They are dead but their legacy lives on. The list of the highest-paid dead celebrities earned some $470 million during the past 12 months. According to Forbes, the figure is a 70% decrease from the record-breaking $1.6 billion grossed in 2022.
The fall is partly due to a drop in nine-figure music catalog sales that helped increase the earnings of departed celebrities, Forbes said.
Of the 13 deceased musicians, authors and other A-listers on Forbes’ annual ranking of the highest-paid dead celebrities, four of them are Black. Here they are:
Michael Jackson: $115 Million
Died: June 25, 2009
In 2022, Michael Jackson was the third-highest Black earner, raking in $75 million on the back of the return of the Jackson-themed Cirque de Soleil show in Las Vegas, which was suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The King of Pop has returned to the top of the highest-earning dead celebrities list. The return makes it his first since 2019 thanks to the Broadway hit MJ: The Musical, which grossed some $85 million in ticket sales over the past year.
“Jackson also rings up millions from the Cirque du Soleil show, Michael Jackson ONE, in Las Vegas. His earnings should continue to rise—earlier this year the estate signed onto Michael, a biopic to be directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Jackson’s nephew Jaafar,” according to Forbes.
Prince: $30 Million
Died: April 21, 2016
Since his death in 2016, three posthumous albums have been released. There is also a newly remastered version of his classic 1991 album Diamonds and Pearls. Forbes said the box set features 47 unreleased songs and hours of never-before-seen concert footage.
Whitney Houston: $30 million
Died: February 11, 2012
The Whitney Houston estate is celebrating its biggest year yet thanks to a biopic and several brand collaborations, according to Forbes. The platform adds that the film Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody grossed nearly $60 million worldwide. Also, MAC Cosmetics released a makeup collection with the Houston estate, which is managed by Pat Houston, her sister-in-law, and Primary Wave.
Bob Marley: $16 million
Died: May 11, 1981
Reggae icon Robert Nesta Bob Marley did not die a poor man, and his family escaped poverty, thanks to the wealth he left behind from his years of musical mastery, which shot him to global acclaim as one of the best musicians of all time. His music remains in high demand including the rights to his name and likeness, which can be seen on headphones, speakers, sneakers and cannabis, Forbes said.
“Earlier this year, the first Marley-branded dispensary opened in his native Jamaica. And next year, the movie Bob Marley: One Love, starring Kingsley Ben Adir, hits the big screen,” according to Forbes.