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Michael Jackson Is the Top-Earning Dead Celebrity

'Forbes' list includes Elvis Presley, Bob Marley, John Lennon

Michael Jackson
Kevin Mazur/WireImage
October 24, 2013 10:30 AM ET

The King of Pop is at the top of the charts again. This time, though, Michael Jackson has reclaimed his place atop the Forbes list of top-earning dead celebrities. The pop singer made an estimated $160 million between October 2012 and October 2013, mostly from the two Cirque du Soleil shows that have licensed his music. One of them, the touring Immortal, has grossed $300 million since opening last year, while the other, the Las Vegas-stationed One and its hologram Jackson, is often sold out. The Jackson estate also earns from his music catalogue, as well as the music of others, since he has a claim in half of Sony/ATV, a music publisher, which includes songs by the Beatles, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and more.

Where Does Michael Jackson Rank on Our 100 Greatest Artists List?

Just behind Jackson on the Forbes list is the other King: Over the past calendar year, Elvis Presley's estate brought in $55 million, or a little more than a dollar for each of the fans the King credited with the title of his Fifties greatest hits LP, 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong. Forbes credits Presley's "eternally popular image" and Graceland as his sources of income.

The next top-earning deceased musician on the list is Bob Marley, who trails behind Peanuts creator Charles Schulz (who brought in $37 million) and Jackson's pal Elizabeth Taylor ($25 million), who was Number One last year. The reggae icon accounted for an estimated $18 million last year, thanks to his estate licensing his name to speakers, messenger bags and coffee drinks that come in genres like "mellow mood" and "one drop."

The other two musicians on the list are John Lennon, who comes in at Number Seven for $12 million earned from records sold and the Cirque du Soleil show Love!; and Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera, who rounds out the list at Number 12 after taking in $7 million. Since her death in December, Rivera has sold an estimated 880,000 records and her autobiography, Unbreakable: My Story, My Way, has sold more than 400,000 copies since July.

Other deceased celebs on the list include Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein, Bettie Page, Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), Steve McQueen and Bruce Lee.

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Song Stories

“Nightshift”

The Commodores | 1984

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