If you’re the type of person who’s sensitive about their yearly income (i.e. it’s too low), you might want to go ahead and turn the page.
Maxim magazine, which against all odds is still publishing, recently listed the top 10 earnings of dead celebrities. You know, people so famous that even after they’re no longer able to do what made them famous, still get richer and richer. Or, at least their descendants do.
You’ll know most of these 10 names, though a couple may surprise you. You’ll guess number one, if you think for a moment, and probably number 4. But number 10?
10. Albert Einstein. According to Maxim, Einstein’s estate took in $10 million last year. When I saw in Parade’s annual “What We Make” issue in the spring that Einstein made $10 million last year, I wondered how? I’m still wondering. Did he invent something I’m unaware of? Did he write books that still sell? I don’t get it.
9. John Lennon. $12 million. I was also a little surprised by this. I’ve no doubt Lennon’s songs probably still sell well from back catalog sales and I assume they pop up occasionally in TV shows and movies, but you never really hear anything from him that would indicate a new revenue stream. And if the Beatles’ songs are the driving force, wouldn’t that, maybe, put George Harrison on the list also?
8. Dr. Seuss. $16 million. Not surprised here at all. I’m sure all those books still sell well and they keep trying to make movies out of his work. Honestly, I’m surprised his estate only made $16 million.
7. Prince. $18 million. No surprise here. A huge back catalog and a bunch of unreleased songs pretty much guarantees his Purple Majesty will be on this list for years.
6. Tom Petty. $20 million. When Tom Petty died in October 2017, I wrote a column about it and apparently I wasn’t nice enough because a super fan of his wrote me a letter (not an email) and called me every name in the book, saying I didn’t get Tom Petty. Oh, I got Tom Petty. I was a fan. Had a lot of his records. But I didn’t think then, and don’t think now, that he was really that popular. His time was the 1980s and the early ’90s. By the time he died, he’d been out of the spotlight for more than 20 years. Yet, he made $20 million in a just a couple of months after he died (this list is for 2017). I have no idea how, but apparently I’m wrong about his popularity.
5. Bob Marley. $23 million. I don’t know much about Marley. Does he sell enough T-shirts at Hot Topic to make this much?
4. Elvis Presley. $35 million. The rock star who will never die, and may not even actually be dead. Depends on who you ask. This isn’t surprising at all. There’s still so many Elvis products out there, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this total double somewhere along the line.
3. Charles Schulz. $38 million. Charlie Brown, Lucy, Snoopy, Linus and all the others keep raking in the cash.
2. Arnold Palmer. $40 million. Palmer’s name is on a lot of things, most of which he never knew about. But he was known for making more money from endorsements than the game of golf.
1. Michael Jackson. $75 million. Even though he’s been dead for around a decade, Jackson’s death is still pretty fresh in the pop culture zeitgeist. Those kids of his will never want for anything.
And that’s the problem most people have with dead celebrities making money. Who’s getting that money? I’ll admit I have to grit my teeth when I think about Sam Walton’s kids being worth billions, EACH, for doing nothing more than being born into the right family at the right time.
Most of the people I know will be happy if they leave just enough for their kids to pay for a funeral. Anything else will be gravy. They also like to claim they’d like nothing more than to leave their family generational wealth. But they get upset when they hear about a celebrity’s kid living the high life for no other reason than being born.
If that ticks you off, then where should the celebrities money go? Exactly. I agree. It should go to me. I’ll know what to do with it.