*as published June 5, 2021
Almost 130 years separate the book, Wuthering Heights from the song. However, both are classics. Written by two women who coincidentally share the same birthday, the works have had a huge impact on world culture. Each in its own time.
Emily Bronte‘s book, which shocked and divided readers when it was released in 1847, speaks bluntly of people who are narcissistic, cruel, and completely in love. The work is beautiful and the intensity of Heathcliff and Cathy‘s relationship still awakens studies even 174 years later.
The song was released in November 1977 and, according to Kate Bush, then 17 years old, it was the screening of a BBC telefilm, made in 1967 and starring Ian McShane and Angela Scoular, that inspired it. The singer had not yet read the book or seen the most famous version, from 1939, starring Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon. Impressed by the film, she composed Wuthering Heights in just a few hours. The song, considered one of the best of the ’70s, was included on the singer’s debut album, The Kick Inside.
Kate captured the difficult soul of the literary classic and made the bold choice to sing in 1st person as if she were Cathy Earnshaw talking to Heathcliff. SPOILERS for those who don’t know the work, the references in the lyrics of the song – I’m so cold, let me in and bad dreams in the night – reveal that it is Cathy’s spirit that appears as a ghost in the house on Wuthering Heights, calling for Heathcliff. It’s one of the most important scenes in the book and movie.
Kate recorded the song in a single take. The single-ended up delayed its release to 1978 due to differences between the singer and the record company. They were betting on another track, but Kate insisted that this would be her first working song.
Making history with two videos
Even in pre-MTV times, videos were already important to any artist. And Kate, who in addition to singing and writing, also danced, so she was very convinced of how she wanted to present Wuthering Heights.
She debuted on the Top of the Pops show with a video in which she appears in a white dress. Everything was strange and brilliant: the voice, the dance, the gestures, the melody, and yet perfect. The world stopped.
The choreography, made by Kate, intends – through gestures – to show that it is the ghost of Cathy calming Heathcliff (something very clear in the chorus) and became a pop reference. An icon was born.
In the same year, with the same gestures, the singer revisited the video to re-record it for the United States, wearing a red dress that has become one of the most famous costumes for Halloween since then and inspired Wuthering Heights Day, on July 13, with fans recreating the footage in public parks.
The steps created by Bush are today’s works of art and are considered “classic Kate Bush”.
With Wuthering Heights, Kate Bush has become one of the most copied and talked about artists of all time. An ultra recluse, she went 35 years without performing live. But that’s another post.
Review the original videos.