The highest-earning dead musicians revealed

Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley are amongst the late stars whose work is still earning money

The highest-earning dead celebrities include John Lennon, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson. (Getty Images, Alamy, Apple Corp)
The highest-earning dead celebrities include John Lennon, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson. (Getty Images, Alamy, Apple Corp)

When musicians die they leave behind a legacy with their music, The Beatles have added to that for late members John Lennon and George Harrison with the release of Now and Then, which is set to reach Number 1 on the singles chart.

Read more: Why did The Beatles split up?

Many late musicians continue to earn residuals after they have died, money which is often passed onto their loved ones, and Lennon is amongst the highest-earning celebrity.

A new report from Forbes has revealed the eight highest-paid deceased celebrities, with the stars earning a total of $412m (£333m) posthumously over the past year.

Here is everything you need to know.

The highest earning dead musicians revealed

Statista has revealed the eight highest-earning dead celebrities (Statista)
Statista has made a bar chart for the eight highest-earning dead celebrities (Statista)

The list of celebrities to have earned the most since dying includes musicians, authors, and cartoonists — and the data is representative of their earnings from October 2022 to September 2023.

Lennon died in 1980 at the age of 40 after he was killed in front of his New York home by Mark David Chapman, the musician continues to earn money to this day though and made $22m (£17m).

Read more: Why Michael Jackson's 'Motown 25' moonwalk almost didn't happen 40 years ago

Michael Jackson, who died in 2009, earns the most – with the late Thriller singer earning a staggering $115m (£92m) in 2023. These residuals come from earnings for his music, but also the success of MJ: The Musical on Broadway.

Elvis Presley is the second highest-earning deceased celebrity, the King of Rock 'n' Roll died in 1977 from a heart attack aged 42, but his dominance over the music industry continues as he earned $100m (£80m) posthumously in the past year.

American singer Elvis Presley performing on tour. (Photo by Courtesy of Metro Goldwyn Mayer/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
Elvis Presley died in 1977 but he continues to earn money posthumously. (Getty Images)

Ray Manzarek, the late keyboardist who is best known for his time with the Doors, earned $45m (£36m) in 2023, he died in 2013 following a battle with cancer.

Prince and Whitney Houston also earned $30m posthumously. Prince died in 2016 aged 57 from an accidental overdose on fentanyl, and Houston passed away aged 48 in 2012.

Though not musicians, children's author Dr Seuss earned $40m (£32m) posthumously in 2023, the writer died in 1999 from throat cancer at the age of 87, and cartoonist Charles M Schulz, who is best known for creating the Peanuts comic strip, earned $30m (£24m).