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

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.

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Lee Zimmerman