Why Kate Bush is so proud of her Irish roots
The enigmatic star is returning to the stage, writes Eamon Sweeney
Concert announcements seldom raise an eyebrow these days, but when Kate Bush dropped the bombshell last Friday that she will perform live for the very first time since 1979, it was a very big deal.
Bush is famously reclusive. However, she did exclusively speak to me for the Irish Independent when she launched her last album.
"It's difficult explaining to myself why some albums take so long," Bush told me. "If you've had a five-year gap, it's assumed that it took you five years to do an album, which is simply not true. I take a few years to do other things in life."
A quiet and stable family life is important to Kate. Bush is married to guitarist Danny McIntosh, whom she met in 1992 while recording her seventh album, The Red Shoes. She told me that her mother was a massive source of inspiration to her, especially when she collaborated with legendary Irish traditional musician Dónal Lunny on a version of 'Mná na hÉireann'.
"Although she'd already passed away, I really felt that she was there helping me get it right," Bush said. "I loved singing it and I hope I did an okay job, because I never spoke or sung in Irish before."
"I'm incredibly proud of being half-Irish. I really wanted to get that Irish blood in me to come through, so I worked very hard on it."
Dónal Lunny confirms that Kate poured her heart and soul into the recording sessions. "She never told me that about her late Mother, but it clearly meant an awful lot to her," Lunny says.
"It was a joy to be in the studio with her. Kate is a very vivacious, happy and positive person. She is great fun to be around. I'm absolutely delighted that she is back playing concerts."
Bush performed on The Late Late Show in 1978. When she was briefly interviewed by Uncle Gaybo, a very shy Kate refused to reveal her mother's maiden name, claiming that her family would prefer anonymity as they were receiving a lot of unwelcome attention in the UK due to her increasing fame.
Despite her heritage and numerous collaborations with traditional musicians, this remains her only performance on Irish soil.
Kate and her husband Danny have a 15-year old son called Bertie. In an interview in 2005, the doting mum hilariously revealed that she once broke stuffy royal etiquette and asked the Queen for an autograph.
"I'm ashamed to say that when I told Bertie that I was going to meet the Queen, he said, 'Mummy, no, you're not, you've got it wrong' and I said, 'But I am!'" Kate said. "So rather stupidly I thought I'd get her to sign my programme. She was very sweet."
"The thing is I would do anything for Bertie, including making an arsehole of myself in front of a whole roomful of people and the Queen."
For many, Kate Bush is not just a queen, but a deity. She prompts some of the most extreme fan worship.
In 2011, a man reportedly flew from the United States to Britain brandishing a £3,000 engagement ring and broke into Bush's home with the intention of proposing to his heroine. Whilte Kate's neighbours in Devon say her family are so unassuming and low key they actually thought they moved out years ago.
One blogger noted last Friday: "My Facebook feed is filled with people saying they'll die, kill someone or break into the Hammersmith Apollo if they don't get tickets."
No one knows exactly what prompted Bush to play live again. "Record sales are plummeting, so I'm incredibly lucky that I sold records when I did," she told me in 2011.
"Some of my albums are not particularly mainstream. I don't tour and I don't do huge amounts of promotion or interviews, so I'm continually surprised that my albums do as well as they do."
Her Tour of Life concluded on May 14, 1979 at the Hammersmith Apollo. Bush has since authored eight studio albums, including her 1985 masterpiece Hounds of Love, which features contributions from Irish musicians Dónal Lunny, John Sheahan of the Dubliners and legendary uilean pipes player Liam Óg Ó Floinn.
Whatever happens on stage in London on August 26, it will mark a riveting new chapter for one of the world's most elusive and enigmatic artists.
Kate Bush plays the Hammersmith Apollo, London from August 26. Tickets go on sale this Friday priced from £49 to £135.
Five essential Kate Bush songs
1 Wuthering Heights (1978)
Kate Bush's debut single and number one hit launched her career as the pirouetting princess of eccentric pop with that unmistakable shrieking voice.
2 Running Up That Hill (1985)
Her biggest selling song of the '80s, Bush even performed the track live as a guest of her mentor David Gilmour from Pink Floyd at the Secret Policeman's Ball, her only live appearance of any shape or form since the The Tour of Life in 1979.
3 Hounds of Love (1985)
Probably the best-known Kate Bush song after 'Wuthering Heights', 'Hounds of Love' entered the top 10 for a second time in 2005 thanks to a rock version by The Futureheads.
4. Don't Give Up, with Peter Gabriel (1986)
This duet has become one of the most famous in history. Numerous artists have recorded their own versions, including Sinéad O'Connor and Willie Nelson and Bono and Alicia Keys. Interestingly, Dolly Parton turned down the offer to sing on the original.
5. Moments of Pleasure (1993)
A beautiful paean to the fragilty of life that Kate wrote for her sick mother Hannah Daly just before she died, the former Soft Cell singer Marc Almond has said that 'Moments of Pleasure' is his favourite song of all time, which also encouraged him to quit drugs.