“The Man With The Child In His Eyes” by Kate Bush

As history tells it, “the man with the child in his eyes” is both a reference to a particular individual and a personification of a number of men Kate Bush knew at the time she wrote this song.

In terms of the latter, she noticed that many grown men whom she befriended (she was 13 at the time) actually had the characteristics of young boys. So the way she interpreted this phenomenon is something like adult men having the tendency to have their childhood selves trapped, so to speak, inside their bodies. And that’s the idea the title of this song actually alludes to. This may be why for instance in the second verse she says that the titular character is ‘so aware of all her situations’. That is to theorize that the child inside of him can likewise relate to Kate, who herself was a child at the time.

Who is this man Kate is referring to?

Now in terms of the specific individual she may be referring to, that would be one Steve Blacknell. Steve Blacknell is on record as being Kate Bush’s first-ever boyfriend, i.e. the guy she was close to around the time she wrote this song. And as recently as 2010, he claimed, supported by evidence, that he is actually “the man with the child in his eyes”. And even though Kate Bush’s own explanation of the track, which will be expounded in the trivia section, doesn’t support his claim, at the same time it seems she never forthrightly refuted it either. Indeed in analyzing the lyrics, they do read as if she is singing about a particular individual. 

Moreover it wouldn’t be far-fetched to presume her relationship with the titular character as being romantic, as in she admiring him in a girlfriend sort of way.

Romantic Fantasy

In fact if we were to take the first verse for instance, Kate seems to be fantasizing about having a romantic relationship with “the man with the child in his eyes”. In other words, he comes off as someone she is in love with but never went as far as actually expressing these emotions to anyone.  Additionally parts of the pre-chorus sound as if he is imparting sweet nothings onto her – for instance vowing “all his love ‘til eternity”. 

Also in the third verse, we find out that he is ‘hesitant’ in terms of actually making a definitive move on Bush. And if this was indeed someone she had a relationship akin to a romance with at the age of 13, especially an older gentleman, then said hesitancy may have been his way of preventing himself from doing something potentially criminal to little Kate.

Conclusion

So conclusively this song is relatively-terse, and its wording likewise simple.  But at the same time it is a complex read. Or stated more bluntly, all things considered, this track comes off as if the singer has both a romantic and platonic relationship with the titular character at the same time. But at the end of the day, once again taking into account the entire history behind the tune, we can safely conclude that Kate Bush was infatuated with older men. 

And more specifically, there seems to have been one in particular whom she fantasized about having a romantic relationship with. Either that or as she had asserted, “the man with the child in his eyes” is actually a personification of all the males she admired due to their childlike nature.

Lyrics of "The Man With The Child In His Eyes"

Kate Bush talks about “The Man With The Child In His Eyes”

In terms of the origin of this song, Kate Bush has likened it to one of those seemingly miraculous experiences that a number of artists have had in terms of writing hits, where the words seemingly came out of nowhere. Or as Bush herself has stated, “the piano just started speaking to (her)”.

And in terms of “the man with the child in his eyes” himself, she has stated that ‘most of the men she knew are just little boys inside’. This is a quality that she admired in them. Or stated alternatively, she believes that men being able to effectively retain their youth is a personal advantage they have over women, who tend to “go out and get far too responsible”. Moreover she admitted that she is in fact “attracted to older men”, though Kate operates under the belief that all women are pretty much the same in that regard.

Facts about “The Man With The Child In His Eyes”

This track was released by EMI Records as the third single from Kate Bush’s first album, “The Kick Inside”, on 26 May 1978.

The opening of the single version of this song is slightly different from its counterpart on the album.

The music video to this track was directed by Keef. And it features the same alternate “he’s here” intro as the single version of the song.

“The Man with the Child in His Eyes” was written by Kate Bush. She actually did so when she was only 13 years old and recorded it when she was 16 years old, a good three years before “The Kick Inside” itself was released. And she recorded under the tutelage of David Gilmour of Pink Floyd fame, who took a special interest in seeing Kate’s music career get off the ground.

“The Man with the Child in His Eyes” was produced by Andrew Powell.

This was actually Kate Bush’s first transatlantic hit, as in the first of her songs to actually appear on the Billboard Hot 100. In fact Kate did not have another song make it onto the Hot 100 until 1985 (which would be “Running Up That Hill”).

It also charted in a handful of other countries, including peaking at number six on the UK Singles Chart and number three on the Irish Singles Chart.

Moreover in 1979 “The Man with the Child in His Eyes” earned Kate Bush an Ivor Novello Award in the category of Outstanding British Lyric.

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