The Road to Riverdance by Bill Whelan is a skilfully attuned record of one of Ireland’s most famous and influential composers. This is a richly braided narrative that follows Whelan’s early musical experiences right up to the world-famous cultural phenomenon: from being enthralled by South African singers in a Limerick theatre as a child, to sitting in the Gaiety pit orchestra, to that seven-minute interval that changed everything.
This is not just the story of the rise of a music legend. Whelan’s memoir is rich with relatable humanity, overcoming the adversities of embarking on a ‘risky’ career in music, facing unprincipled business dealings with integrity, and navigating relationships with investors, promoters and dancers. His open and frank commentary on existential anxiety, rooted in early years of childhood, reveals a side to Whelan that will be relatable to many readers. Bill Whelan not only chronicles his musical career, but also reveals a deep understanding of people, as well as a formidable harnessing of energy, collaboration, kinship and empathy, all leading up to those twenty four dancers and four hundred million viewers.
Whelan not only finds success in music, but in love, with the development of his relationship with his wife Denise as the core of his story. Love sustains all, as Whelan learns very young.
Written with an inimitable Irish sense of humour – absurdist and unexpected – Whelan’s self-deprecatory style allows us to see him and the characters he meets along the way in all their glory, foolishness, loveliness and foibles. Whelan’s work has reinvented the Irish tradition for the modern age, and this utterly fascinating memoir finally reveals the nuts, bolts, sheer effort and serendipitous meetings that formed the road to Riverdance.