Babooshka (song)

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Kate Bush - Babooshka.png
Single by Kate Bush
from the album Never for Ever
B-side"Ran Tan Waltz"
Released27 June 1980
RecordedJanuary–June 1980[1]
Songwriter(s)Kate Bush
  • Kate Bush • Jon Kelly
Kate Bush singles chronology
"Army Dreamers"
Music video
"Babooshka" on YouTube
Audio sample

"Babooshka" is a song by English singer Kate Bush, taken from her album Never for Ever. Released as a single in June 1980, it spent 10 weeks in the UK chart, peaking at number five.[2] It was an even bigger hit in Australia, where it peaked at number two (for three weeks) and was the 20th best-selling single of the year.[3]


According to an interview Kate Bush gave to the Australian TV series Countdown in 1980, the song chronicles a wife's desire to test her husband's loyalty. To do so, she takes on the pen name of Babooshka and sends notes to her husband in the guise of a younger woman—something which she fears is the opposite of how her husband currently sees her[4] (hence the barbed lines "Just like his wife before she 'freezed' on him/Just like his wife when she was beautiful".)[5]

The trap is set when, in her bitterness and paranoia, Babooshka arranges to meet her husband, who is attracted to the character who reminds him of his wife in earlier times. She thereby ruins the relationship due to her paranoia.[4]

Bush cited the English folk song "Sovay", in which a woman dresses as a highwayman and accosts her lover in order to test his devotion, as an inspiration for the story of Babooshka.[6] "I'm sure I heard about it on some TV series years ago, when I was a kid," Bush remarked of the song's story. "You know, these period things that the BBC do. I think it's an extraordinary thing for someone to do... That's why I found it fascinating."[7]

The music video depicts Bush beside a double bass (contrabass) that symbolises the husband, wearing a black bodysuit and a veil in her role as the embittered wife.[4] This changes into an extravagant, mythlike and rather revealing "Russian" costume as her alter-ego, Babooshka. An illustration by Chris Achilleos for the cover of the 1978 book Raven – Swordsmistress of Chaos was the basis for the costume.[8][9][10]

The track features John Giblin on bass and marks the significance of fretless bass sounds as instrumental "male" partners through Bush's music in the early eighties.

The song ends with a sample of glass breaking, one of the earliest examples of a sample created with the newly available Fairlight CMI digital synthesizer.[11]

Bush said that's "something I didn't realise at the time",[4] when she learnt that бaбушка (babushka) is the Russian word for "grandmother" (although the stress in Russian falls on the first syllable, not the second).

"Babooshka" became Bush's second top five hit in the UK and was certified silver for sales of over 250,000 by the BPI.[12]

The B-side contains her song "Ran Tan Waltz", her second non-album B-side. This song is performed as a tragicomedy, where Bush portrays a man bemoaning his bad luck in life being married to a wayward mother. This song uses the word "dick" in the first verse as dysphemism for a penis.[13] Bush has stated that she does not typically use such harsh language or write such sexually explicit material, but that she considered the song "good naughty fun".

In 2021, the song experienced a resurgence in popularity due to the app TikTok, giving American audiences exposure to Bush.[14]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Babooshka" (Kate Bush) – 3:28
  2. "Ran Tan Waltz" (Bush) – 2:40



Chart (1980–2014) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[15] 2
France (IFOP)[16] 4
Ireland (IRMA)[17] 5
Israel (IBA)[18] 5
Italy (Musica e Dischi)[19] 6
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[20] 15
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[21] 24
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[22] 8
Norway (VG-lista)[23] 4
South Africa (Springbok Radio)[24] 12
UK Singles (OCC)[25] 5
West Germany (Official German Charts)[26] 14
France (SNEP)[27] 186
Chart (2022) Peak
UK Download (OCC)[28] 79


  1. ^ "Gaffaweb – Kate Bush – PHOENIX – The History of the Cathy Demos – compiled by Wieland Willker". Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  2. ^ "Babooshka". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
  3. ^ "Australian Chart Book". Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d "Kate Bush Interview 1980". 11 August 2006. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 16 October 2016 – via YouTube.
  5. ^ "Kate Bush Discography – Song Index – Babooshka". Archived from the original on 22 November 2007.
  6. ^ Melody Maker, "Paranoia and Passion of the Kate Inside", Colin Irwin, 4 Oct 1980.
  7. ^ BBC Radio 1: 'Saturday Live', 25 February 1984
  8. ^ "Polska Strona Kate Bush". Retrieved 29 June 2011. Artistic concepts and choreography throughout by Kate Bush Babooshka costume based on an illustration by Chris Achilleos and released by Pamela Keats.
  9. ^ "The Connection Between Kate Bush And Sexy Sword And Sorcery Novels". The Reprobate. 3 August 2016. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
  10. ^ "Raven, Swordmistress of Chaos, Chris Achilléos". 23 October 2013.
  11. ^ "Fairlight: The Rolls Royce of synthesizers". Retrieved 22 July 2017.
  12. ^ "Certified Awards Search". British Phonographic Industry. Archived from the original on 24 September 2009. Retrieved 5 February 2009.
  13. ^ "The Lyrics – "Ran Tan Waltz (original title, The Ran Tan)"". Archived from the original on 18 October 2006.
  14. ^ Harbron, Lucy (15 January 2021). "What makes an old song go viral on Tiktok?". NME. Retrieved 10 August 2021.
  15. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 50. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  16. ^ "Billboard Magazine, Hits of the World, 1980". Billboard. 20 December 1980. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  17. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Babooshka". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  18. ^ "Billboard Magazine, Hits of the World, 1980". Billboard. 6 September 1980. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  19. ^ "Classifiche". Musica e Dischi (in Italian). Retrieved 30 May 2022. Set "Tipo" on "Singoli". Then, in the "Artista" field, search "Kate Bush".
  20. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Kate Bush" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  21. ^ "Kate Bush – Babooshka" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  22. ^ "Kate Bush – Babooshka". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  23. ^ "Kate Bush – Babooshka". VG-lista. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  24. ^ "Springbok SA Top 20". Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  25. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  26. ^ " – Kate Bush – Babooshka". GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  27. ^ "Kate Bush – Babooshka" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  28. ^ "Official Singles Downloads Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 13 June 2022.

External links[edit]