There’s not much I can say about Kate Bush that hasn’t already been said. She is a remarkable artist. Her music continues to be in a category of its own. Among other things, Kate Bush is an absolutely phenomenal songwriter. Her lyrics are often about situations and events that she never personally experienced, and yet her storytelling is completely convincing.
“Breathing,” from Bush’s 1980 album Never for Ever, is told from the perspective of a fetus in its mother’s womb after a nuclear bomb has dropped. It is a uniquely feminine song: the entire song takes place in a uterus, for God’s sake. The connection between mother and child is established through the instinctual act of breathing in life force, as well as poisonous chemicals from cigarettes and nuclear fallout.
In Bush’s own words, the song “is a warning and plea from a future spirit to try and save mankind and his planet from irretrievable destruction”: a warning that is increasingly more dire now that we have a nutjob leader of the free world, an anti-EPA climate change skeptic as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and a rise in the prevalence of asthma in the United States brought on by an increase of pollen and allergens due to climate change and air pollution. “Breathing” is maudlin, but justifiably so, and Kate Bush’s earnest lyrics and delivery make the song legitimately moving–particularly toward the end, when she shrieks, “Oh God leave us something to breathe!” It is an anti-war song written from the most innocent perspective: the unborn child in a woman’s womb whose fears of entering a hostile world cannot overcome its instinct to survive. And it serves as a reminder that life itself depends on women’s inherent ability to create, even when the future of our planet is uncertain at best.
Only two more days of Women’s History Month! Playlists below.