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The 11 Highest Paid Dead Celebrities

Wax figures of the Beatles
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Once someone has recorded a popular song, acted in a hit show, or written a bestselling book, they may continue to receive money from that project for many years. And in fact, many celebrity estates continue to earn substantial money long after the person has passed away.

Forbes recently determined the top-earning dead celebrities of 2023 – and noted that earnings are down from 2022, which was a record-breaking year for deceased-celebrity earnings. The magazine credits the decline to the fact that in 2022 many celebrity estates sold interests in their intellectual property while only one – The Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek – did so in 2023.

Here are the highest-paid dead celebrities of 2023, according to Forbes.

10. George Harrison (tie)

Beatles
iQoncept / Shutterstock.com

This late celebrity’s earnings in 2023: $14 Million

When this celebrity passed away: Nov. 29, 2001

George Harrison, lead guitarist for The Beatles, was known as the quiet Beatle, but his influence on the group wasn’t exactly quiet. Harrison is credited with introducing the band to Indian music and culture, which influenced their later style. Harrison had a successful solo career after The Beatles breakup in 1970 and also co-founded the musical supergroup the Traveling Wilburys.

10. Bing Crosby (tie)

Bing Crosby White Christmas
Ralf Liebhold / Shutterstock.com

This late celebrity’s earnings in 2023: $14 Million

When this celebrity passed away: Oct. 14, 1977

Bing Crosby’s gentle-voiced crooning made him one of the most popular singers of the 20th century. His singing career began in 1923, when he was just 20, and he was still recording songs three days before his death in 1977, at age 75. Crosby was also an actor and producer, winning the Best Actor Academy Award for his role as a priest in 1944’s “Going My Way.”

9. Bob Marley

Sculpture of Bob Marley
Debbie Ann Powell / Shutterstock.com

This late celebrity’s earnings in 2023: $16 Million

When this celebrity passed away: May 11, 1981

In his short 36 years of life, Bob Marley contributed a great deal to the world of music. He was a pioneering reggae musician and also brought attention to the musical and cultural influences of his home country, Jamaica. Though he was just 36 when he died of a rare form of melanoma, he was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and also received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

8. John Lennon

Mural of John Lennon
emka74 / Shutterstock.com

This late celebrity’s earnings in 2023: $22 Million

When this celebrity passed away: Dec. 8, 1980

Liverpool-born John Lennon founded perhaps the world’s most famous band, The Beatles, in 1960, and he and Paul McCartney went on to write an enormous catalog of immensely popular songs. He had just returned to music after a five-year hiatus when he was murdered by an obsessed fan in 1980. Yet his voice and influence live on: “Now and Then,” a song he recorded back in the 1970s, was tweaked by the surviving Beatles and released in 2023, topping the U.K. charts.

5. Whitney Houston (three-way tie)

Singer Whitney Houston
Stefano Chiacchiarini ’74 / Shutterstock.com

This late celebrity’s earnings in 2023: $30 Million

When this celebrity passed away: Feb. 11, 2012

In 2023, Rolling Stone Magazine named Whitney Houston the second-greatest singer of all time, trailing only Aretha Franklin. The Rolling Stone write-up dubbed Houston “the standard-bearer for R&B vocals.” She remains the only artist to have seven consecutive No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

5. Prince (three-way tie)

Prince in concert
Northfoto / Shutterstock.com

This late celebrity’s earnings in 2023: $30 Million

When this celebrity passed away: April 21, 2016

Was any musician ever better named? Prince, born Prince Rogers Nelson, reigned among music’s royalty, thanks to a creativity and skill that brought the world such albums as “Purple Rain,” “1999” and “Sign o’ the Times.” Born into a musical family in Minneapolis, he stayed in his home state his entire life, pioneering the funk-rock-based Minneapolis sound.

5. Charles M. Schulz (three-way tie)

Charlie Brown Peanuts
Stan DaMan / Shutterstock.com

This late celebrity’s earnings in 2023: $30 Million

When this celebrity passed away: Feb. 12, 2000

Cartoonist Charles Schulz brought the world the Peanuts gang, including round-headed kid Charlie Brown, his zany dog Snoopy, and fussbudget Lucy. His comic-strip characters found a new audience in numerous television specials, including “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” which became an American holiday tradition. Schulz drew Peanuts for 50 years and died in his sleep at age 77, the very night before the last original Peanuts strip was published.

4. Dr. Seuss

Sculpture of Dr. Suess
26ShadesOfGreen / Shutterstock.com

This late celebrity’s earnings in 2023: $40 Million

When this celebrity passed away: Sept. 24, 1991

Many American children learned to read thanks to Theodor Seuss Geisel, who wrote and drew more than 60 books under the pen name Dr. Seuss. His iconic creations include “The Cat in the Hat,” “The Lorax,” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” His books have been adapted into movies, television specials and series, and a Broadway musical called “Seussical.”

3. Ray Manzarek

The Doors Walk of Fame
s_bukley / Shutterstock.com

This late celebrity’s earnings in 2023: $45 Million

When this celebrity passed away: May 20, 2013

Keyboardist and vocalist Ray Manzarek co-founded The Doors back in 1965, along with his friend and fellow UCLA film school student, the legendary Jim Morrison. The band has sold some 100 million records. After Morrison’s 1971 death, Manzarek continued to perform music, including as part of Manzarek-Krieger, with Doors guitarist Robby Krieger. He also wrote two novels as well as a memoir about his time in The Doors.

2. Elvis Presley

Graceland, home of Elvis Presley
Rolf_52 / Shutterstock.com

This late celebrity’s earnings in 2023: $100 Million

When this celebrity passed away: Aug. 16, 1977

Known to many as the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley exemplified the American Dream – rising from an impoverished life in a Mississippi shotgun shack to fame and fortune. His music, movies, and personal style made him an icon, and though he died more than 45 years ago, his cultural influence is still enormous. His Memphis mansion, Graceland, remains a popular tourist attraction, and his life and death continue to fascinate. Most recently, his ex-wife, Priscilla, became the subject of a 2023 biographical film, “Priscilla.”

1. Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson memorial
Helga King / Shutterstock.com

This late celebrity’s earnings in 2023: $115 Million

When this celebrity passed away: June 25, 2009

Elvis may have been known as the King of Rock and Roll, but topping the list of highest-paid dead celebrities is the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. Many fans watched Jackson grow up, as he became a childhood singing star for performing along with his brothers as a member of the Jackson 5. His 1979 album “Off the Wall” launched his solo career, but it was 1982’s blockbuster album “Thriller” that made him a global superstar. Offstage, Jackson’s life was troubled, and despite his acquittal in a 2005 child-molestation trial, he remains a controversial figure even today.

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