Bill Graham, Irish rock journalist and author, is born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on August 29, 1951. He attends Blackrock College and Trinity College, Dublin. In addition to authoring several books, he writes for Hot Press magazine from its founding.
Graham’s long time colleague and Hot Press editor Niall Stokes describes him, “In many ways, he was a founding father of modern Irish music. He inspired a whole generation of Irish fans and musicians to look at the world in a different and broader light. And he was good on more than music too. He felt a kinship with Northern Ireland and the people on both sides of the sectarian and political divide there that was unusual in those who were brought up within the narrow confines of the culture of Ireland in the ‘60s and ‘70s – and his political writing reflected this. And he was also ahead of the game in terms of his appreciation of the importance of the politics of food and the position of the developing world in the new era.”
Graham is instrumental in the formation of Irish rock band U2, having brought them to the attention of their manager Paul McGuinness. At an exhibition of early group photos, McGuinness remembers the role Graham played by introducing him to the band. Despite being widely known as the man who “discovered” U2, it is a title he disavowed. He writes enthusiastically about the band, giving them their first exposure. Both guitarist The Edge and Bono have explained Graham’s role in the band’s development.
John Waters observes that “It is often said that Bill ‘discovered’ U2. This is untrue. Bill created U2, through his enthusiasm for them. He gave them a reflection of their own possibilities and they only looked back that once.” Graham has a deep knowledge of virtually every form of popular and roots music. Waters goes on to credit him as “the first Irish writer to write about the connection between Irish political culture and Irish rock ‘n’ roll.”
A number of music critics/journalists have cited Graham as a primary influence, in some cases suggesting they got into the field as a direct result of his writing.
Graham dies of a heart attack at the age of 44 at his home in Howth, County Dublin, on May 11, 1996. His funeral draws many of the biggest bands from the world of Irish music including Clannad, Altan, U2, and Hothouse Flowers, along with singers Simon Carmody and Gavin Friday.