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1985 hit 'Running Up That Hill' sprints up the charts, thanks to 'Stranger Things'

English singer-songwriter and musician Kate Bush poses at her family's home in London in September 1978, seven years before the release of "Running Up That Hill."
Chris Moorhouse
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English singer-songwriter and musician Kate Bush poses at her family's home in London in September 1978, seven years before the release of "Running Up That Hill."

Updated June 7, 2022 at 11:23 AM ET

English singer-songwriter Kate Bush just broke into the Billboard Top 10 for the first time — with a song she released four decades ago.

"Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)" peaked in the No. 30 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 when it came out in 1985. It's now having a major renaissance thanks to Stranger Things, the 1980s-based sci-fi hit whose fourth season premiered on Netflix late last month.

The song appears multiple times throughout the show, as it's a favorite — and major focus in the plotline of — the character Max (played by Sadie Sink). And it caught on quickly, topping the iTunes chart within two days and posting an 8,700% increase in global streams over the course of one weekend.

By last Tuesday, the song had reached the Top 10 in 34 countries — including the U.S., Germany, Norway and New Zealand — and the No. 2 spot in nearly a dozen of them, including the U.K., Canada, Australia and Saudi Arabia. This week, it re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart at No. 8., making it Bush's first U.S. Top 10 single.

Bush — whose catalog includes hits like "Wuthering Heights" and "Cloudbusting" and is also getting a streaming boost — said in a statement on her website that young fans of the show have given the song "a whole new lease of life," adding, "I love it too!"

"Because of this, Running Up That Hill is charting around the world and has entered the UK chart at No. 8," she wrote over the weekend. "It's all really exciting! Thanks very much to everyone who has supported the song. I wait with bated breath for the rest of the series in July."

Bush does not typically allow for her music to be used in other media, Variety reports, but signed off after reviewing script pages and footage to learn exactly how the song would be used. She also happens to be a big fan of the show, it added.

And the feeling appears to be mutual. Winona Ryder, who stars in the series, told USA Today that she had long campaigned for the show to feature music by Bush, whom she called "a hero of mine."

"I've been obsessed with her since I was a little girl," she said. "I've also for the last seven years been dropping hints on set wearing my Kate Bush T-shirts."

It's rare for older songs to burst back into the Top 10 years later, Variety explains, adding that it's believed a non-Christmas catalog tune has not reached this level in its original recorded form since Queen's '"Bohemian Rhapsody" hit No. 2 in 1992 (after being featured in Wayne's World). Even the resurgence of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" in 2020 — thanks to a juice-drinking, skateboarding Idaho potato worker — only reached the No. 12 spot.

And "Running Up That Hill" doesn't appear to be losing steam.

As of Tuesday, it's the second most-played song globally on Spotify and Apple News, according to The Guardian. And German songwriter Kim Petras recently dropped an electro-pop version of the song (one of many covers released over the decades) in honor of Pride Month.

Nora Felder, the music supervisor for Stranger Things, told Variety that the next generation's embrace of the song proves how timeless it is.

"I believe that if it was written and recorded today, it would fit right in and not be considered a 'dated' sound in any way," she added.

And today's fans certainly seem to be finding meaning in the song some 37 years later — even if they're listening to it on their cell phones instead of a Walkman.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.