He was the man that fueled millions of chart fanatics around the world. A man who never lost his love for Billboard or its many music charts. A man who took one small book and turned it into a small but beloved musical empire.
Joel Whitburn, the founder of Record Research, passed away in his sleep on Tuesday June 14, he was 82 years old. His passion for music and for the Billboard music charts in particular spurred Joel to write his first book, the aptly titled “Record Research – The Billboard Hot 100 Chart 1958-1969” in 1970. Since then, he has built up a library of record for a good percentage of Billboard’s various charts, as well as those from past music trade magazines now owned by Billboard, including Cashbox, Music Vendor and it’s successor Record World, and most recently Radio And Records, and published them for music researchers and fans worldwide.
My first Whitburn book, as his library of publications are known to his fans, was “The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits“, which I picked up in the spring of 1978, when I was fifteen. Little did I know what kind of addictive knowledge I had stumbled onto. By that summer, I had launched my own little music charts, known affectionately as “The Kirkham Report”, and began to work hard to be able to purchase more from Whitburn and his loyal team of staffers, headquartered in Joel’s hometown of Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.
I have always had one or two of Joel’s books in my collection, but over the past three years, I have added a good deal (20+ titles) to my chart book library from his collection, and none have ever disappointed me – full of factoids, accurate chart research, photos, and more, the Whitburn book collection is what fuels my passion for the charts. His work, and his style of working, spread to many other countries, and you can find books similar to (but never as inclusive) Record Research books from multiple countries and from local cities as well – I have a wonderful series of books about Chicago radio station charts in the 1970s that are set up similar to Joel’s “Top Pop Singles” books, and also books about the charts from the UK and other countries as well. But Joel’s books were FIRST…and always the BEST.
You can see a list of my extensive collection of Whitburn books in the TKR Music Reference Library section in my “Inside TKR” area or click on the link above. It has been my dream to make a Whitburn-style book about my charts one day, and once the Missing Chart Years project is complete, I will set forth on doing such a book for my followers and friends.
Mr. Whitburn, you were and will always be an inspiration to myself and my fellow chart fanatics. Please continue to offer your guidance and support to your wonderful Record Research team from the great beyond – I have no doubt they will strive to continue to the work you began over fifty years ago. Thank you for your work, and thank you for the music knowledge you’ve brought into everyone’s life – before you, there WAS no such thing as “chart research”, and now, it is a music staple. You will be deeply missed…