The influence of ethereal pop runs deep
Ed Keeble

11:17 30th July 2014

30 June: Happy Birthday Kate Bush! The 'Wuthering Heights' goddess turns 56-year-old today and we wish her many, many happy returns. By many, Kate Bush is described as an artist with no father or mother, no influences -  a musical entity unto herself and yet the shadow she casts is huge.

For many, she was the progenitor of a new kind of music, one that cared not for the world of pop, but for the exploration of expression, literature, psychology, narrative and what it means to be an eccentric Brit. 

The legacy that has followed her long career echoes frequently throughout contemporary music. To some extent it could be argued that all modern music in one way or another owes a debt to Bush, who is no doubt one of the most influential figures of all time. Whether they acknowledge it or not these are the artists who are much more closely aligned to the ideals that she left behind. 

  • Niki & the Dove: Kate Bush is all over these guys, from the dark and mysterious take on pop to the narrative infused lyrics and titles. Singer Malin Dahlstrom said: "I realise now that I have great respect for the music I listened to when I was a teenager. If you say names, it is so easy for people to put you in some kind of cage, but if I had to be honest, I listened a lot to the album Hounds Of Love by Kate Bush."

  • Bjork: There are many parallels to be found here (in particular the penchant for the bizarre and operatic). Bjork is quoted saying: "It's fantastic that she's not been driven by outside forces, she's just driven by herself. So I've got a lot of respect for her in that way. She's very respected as a singer and a songwriter, but I think she's very underestimated as a producer. She built a whole universe that was her own instead of just following a male...something. I don't know, I'm not anti-male or anything."

  • Goldfrapp: A huge debt is owed to Kate Bush in that both focus on the spectacular, the melodramatic, all leading back to communicating closely with nature. When Alison was asked if Bush helped her connect to a certain Englishness in an interview, she responded: "Good old Kate. Yeah, I think we're very fond of a certain kind of Englishness, without getting too into it."

  • Bat for Lashes: Frequently hailed as the modern equivalent to Bush, she had this to say about the comparisons when speaking to Out: "I think she is an amazing artist and her body of work is so incredible and she's had such a long career and has taken so many risks. I think as someone to kind of look up to, she's a real inspiration."

  • Bright Light Bright Light: No stranger to the world of epic piano pop, Bright Light counts the Sensual World among his favourites with 'Love and Anger' picked as a personal stand out from the star's sixth album: "Kate Bush is one of my favourite writers, singers, performers, producers ever and the Sensual World album is my joint favourite album ever", he told Gigwise.

  • Ladyhawke: The darker side of the Kiwi singer-songwriter reflects the more introspective side of Bush's work. Anxiety, for example, introspectively explores Ladyhawke's confidence issues, at its deepest corners reflecting Bush's more introspective moments.

  • Madonna: If Bush first opened the floodgates for female artists to explore broad literary themes and symbolism in pop music, Madonna exploited the aftermath. Videos and songs including 'Like a Virgin' are very similar to Bush, yet different in that they aim to shock instead of challenge.

  • PJ Harvey: While there are huge differences between Harvey's guitar-led art-rock and Bush's pop sensibilities, there is a common thread in the exploration of the female psyche. The autobiographical terms of the songs parallel each other at times, despite Harvey citing more male influences.

  • Placebo: The band chose to cover 'Running Up That Hill' on their covers album, describing it as a 'slowed down version of Kate Bush's unbelievably beautiful classic - taking an already gorgeous song and covering it in a way that makes you fall in love with it again'. Apparently, Brian Molko met Kate at a party and got her approval for their version of the track.

  • St Vincent: The huge theatrical element to her sets owes a debt to Bush, with gigs that put a strong emphasis on narrative and experience, becoming an audio-visual piece of living art. She told Denver Westword blogs: "That song 'Wuthering Heights' is so weird. Harmonically, you sound like you're a musician, it's so bizarre. There's a bar of fifths in the chorus, and then she sings, and it's so high in the chord progression. It's angular and it's out and it totally works and it's such a cool song."

  • Tricky: A rather unusual one, Tricky states that the influence Bush has had on him is larger than that of the Beatles. He wrote in MOJO magazine: "Some of the greatest singers in the world, you can spot their influences. But Kate Bush has no mother or father. I'd be an average musician, like everyone else, if it wasn't for her."

  • Lady Gaga: Seems like Lady Gaga gets compared to everyone these days (just don't mention Madonna). Gaga's penchant for combining art and pop sure owes its biggest debt to Bush. Gaga once covered 'Don't Give Up' so 'that young people would hear and learn something about Kate Bush'.

  • Wild Beasts: The themes at the heart of Hayden's lyrics and sounds are hugely influenced by Bush's. It's all about the ethereal, the countryside and the soul. Singer Hayden told "I only discovered Kate Bush once people started saying that I sounded a bit like her. And that was quite a breakthrough for me to find her, because then I just fell in love straight away and bought all her albums. I think the great thing about Kate Bush is the more she pushes, the further she goes, the more outrageous it gets, the more you want. She's addictive."

  • London Grammar: The operatic shades of singer Hannah Reid's voice, though deeper in tone, are definitely reminiscent of Kate Bush - an influence she has noted in numerous interviews: She told Fiasco magazine: "Being in London Grammar, I have found nuances distinctive to the songs we write, but there are female vocalists I am hugely influenced by who made me think I could hit notes - Kate Bush."

  • Florence and the Machine: While Florence later went on to deny that she sounded anything like Bush, in an NME interview at the start of her career, she pointed towards the iconic singer as an inspiration. Just take a look at the 'Raise It Up' video, that sees Florence floating down a country river in a coffin. It points to the Anglican Gothic themes so integral to Bush's work.

  • From Florence + The Machine to Bjork to Wild Beasts, the roster of artists inspired by Kate Bush is almost as eclectic and and exciting as Bush herself. Here are 15 brilliant artists who, on top of their own individuality, owe a debt to the trailblazing icon that is Kate Bush.

Photo: Press/WENN