musicians and prog rock musicians from the 1960s and 1970s, and at the time she came onto the scene, that kind of music was decidedly uncool. Her music was something different, but still decidedly uncool.

But it didn’t matter that it was uncool. People still listened. People still watched. People still imitated and emulated and were influenced.

And I love that no matter how much anyone made fun of her, she kept on going wherever her particular vision took her. She just kept doing what she was gonna do. And she kept on doing it very well. And that takes a certain kind of strength that I think is very important.

People have said extremely cruel things about how I look just naturally. People always have. The way I move. The way I sound. My mannerisms. Everything. I still remember another disabled person saying he was embarrassed that I would in any way be considered to represent him. Not because of my viewpoints, but because he was embarrassed by how I move on camera. He was embarrassed by literally the way my body looks.

Having people be embarrassed by your existence is part of the sucky part of being a dork. In the least voluntary sense of the word dork. It’s not a good feeling when people are embarrassed to be seen with you because of things you will never be able to help. Or embarrassed to be associated with you. It’s just unpleasant.

And I see a lot of that embarrassment when people talk about Kate Bush. Now I don’t know how much of what she did was a personal choice, and how much was just a product of how she naturally functions in the world. But I see people who are embarrassed to watch her, or embarrassed to admit they like her music or her dancing. And that seems pretty terrible to react to someone that way. Publicly. And a lot of the mockery seems to stem from that.

But I seriously love that no matter what anyone said, no matter what anyone did, no matter how many parodies anyone made in a cruel way, she just kept on doing what she did. She just kept pursuing what she thought was the right way to be doing music and dance and art. And she made some amazing stuff.

And all of it, even though it is characters, she shows through. Who she is shows through in everything she does, not because she breaks character, but because of the styles she chooses to portray these characters with. And because her body moves in a way where you can see something of herself showing through in every movement she makes no matter what she’s doing — something true of me as well.  And she allows herself to show in these respects, extremely publicly, no matter how anyone else publicly responds to it.

I sometimes think people are embarrassed by things like earnestness, genuine enthusiasm, and authenticity.  She’s got plenty of all of that.

And that is why I admire Kate Bush.