Joel Whitburn 1939-2022
Chart historian Joel Whitburn has died at the age of 82. Whitburn’s work cataloguing Billboard‘s charts has been a source of reference for chart enthusiasts around the world, and his books, produced and sold by his company, Record Research, have been a vital source of what we do here at Tunesmate. I remember the first time I encountered one. It was his signature work, Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, which comes out with an updated edition every few years, providing extensive information about songs that have appeared on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart (and other related charts) since the beginning of the rock ‘n’ roll era in 1955. When I was working at my local radio station in high school in 1989, they had the latest edition of the book, Top Pop Singles 1955-1986, in the studio. I already subscribed to Billboard, and as I was making sure Sunday morning programming was airing, I started perusing Whitburn’s book. I was hooked pretty instantly, and by the time the next edition came out (this one through 1990), I was making my first purchase from Record Research.
While Marc Majers and I were in college, we spent countless hours poring over it, to the point that Marc started a calling it “The Bible,” a name we maintain today. I still have that edition I purchased in 1991, and I have the latest edition, which goes through 2018. I constantly use that 2018 edition — along with other Record Research books — as I write my posts here at Tunesmate. I verify the chart information you see in my posts using Whitburn’s books.
Long story short, Tunesmate would not exist as you know it without Joel Whitburn, and I am forever grateful for his work over the past five-plus decades.