Never mind her politics. Kate Bush’s music speaks for itself
What does a Tory look like? Do they automatically come attired in Charles Tyrwhitt shirts and Barbour jackets, and have naturally booming voices? Clearly such assumptions are ludicrous, but there is a sense among some music fans that Tory-loving pop stars should identify themselves – a badge, perhaps, or a special hat – in order that we may judge their acceptability.
This certainly would have prevented a world of grief for Kate Bush, who has just ended two years on the naughty step when she released a statement clarifying her political views. In an interview with the Canadian magazine Maclean’s in 2016, Bush was reported as having expressed support for the new British prime minister, Theresa May, prompting a fit of the vapours among her admirers. Taken in context, the meaning of Bush’s quotes was obvious. During a discussion about Hillary Clinton and the fear of women’s power, she voiced enthusiasm for having a woman in charge. But this was lost in translation, and our Kate was branded a Tory. More heartache ensued in the flurry of press around the release of her remastered back catalogue and a book of lyrics late in 2018, prompting – finally – clarification on her website.
So now we can sleep soundly – ideally while hugging The Kick Inside to our chests – knowing that Kate is not persona non grata after all. She has been marked safe. But does it matter either way? Were Bush to have really outed herself as a card-carrying Tory, my delight in her records would be undented. It’s a symptom of the modern age to righteously weed out dissenters from our social media pages and freeze them from our social circles.
Now, it seems, we are doing it with our pop stars. But to look solely for musicians – or indeed film-makers, writers and painters – who reflect our worldview is not only to deprive ourselves of myriad artistic wonders; it gives a depressingly blinkered view of the world. Gary Numan may have had Tory sympathies, but
Are “Friends” Electric? is still a banger. Judging artists purely on political lines also gives credence to the belief among some liberals that those on the left are good and those on the right are inherently evil, as if contemporary politics were an episode of Scooby-Doo (although that actually sounds quite fun).
While many of Bush’s fans may have felt dispirited at the idea that she could have planted her flag behind the architects of austerity and Brexit, it was never that plausible. At the height of her fame, she wasn’t exactly known for her party-political pronouncements, while her songs about gender, power, sex and domesticity could appeal to listeners of all stripes. And yet, ultimately, none of this really matters. Bush’s power and legacy lies in her peerless ability to tell stories and create beauty through music. The rest is just noise.