The Beatles perform in November 1963. Getty Images


  • "Lord of the Rings" author J.R.R. Tolkien was the highest-paid dead celebrity last year with earnings of $500 million
  • Late Beatles members George Harrison and John Lennon also made the list
  • A number of departed musicians earn millions of dollars from their music catalog and annual royalty streams

Hollywood's biggest stars earn millions of dollars from successful projects during their lifetime. But a number of departed celebrities continue to rake in millions even after their deaths from the work or the business ventures they left behind.

Here are the 13 highest-paid dead celebrities based on their earnings between Nov. 1, 2021, and Oct. 30, 2022, as compiled by Forbes.


George Harrison - $12 Million

George Harrison

George Harrison, the lead guitarist of the iconic rock band The Beatles, earned at least $12 million last year, Forbes reported.

His 2022 income came from profits from "Get Back," the 2021 docuseries about the British group's final recording sessions, Beatles royalties, and royalties of his solo studio albums, which achieved gold and platinum status. His solo offerings included his critically-acclaimed 1970 album "All Things Must Pass" and 1973's "Living in the Material World."

At the time of his death, Harrison had an estimated net worth of $400 million. He passed away in 2001 due to cancer, which he had been fighting since 1998, Celebrity Net Worth (CNW) reported.


John Lennon - $16 Million

Cut down at 40: John Lennon in 1971

Another Beatles member, John Lennon, garnered about $16 million last year. According to CNW, he had an estimated net worth of $200 million at the time of his tragic death in 1980, when he was shot four times in the back by a former fan named Mark David Chapman, who remains behind bars for his crime.

Although the "Imagine" singer mostly profited from the royalties from his work with the Beatles and songs as a solo artist, Forbes reported that his estate also collected around $20 million in music rights for "Get Back."


Juan Gabriel - $23 million

Juan Gabriel
Getty Images/ Giulio Marcocchi

Late Mexican singer and composer Juan Gabriel had a prolific music career and was recognized with two Latin Grammys. According to Forbes, the musician composed over 1,000 songs and sold at least 60 million albums, which earned him a net worth of $30 million before his death.

Gabriel, who passed away after suffering a heart attack in 2016, earned $23 million between late 2021 and late 2022. His estate signed an exclusive, worldwide agreement with Virgin Music U.S. Latin and extended its agreement with Universal Music Publishing Group, Universal Music Group's leading global music publishing division.


Charles Schulz - $24 Million

4. Charles Schulz

"Peanuts," one of the most successful American comic strips of the mid-20th century, is still being marketed up to this date in varying media content.

Charles Schulz, the late cartoonist responsible for the comic strip and its iconic characters Snoopy and Charlie Brown, earned about $24 million from the franchise last year. He succumbed to colon cancer in 2000.

In October last year, AppleTV signed a deal with Canada-based animation studio WildBrain, becoming the sole streaming destination for all things Snoopy and "Peanuts," including archive classics and new TV specials and series.


Jeff Porcaro - $25 Million

Jeff Porcaro
Jeff Porcaro Steve Lukather/ GFDL

Although Jeff Porcaro was popularly known as the drummer for the '80s rock outfit Toto, he was also one of the most recorded studio musicians in history. The "Africa" co-writer collaborated with artists such as Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, and Michael Jackson, among others.

When the musician passed away at age 38 due to a heart attack in 1992, he had a net worth of $10 million, according to CNW. But last year, he earned about $25 million from his publishing and recording royalties, which were snapped by Primary Wave, per Forbes.


Dr. Seuss - $32 Million

Dr Seuss
Getty Images

Dr. Seuss was best known for writing and illustrating some of the most popular children's books of all time, including "If I Ran the Zoo," "The Cat in the Hat," "Green Eggs and Ham" and "The Lorax."

He has consistently made it on the list of highest-paid celebrities since his passing five years ago. For 2022, he earned about $32 million from recently generated book sales, merchandising and a deal with streaming giant Netflix, which acquired the rights to turn five of Dr. Seuss' books into animated shows. These were "Horton Hears a Who!," "The Sneetches," "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish," "Wacky Wednesday" and "Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose," Netflix announced in March last year.

The author passed away in 1991 due to cancer and had a net worth of $75 million at the time of his death, according to CNW.


Leonard Cohen - $55 Million

REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/File Photo

Leonard Cohen, who had an estimated net worth of $10 million at the time of his death in 2016, was a popular singer-songwriter who earned a spot in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

He penned the internationally acclaimed track "Hallelujah," which is still being sung by a number of musicians to this day. He died in his sleep following a fatal fall in the middle of the night.

Cohen earned $55 million after music management company and IP investment firm Hipgnosis Songs Fund acquired in March 2022 rights in all 278 songs and derivatives written by the late musician, including "Hallelujah," which has been covered more than 300 times.


Michael Jackson - $75 Million

Michael Jackson
REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo

"King of pop" Michael Jackson's legacy lives on following his death in 2009, and he has remained one of the most profitable celebrities in the world.

He garnered $75 million in 2022 from his music catalog, a Jackson-themed Cirque de Soleil show in Las Vegas, and "MJ The Musical" on Broadway, which according to Broadway World has grossed over $90 million since it opened in February last year.

The music legend had a debt of $500 billion at the time of his passing, but his estate went on to earn nearly $2 billion in the decade after he died, according to Celebrity Net Worth.


James Brown - $100 Million

James Brown
Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

James Brown, dubbed "Godfather of Soul," earned the respect and love of fans from all over the world for being one of the most hardworking men in show business. He was popularly known for his hits "I Don't Know," "Begging Begging, "That Dood It," "Try Me," and "I Got You (I Feel Good)," among others.

Decades after his passing in 2006 due to congestive heart failure and complications of pneumonia, Brown's estate raked in $100 million after New York-based music publisher Primary Wave scooped up a portion of the late singer's publishing rights, master royalty income and name/likeness rights in December 2021.

Some of the proceeds from the deal reportedly will be utilized to fund academic scholarships for children in need in perpetuity, per Forbes.


Elvis Presley - $110 Million


Elvis Presley gained massive popularity as one of the pioneers of rock and roll music, and remains one of the best-selling solo artists of all time with 139 million units sold, according to data from Statista.

Dubbed the "King of Rock and Roll," he earned $110 million in 2022 from tour tickets, shows, merchandise and tourists that booked their stay at his Graceland mansion and resort in Memphis, Tennessee, unnamed sources close to the estate told Forbes.

In 1977, Presley died after suffering a heart attack. At the time of his death, the singer had an estimated net worth of $20 million, after adjusting for inflation, Celebrity Net Worth reported.


David Bowie - $250 Million

David Bowie
Getty Images

Late English musician David Bowie is best known for his chart-topping hits "Life on Mars?," "Let's Dance," "Starman," "Oh! You Pretty Things" and "Ashes to Ashes," among others.

After nearly five decades in the music industry, he had a net worth of $230 million at the time of his death in 2016.

In January last year, Bowie's estate sold his publishing catalog and masters, which spanned hundreds of songs from six decades, to Warner Chappell Music for $250 million, according to Variety.


Kobe Bryant - $400 Million

The death of Kobe Bryant shocked fans and players around the world

NBA legend Kobe Bryant died at age 41 in a tragic helicopter crash in 2020, along with his daughter Gianna. At the time, the former Los Angeles Lakers player had a net worth of $600 million.

Three years after his passing, the late baller's estate reportedly earned $400 million as part of energy drink BodyArmor's $5.6 billion sale to Coca-Cola, according to Celebrity Net Worth. Bryant was an early investor in the company.


J.R.R. Tolkien - $500 Million

J.R.R. Tolkien
Haywood Magee/Getty Images

J.R.R. Tolkien was the highest-paid dead celebrity for 2022, with profits amounting to $500 million. Decades after his death in 1973, the writer's estate continues to earn tens of millions in royalties and licensing fees, most notably for television and film studios, each year.

In August last year, Swedish video game company Embracer entered into an agreement to acquire Middle-earth Enterprises, which manages "worldwide rights to motion pictures, video games, board games, merchandising, theme parks and stage productions relating to" Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and "The Hobbit." The company also owns "matching rights in other Middle-earth-related literary works authorized by the Tolkien Estate and HarperCollins."

Although the price of the deal was not disclosed, an unnamed source told Forbes that the deal closed at $500 million.

In 2017, Amazon also bought the rights to "The Lord of the Rings" for more than $200 million. "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" debuted on the streaming platform Prime Video in September 2022.

Hollywood Sign
Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles, California. Thomas Wolf,, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons