Not every songwriter or singer is the same, as shown by Drake and Meek Mill’s feud. That’s not to say that singers and songwriters can’t really be successful. From Joni Mitchell with her legendary Reprise Records hit Woodstock, to songwriter Carole King, who’s had hundreds of songs attain the Billboard Hot 100, the identities you’ll see on this list are all popular artists who have made themselves notable through their art, both through pen to paper and through voice. Long story short, they make a decent income off of royalties.
Neil Diamond – $175 million
Greatest Hits: Song Sung Blue, Cracklin’ Rosie
Neil Diamond is a globally renowned musician who has managed to sell over a hundred albums and has reached the top ten on billboards numerous times. He was one of history’s best-selling artists. He is widely known for having had ten top-sought singles and being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame. Diamond is defined as a funny person. He was parodied by Will Ferrell on SNL and enjoyed the spoof so much that he went on to star in a stand-up performance with Ferrell on Ferrell’s final episode.
Johnny Cash – $60 million
Greatest Hits: I Walk the Line, Folsom Prison Blues
Johnny Cash is the world’s best selling singer who sold over 90 million albums. He was honored with the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Widely known for his hard-edged music. “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash” was his signature line. Before every music event, he would make a simple introduction, shirking the showboat popular in the rock genre (but less so in country music). His legacy was memorialized in the 2007 film Walk the Line, distributed by 20th Century Fox.
Joni Mitchell – $50 million
Greatest Hits: Woodstock, Big Yellow Taxi
Joni Mitchell’s Blue album represents one of the greatest artistic efforts. She is proficient in guitar, piano, and poetry. She mixed folk, pop, jazz, and rock elements from her musical performances to create a distinctive sound. She participated in Baby Boom’s counterculture and was active in advocacy, demonstrating, and other activist events. Her “Big Yellow Taxi” songs, “Woodstock,” as well as “Both Sides, Now” all had their greatest success through Reprise Records. Also famous for her adaptable nature, She altered her look and sound many times, evolving into an international pop and electronic artist.
Jerry Garcia – $40 million
Greatest Hits: Truckin’, Sugaree
Jerry Garcia was part of the Grateful Dead band throughout his professional career. He has several other bands, solo albums, and other projects. He was number 13 on Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitarists” list. He was recognized for being Grateful Dead’s main songwriter and for his psychedelic rock style. One of Warner Brothers Records’ artists’ biggest hits was Truckin’, which first appeared on Grateful Dead’s album, American Beauty. He was known for his improvisational skill, and guitar solo, as he said, was ideal because it relieved his stress.
Paul Simon – $75 million
Greatest Hits: Bridge Over Troubled Water
Paul Simon wrote nearly all his songs for Columbia Records, including his most popular hit, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” The duo broke up two years later, and Simon wrote The Gold Coast, which was influenced by South Africa, where he lived for two years. The album was the biggest selling solo album of his and his most successful solo project. He was active in several Broadway musicals. He created their musical The Capeman with Derek Walcott. He was a writer.
James Taylor – $60 million
Greatest Hits: Paint It Black, Night Owl
Singer James Taylor received five Grammy Awards and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is a prolific musical artist, selling over 100 million records worldwide. He experienced breakthrough success with the “Fire and Rain” album, preceded by Carole King’s cover of You’ve Got a Friend.” He also covered many other hit music, including “How Sweet It Is,” “Handy Man,” as well as “Sweet Baby James.”
Carole King – $70 million
Greatest Hits: It’s Too Late, Nightingale, Jazzman
In the 50s-2000s, Carole King was one of the most famous and lucrative female songwriters in history. She has 118 charting singles on the Billboard Hot 100. And that’s just the US. She wrote over sixty-one hits, including many that charted on the UK’s most popular singles chart. She debuted several albums, but her debut album, Writer, was the most significant. The recording was in the charts for nearly four months and remained in the charts for six years. She received a Hollywood star in 2012.
Stevie Wonder – $110 million
Greatest Hits: Superstition
Stevie Wonder is one of the most popular artists known. Besides his singing and writing skills, he also played various instruments, including the organ, drums, keyboards, harpsichord, and many more. He managed to sell over a hundred million records and won twenty-five Grammys and an Academy Award (among many other accolades). He was also inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The band has several top songs on the Billboard Hot 100. He signed with an 11-year-old label from Motown. He was and still is regarded as a prodigy.
Billy Joel – $180 million
Greatest Hits: Piano Man, Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
Billy Joel is dubbed “Piano Man” because of the vast amount of success he enjoys with his songs. He is the primary solo artist in today’s music industry. With over 150 million records sold worldwide, Michael Jackson has one of the best selling albums ever made. He was born in the Bronx and dropped out of high music school. He signed with Columbia Records the same year. He’s won five Grammys, including 23 nominations.
Burt Bacharach – $160 million
Greatest Hits: Arthur’s Theme, Close to You
Bacharach, a prolific songwriter, was one of the most influential composers at the end of the twentieth century. He was born in Missouri in the 1980s, and he composed in the 1990s. With Hal David, he wrote songs that were recorded by over one thousand singers. He is renowned for his work with Dionne Warwick and featuring jazz chords and harmony. He also arranged music for small orchestras by unique assignment to their members. His style is easy-to-hear and enjoyable. He plays as well as sings music.
Randy Newman – $50 million
Greatest Hits: Just One Smile, I’ve Been Wrong Before
Randy Newman is notable for his prolific songwriting and arranging and his distinct and unique singing and film score production. He did work as a film composer after earning twenty Academy Awards and winning twice. He’s among the most nominated actors. He was involved in Music Icon’s Hall of Fame in 2007. He created film scores for Cold Turkey, Meet the Parents, Seabiscuit, and nine Pixar films, including Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., and Cars. He’s signed to Warner Bros.
Dolly Parton – $500 million
Greatest Hits: Jolene, I Will Always Love You, 9 to 5
Beyond singing, Dolly Parton also writes over 3,000 songs. Whitney Houston’s song “I Will Always Love You” became popular after many musicians covered it. As for her songwriting, she admitted to performing music at the age of seven. She told me she writes every day, be it a poem, concept, album, or little tidbit. Her loving father influenced her with a deep religious tradition from the Appalachian Mountains. She won 35 BMI Awards.
Tom Petty – $95 million
Greatest Hits: Here Comes My Girl, Refugee, Don’t Do Me Like That
Tom Petty was the best-selling artist of all time. Lennon was first introduced to rock and roll when he was ten years old. He was determined by his influences like The Rolling Stones and its own variant of punk rock. He formed the quickly unsuccessful Mudcrutch band. But still, Tom Petty’s band and the Heartbreakers were a game-changer, well-known globally since. In the 70s, the band formed, and their debut came within the Top 40. Their third album sold more than twice as many copies as their first album.
Loretta Lynn – $65 million
Greatest Hits: You Ain’t Woman Enough, Coal Miner’s Daughter
Loretta Lynn, born in Kentucky, is one of the best-loved country singers of all time. She is recognized for her landmark hits like “You Ain’t Woman Enough Don’t Come to Home A’Drinkin,” “Fist City,” as well as “One’s on the Way.” Her movie, Coal Miner’s Daughter, draws more attention as a result of its genre. She has sold over forty-five million records. She had one album and nine songs. She’s performing 40 years later at 87. She frequently performs at the Grand Ole Opry.
Lou Reed – $15 million
Greatest Hits: Think It Over, Heavenly Arms
Lou Reed was the lead vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist for The Velvet Underground, and he had a successful solo career lasting over fifty years. Velvet Underground failed to be widely popular during its times together but is regarded as one of the most influential underground rock bands of its time. During the 1970s, Reed released twenty solo recordings. His second and third albums did well, but he experienced many failures during his music career. Eventually, his later recordings, New Sensations, and New York touched off some interest.
Kris Kristofferson – $160 million
Greatest Hits: Me and Bobby McGee, Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down
Kris Kristofferson is a singer and songwriter and has had a successful career. He was a writer for many other singers and often adjusted his material to fit Silverstein’s writing. He is mainly remembered for his outlaw country collaborative efforts and his membership in the country music supergroup, The Highwaymen. He is notable for starring in high-profile movies such as Heaven’s Gate, Blade, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, and A Star is Born. He won an award for his role in A Star is Born.
Paul McCartney – $1.2 billion
Greatest Hits: Yesterday
Paul McCartney is the only name that could match or exceed John Lennon in stardom, and it makes perfect sense that he’s also a Beatles co-founder. He had music covered by over 2,200 artists, notably for the song “Yesterday.” He was inducted two times into Fame’s Rock & Roll Hall, once for his Beatles career and music career. He garnered eighteen Grammys, and that in 1965 he and his colleague Beatles members were given the name MOB. He was also knighted in 1997 for music services. It comes as no surprise that currently, these accomplishments made McCartney a billionaire.
Van Morrison – $90 million
Greatest Hits: Gloria, Brown Eyed Girl
Van Morrison is a legendary musician who was born in 1950. He played in Ireland for various showbands and became famous as a Northern Irish R&B band. He was the lead singer of the band, and his songs defined the genre they were in. Jimmy Page released a popular late 1960s single called “Brown-Eyed Girl.” His first album was Astral Weeks, but sales were relatively difficult. However, his second album, titled Moondance, was a success. Van Morrison tours this day and performs in the arena
Bob Dylan – $200 million
Greatest Hits: The Times, They Are A’Changin’, Blowin In The Wind
Bob Dylan is one of the most popular and culturally significant folk musicians. He composed “The Times They Are a-Changin'” and “Blowin’ In the Wind” and released his eponymous album in the early 1960s, and preceded with a string of hit records. He released many politically charged singles and albums. He was also one of the first rock musicians to widely popularize electrically amplified instruments, eventually leaving a trail of controversy in his wake. He managed to have over 100 million album sales and won the National Medal of Arts in 2012 and the Nobel Prize of Literature in 2016.
Brian Wilson – $75 million
Greatest Hits: Good Vibrations, I Get Around, God Only Knows, Barbara Ann
Brian Wilson co-founded Beach Boys. He wrote songs that topped the Billboard charts twenty-four times. He is regarded among the most artistic songwriters of the twentieth century. He started the Beach Boys. Wilson continues to tour and still makes indie-pop as well as punk rock music. His tunes and orchestrations were hard to start, but other artists gained a great deal from his influence.
John Fogerty – $70 million
Greatest Hits: Proud Mary, Bad Moon Rising, Fortunate Son
John Fogerty had a successful solo career and an impressive work as a member of Creedence Clearwater Revival. He was also the lead guitarist, composer, and primary songwriter. The group disbanded in 1972, and he had a solo career. Rolling Stone positioned him among the 100 Greatest Guitarists and 100 Greatest Singers of all time (respectively). He had written many hit songs, including “Proud Mary.”
Willie Nelson – $25 million
Greatest Hits: Family Bible, On the Road Again
Singer, songwriter, and actor Willie Nelson got his big break with Shotgun Willie. Together these things made him instantly recognizable in the 1970s. He has starred in over thirty films, wrote several books, and campaigned to legalize marijuana and biofuels. He released two albums of apology, with proceeds going to the IRS to pay off his unpaid tax debt.
Elton John – $500 million
Greatest Hits: Rocket Man, Crocodile Rock
Rock legend Elton John has sold more than three hundred million albums and had 58 Billboard singles in the top 40. In the history of the United Kingdom and the United States, his song, “Candle in the Wind,” which he wrote to honor Princess Diana after her tragic death, remains one of the best singles. He won five Grammys and several other accolades, placing him in critical success behind only The Beatles and Madonna. He is also an outstanding LGBTQ activist, raising more than $300 million for LGBTQ people.
David Bowie – $100 million
Greatest Hits: Changes, Space Oddity, Modern Love
Over 140 million albums were sold by David Bowie worldwide, accruing ten Platinum certifications for his many hit songs. He was recognized for visual presentation and the reinvention of a clear style. Ziggy Stardust, an androgynous, daring pop legend, is he alter ego. When he was very young, Bowie, born in South London, started studying art and music. In 1983, he launched his music career, releasing Space Oddity. Before his sudden death at sixty-two, he married the supermodel Iman. He’s still an iconic rock and glam rock artist.
Glenn Frey – $200 million
Greatest Hits: Tequila Sunrise, Lyin’ Eyes, James Dean
Glenn Frey became the lead singer of The Eagles (and their guitarist as well). A number of the best-known singles he wrote, such as “Tequila Sunrise,” “Lyin’ Eyes,” “Take It Easy,” “New Kid in Town,” and more. He went solo afterward when the Eagles parted ways in 1980. No Fun Aloud was his launch. He had several hits, including “Blues Smuggler,” “The Heat Is On,” “Sexy Girl,” and more, reaching the top 40s. In New York City, he passed away at 67.
John Prine – $6 million
Greatest Hits: Sam Stone, Illegal Smile, Dear Abby
Since the 1970s, John Prine has been a songwriter and musician with a successful career. At the age of fourteen, he learned to play guitar, attending Folk’s Old Town School in Chicago. He took a break from music after eighteen and served in West Germany as part of the Army. He moved back to Chicago, where he worked as a man until the singer Kris Kristofferson noticed him and released his first Atlantic album. He’s famous for his satirical songs about current events and life in general.
Bono – $700 million
Greatest Hits: Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Born in Dublin, among the most successful artists is Bono. He’s the boss of U2, and he writes almost all U2’s songs. He won 22 Grammys for the band. He spoke at length about his style of songwriting. He utilizes social and political themes in his songs, and his songs are often affected by his family background at a religious school. He had a defiant sound in his songs fairly early, but he’s said he “matured” and began writing about more life experiences he and U2 members shared. Ali Stewart, the singer, is married.
George Harrison – $400 million
Greatest Hits: Taxman, Here Comes the Sun
The Beatles’ lead guitarist was George Harrison, and he was called “the Quiet Beatle” because he was not one of their most famous members (as opposed to McCartney or Lennon). (as opposed to Lennon or McCartney). He wrote some of the band’s songs, including Here Comes the Sun, Taxman, Something, etc. George Formby, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, Django Reinhardt are his musical influences. He was also inspired by Indian culture and music, extending pop music to the band’s work to incorporate Indian instruments and Hindu spirituality. Born in Liverpool, he died in 2001 in LA.
Sam Cooke – $650,000
Greatest Hits: Wonderful World, Chain Gang, A Change is Gonna Come
The resident, musician, and business owner was Sam Cooke. He was an influential songwriter as well. His power in pop music and his popular voice called him “King of Soul.” When he was young, he started singing, joining The Soul Stirrers until his later solo career. He supported Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Bobby Womack, Billy Preston, Marvin Gaye, and many more. He made James Brown and Otis Redding popular. AllMusic author Bruce Eder called him the “inventor.” of the soul genre, born in Mississippi.
Bert Berns – $20 million
Greatest Hits: Hang on Sloopy, Twist and Shout, Here Comes the Night
Born in the Bronx, Bert Berns was a very influential producer and songwriter in the 1960s (Bert Russell and Russell Byrd). Popular pieces such as “Twist and South,” “Hang on Sloopy,” and more include his credits. He produced popular Atlantic, Bang, and Shout-signed songs such as “Brown Eyed Girl,” “Under the Boardwalk,” and “Baby Please Don’t Go,” He used to dance in mambo nightclubs when he was young and lived in Havana before the Cuban Revolution brought him back to America. He died of heart complications at 38 years of age.
Marvin Gaye – $5 million
Greatest Hits: How Sweet It Is, Ain’t That Peculiar, I Heard it Through the Grapevine
Marvin Gaye, nicknamed “Prince of Soul” and “Prince of Motown,” helped form the Motown sound of the 1960s. Before becoming a solo artist, he was the first in-house session player. He was one of the first Motown musicians, in addition to Stevie Wonder, to break away from the record industry and independently make his own music. He was a major influence on the neo-soul genre and quiet storm music. For Midnight Love, he won a Grammy. The anthem was sung during his last TV appearance at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game. He was also on Soul Train.
Chrissie Hynde – $12 million
Greatest Hits: Talk of the Town, Back on the Chain GangChrissie Hynde developed The Pretenders, her frontwoman since 1978. The hippie counterculture movement influenced her, operating in a jointly owned clothing store with designer Vivienne Westwood in London. She left music for fashion. With musicians including UB40, Cher and Frank Sinatra, she released songs. She gave it to Real Records, Dave Hill, after making a demo tape in 1978. She started paying the back rent she owed in her practice room in London, making it all come back and more.
Lucinda Williams – $15 million
Greatest Hits: Can’t Let Go, Get Right With God
The country singer Lucinda Williams, born in Louisiana, is one of the most prominent folk-rock and country-rock movements. Since 1978, she has been in the music industry and became famous for her style when her debut album, Lucinda Williams, was released. The song ‘Passionate Kisses,’ which won Williams her first Grammy in 1994, was included in this debut. She’s known for constantly working, releasing just two more albums to date. Her big break came when she lost the gold-certified Gravel Path to Car Wheels.
Harry Nilsson – $7 million
Greatest Hits: Without You, Coconut
Harry Nilsson created headlines as one of his age’s few prosperous rock artists, never playing a big concert or touring, but still enjoying considerable mainstream success. Widely acknowledged for his Great American Songbook style, combined with Caribbean sounds, he is an artist. As a tenor, he had a three-and-a-half-octave variety. He had an enduring impact on Indie rock. He wrote songs for bands such as The Monkees. Nilsson Schmilsson is his most commercially successful album. He was also a Hollywood Vampires drinking club member and a best friend of John Lennon’s.
Curtis Mayfield – $10 million
Greatest Hits: People Get Ready
Curtis Mayfield was a member of the big band The Impressions of the 1950s and 1960s, renowned for its civil rights activism and songs. Born in Chicago, as part of a gospel choir, he began singing. When he met Jerry Butler, a fellow artist, he joined the Impressions. He wrote songs that, because of their social consciousness, became part of the civil rights movement. His album “People Get Ready,” on Rolling Stone’s Greatest All-Time Songs, was listed as #24. He directed Super Fly as well.
Max Martin – $260 million
Greatest Hits: Baby One More Time, It’s Gonna Be Me, I Want It That Way
One of our most contemporary authors is Max Martin. Born in Sweden, Britney Spears (“…Baby One More Time”), The Backstreet Boys (“I Want It That Way”), and NYSNC (“It’s Gonna Be Me”) have composed a hit string for them. On the Billboard Charts, he wrote twenty-two number one songs. He’s produced several of these hits as well. He also wrote for Katy Perry, Maroon 5, Weeknd, and Taylor Swift. In the number one singles, he’s written, he’s behind Paul McCartney and George Martin.
Allen Toussaint – $3 million
Greatest Hits: Working in the Coal Mine, Yes We Can Can, Java
Allen Toussaint was one of New Orleans’ most prominent rhythm-and-blues genre figures, born in Gert Town, Louisiana. In the 1950s, he began his career and was defined as a “backroom figure” for his writing and composition. Songs such as “Fortune Teller,” “Working in the Coal Mine,” “Java,” “Mother – in – Law,” and he wrote more. He also produced some big hits, including “Lady Marmalade” and “Right Place, Wrong Time.” As an elderly neighbor’s boy, he learned to play the piano. His dad played the trumpet as well and worked on the railway.
Chuck Berry – $10 million
Greatest Hits: Ida Red, You Can Never Tell, Johnny B. Goode
He was born in St. Louis, and at an early age, he was involved in music. He started playing with the Johnnie Johnson Trio band, but he had his break when he met the singer Muddy Waters. Muddy had him hooked on Chess Records, and Ida Red was his first hit, selling over a million records.
Pete Townshend – $105 million
Greatest Hits: Happy Jack, Pictures of Lilly
One of the most common names is Pete Townshend. The legendary co-founder of that band, The Who. His band career lasted more than fifty years, and in the second half of the twentieth century, the band under his leadership became one of the most prominent voices in music. He composed more than a hundred songs for the eleven albums of The Who, including songs for two rock operas, Tommy and Quadrophenia. He also wrote essays, columns, books, etc. He began a promising career as a soloist. He’s a legendary guitarist. It doesn’t hurt.
George Clinton – $1.8 million
Greatest Hits: Can’t C Me, Loopzilla, You’re Thinkin’ Right
George Clinton, a former Motown songwriter, is known for writing and recording several hit songs for indie Detroit soul labels. He formed The Parliaments, and his own band later renamed Parliament and Funkadelic. In the years after that, Clinton was known for his distinctive psychedelic rock and electro-funk style. He also wrote “Can’t C Me.” for artists including Ice Cube, Outkast, Redman, Wu-Tang Clan, and more. He inspired rap music, writing Tupac’s song “Bop Gun.”
Isaac Hayes – $12 million
Greatest Hits: Soul Man
The key force behind Stax Records was Isaac Hayes. He was an in-house session musician for the label before becoming a singer-songwriter. He was born in Tennessee and wrote the song ‘Soul Man,’ which is considered one of the most influential soul songs. He wrote famous songs for movies as well. He composed the film score for Shaft, earning an Oscar for his score. He won the “competitive” Oscar as the third African-American man. He was named a BMI Icon in 2003, winning ten awards.
Joe Strummer – $4 million
Greatest Hits: Rock the Casbah
Joe Strummer is one of punk rock’s most influential figures. He founded the band The Clash, which was inducted in 2003 into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The second album of the band on the UK charts was #2, and their third and fourth albums in the US were successful, becoming platinum-certified. With bands such as The Mescaleros, Pogues, Latino Rockabilly, 101ers, and more, Strummer also collaborated. He also had a solo career, wrote scores for television and film, made radio plays, and became a major performer for an activist organization, Rock Against Racism.
Patti Smith – $16 million
Greatest Hits: Because the Night
Patti Smith is a songwriter, poet, and singer, and, thanks to her groundbreaking debut album, Horses, she was an influential part of the punk rock movement in New York City in the 1970s. She is known as the laureate of a punk poet, merging poetry and punk rock. With Bruce Springsteen, she wrote the song “Because the Night,” and maybe it’s her most famous hit. She is also a novelist and won the National Book Award for her memoir, entitled Only Kids, in 2010. She is “Greatest Artists” from Rolling Stone, too.
Madonna – $590 million
Greatest Hits: Like a Virgin, Like a Prayer, Vogue, Hung Up
Madonna is known as the Queen of Pop, and she is known for breaking boundaries in her acting, songwriting, and singing, sometimes creating controversy in her pictures and lyrics. She has been in music since 1979. Before turning to music and working as a guitarist for Breakfast Club, she moved to New York City to pursue a dance career. In 1982, she signed a record contract with Sire Records. Her songs inc.
Fats Domino – $8 million
Greatest Hits: Ain’t That a Shame, Jambalaya, Lady Madonna
One of the genre’s most influential musicians was New Orleans rock-and-roll pioneer Fats Domino. He inspired R&B as well. Between 1955 and 1960, he sold over sixty-five million records and had eleven top ten hits. He was considered modest and camera-shy, so his influence on rock is often overlooked. He hit the top 40 billboard charts with 35 albums. Many of these records are certified platinum or gold.
Kurt Cobain – $50 million
Greatest Hits: Smells Like Teen Spirit, Sappy
Nirvana’s frontman, considered one of Generation X’s most influential bands, was Kurt Cobain. He is also the lead guitarist for the band. Born in Washington, he and Aaron Burckhard and Krist Novoselic founded the band in 1987. It was part of the Grunge scene in Seattle. Mostly through his second album, which had the single “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Nirvana signed with DGC and flourished. Cobain resented media coverage, claiming that his message was misconstrued and oversimplified by the mainstream. He married Courtney Love, a rocker.
Walter Becker – $20 million
Greatest Hits: Bad Sneakers, Do It Again
Steely Dan’s co-songwriter and founder was Walter Becker. He also played guitar and bass for jazz/rock bands. When they were both students at Bard College, he met his co-founder, Donald Fagen. They decided to get Steely Dan started and moved to LA. Becker also moved to Hawaii following the breakup after a successful commercial run and became a record producer and part of the band China Crisis, an English band. Steely Dan was reformed in 1993 by Fagen.
Tom Waits – $25 million
Greatest Hits: Closing Time, Somewhere
Tom Waits is a singer-songwriter and actor who was born in California. He is renowned for his distinctive, heavy sound and punk lyrics. He specialized in jazz in the 1970s, but he also had blues and vaudeville influences as well. The Beat Generation and Bob Dylan are his inspirations. In San Diego, he began singing and moved to LA to sign an asylum deal. His first albums, which marked his first commercially successful album, included Closing Time, Saturday Night’s Heart, and Small Change. Waits wrote for Francis Ford Coppola’s One the Heart Score.
Dan Penn – $1 million
Greatest Hits: Cry Like a Baby, The Dark End of the Street
He collaborated with artists such as The Box Tops, Chips Moman, Oldham Spooner. As he was camera-shy, he preferred songwriting to showmanship. His writing relationship was successful with Chips Moman for Press Publishing Company, although the pair had a fall-out that did end the joint venture, which was characterized as “short-lived” but “intense.” One of his most successful to date is his collaboration with Aretha Franklin.
Stevie Nicks – $75 million
Greatest Hits: Landslide
Fleetwood Mac is a musical band whose lead singer, Stevie Nicks, is known for her poetic lyrics. She was born in Arizona and joined her boyfriend in 1975, Lindsey Buckingham. The second-best album of the year became the best-selling album in the year. But the album has sold over forty million copies worldwide. Nick provided over 140 million records as a solo artist and had over 40 top ten hits on the Billboard charts. In 2014, she released her latest album, 24 Karat Gold.
Mick Jagger – $360 million
Greatest Hits: Midnight Rambler, Honky Tonk Women
Mick Jagger is one of the most influential rock performers of all time for over half a century. He is known for his lively and characteristic voice. He was a founding member of the Rolling Stones. He and Keith Richards have both become two of the most renowned rock legends. He grew up in England and studied at the London School of Economics. Most of the songs were written or co-written by him. He was well known for his controversial headlines.
Willie Dixon – $2 million
Greatest Hits: Hoochie Coochie Man, My Babe
Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters are often placed in the same word because of their dual influence on Chicago blues (post-WWII), the music they shaped. Dixon, Mississippi-born. With a distinctive voice, he played bass and guitar. He was one of the most prolific songwriters of the 20th century. The “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “My Babe,” “Spoonful,” and more are his popular songs. His works have been covered by Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Willie Nelson, and others. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Morrissey – $50 million
Greatest Hits: Shoplifters of the World Unite, Sheila Take a Bow
Steven Morrissey, whose stage name was Morrissey, was born to Irish immigrant working-class families in England. He was known as the leading singer who had no commercial success. He had more success with The Smiths and even more success in his solo career. Previously, he was just an androgynous singer, but since he released solo projects, his image has changed from an androgynous singer to one of working-class masculinity. He’s a popular Britpop and Indie Rock figure.
Smokey Robinson – $100 million
Greatest Hits: Tracks of My Tears, Going to a Go-Go
The frontman and creator of The Miracles band were Smokey Robinson, and he was their chief producer and songwriter. He headed the party from 1955 to 1972, when he retired. He returned as a solo musician after retiring from the band. In 1990, he left Motown Records and composed a lot of music, like other Motown members. Fun fact: the nickname of his uncle, to whom he was similar. He was called “Smokey Joe” by his uncle as a “cowboy name,” thus he was stuck with that name all his life.
Kenny Gamble – $8.5 million
Greatest Hits: I’m Gonna Make You Love Me
Kenny Gamble was born in Philly and has been credited with developing the Philly soul genre. He recorded himself on arcade recording machines as a child, and his love of music increased. He formed the Gamble & Huff band and was managed by Jerry Ross, who had a long relationship with him. He is renowned for his “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” hit and “Expressway to Your Heart,” covered in 1967 by the Soul Survivors band for commercial success.
Jimmy Webb – $10 million
Greatest Hits: Wichita Lineman, MacArthur Park
Songwriter Jimmy Webb, born in Oklahoma, was inducted into the 1986 Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Hall of Fame of Nashville Songwriters. He has had platinum hits like “Wichita Lineman,” “All I Know,” “MacArthur Park,” and more. He has worked with big names like Linda Ronstadt and Art Garfunkel. Webb addressed his career in songwriting and shared his passion for the kind of music he aspires to, saying it was a kind of “crushed lonely hearts.” In 2017, to critical acclaim, he published his memoirs, The Cake and the Storm.
Merle Haggard – $40 million
Greatest Hits: Okie from Muskogee, The Fightin’ Side of Me
As well as the Bakersfield sound, Merle Haggard is considered one of the country genre’s founding fathers. Born in California during the Great Depression, he finally embarked on a career in country music after his father died. With songs about the working class, American patriotism, the Vietnam War, and more, his songs became popular, and he was able to turn his life around. He had thirty-eight numbers, one hit on the country charts, and some even crossed the Billboard charts.
Taylor Swift – $360 million
Greatest Hits: Shake It Off, I Knew You Were Trouble
Born in Pennsylvania, singer-songwriter Taylor Swift is one of today’s most popular singers in the world. When she was fourteen, she started in the country genre, moving to Nashville to fulfill her dream. She signed with Big Machine and was Sony’s youngest artist ever. In 2006, she released her first record, and it was the longest chart record of the 2000s. Partly because of her young age, she set several sales records. She has moved into a more pop-rock genre, still writing songs of her own.
Buddy Holly – $1 million
Greatest Hits: That’ll Be the Day, Peggy Sue
Buddy Holly was an influential singer-songwriter from Texas who rose to prominence in the 1950s during rock n roll in America. He quickly embraced new musical styles such as gospel, R&B, and western, and he has been playing since his high school days. He decided to pursue music after being a guest performer in an Elvis Presley tribute show. Waylon, Tommy, and Carl joined the band and hit the road. He’s called the pioneer of the twin guitars, drums, and bass lineup favored today by many bands.
The Bee Gees – $86 million
Greatest Hits: Stayin’ Alive, How Deep Is Your Love
Three brothers were involved: Maurice, Robin, and Barry Gibb. They reached popularity in the sixties and seventies and were popular during the disco era in the seventies. With numerous brothers taking the lead at the mic, their signature sound changed regularly. They were born on the Isle of Man and were raised in Manchester. Before changing their name, they first started The Rattlesnakes. They joined the producer Robert Stigwood in 1967, and he promoted them all over the world. They sold over 220 million records during their career, making history.
Ray Davies – $12 million
Greatest Hits: You Really Got Me, Something Better Beginning
The lead singer and songwriter for The Kinks band, including his brother Dave Davies, is the English songwriter and guitarist Ray Davies. He is considered Britpop’s godfather of the genre. After the Kinks disbanded at the end of the 1990s, Davies became famous for a solo career. The Kinks got their recording contract in 1964, bringing them together for decades. Davies wrote the hit single, “You Really Got Me.” Davies led the band through the 1960s and 1970s, adding new sounds to make it commercially more viable. They also performed other popular songs.
Paul Westerberg – $9 million
Greatest Hits: Backlash, Dyslexic Heart
In the 80s, alt-rock star Paul Westerberg formed part of the alt-rock band The Replacements. A solo career began after the band dissolved. While serving as a janitor, he joined The Replacements. He heard the band perform, followed the music, and talked about how to join the band. By informing the lead singer that his fellow members would fire him, he managed to get into the band, pushing the singer to leave. This very unorthodox move succeeded, and it was wildly successful for The Replacements.
Robert Johnson – $500,000 (estate)
Greatest Hits: Terraplane Blues, Come On In My Kitchen
Robert Johnson is considered one of the founders of the blues and a master of the Delta blues. His life was not well-documented, but his music lives on, and legends encircle his legacy. He only participated in a few recording sessions, making 29 songs that did not become popular during his lifetime. After Johnson’s death, the songs were released by producer Don Law as singles. Other musicians borrowed his guitar style and lyrics, and he became famous for his fame. Johnson was honored by musicians, including Keith Richards and Bob Dylan.
Eminem – $210 million
Greatest Hits: The Real Slim Shady, Superman, Not Afraid
The most famous rapper ever is Eminem. He is also a songwriter, writing all of his own music and launching his label, Shady Records, including Yelawolf, 50 Cent, Obie Trice, and more. Over 230 million albums have been sold by Eminem (born Marshall Mathers), winning 15 Grammys, 8 AMAs, 17 BMAs, an Oscar, and more. Nine of his albums grabbed the Billboard’s Top 200 charts, making him the only artist ever to achieve that feat. He was born in Detroit, Michigan, where he still lives.
John Lennon – $800 million
Greatest Hits: Working Class Hero, Imagine
Very few musicians are as impactful as John Lennon. The British singer-songwriter, born in Liverpool, was the co-founder of The Beatles. As a teenager, he actually formed his first band, called Quarrymen. He wrote (and co-wrote) many of The Beatles’ greatest hits and also had successful solo career hits such as “Imagine,” “War is Over and “Working Class Hero.” He was married to singer Yoko Ono, with whom he formed Plastic Ono. Lennon was known for his acerbic social criticism and wit, penning extra songwriting sketches and poems.
R.E.M. – $75 million
Greatest Hits: The One I Love
One of America’s first rock bands was R.E.M. Bill Berry, Mike Mills, Peter Buck, and Michael Stipe produced it. It was known for its arpeggiated, revolutionary guitar solos on the pop-punk scene. He released his first independent label release, Hib-Tone. Their single Radio Free Europe gained early popularity. They released their first EP, Chronic Town, followed a little later by a full-length album, Murmur. Murmur was commercially popular and critically acclaimed. They had their first mainstream number, a record in 1987 with “The One I Love.”
Jeff Barry – $1 million
Greatest Hits: Do Wah Diddy Diddy, Be My Baby
In the pop-rock genre, Jeff Barry, born in Brooklyn in 1938, was highly influential. A singer, songwriter, and producer of records. He was best known for his collaboration with Ellie Greenwich, professional and personal, and the two would become the sixties’ most prolific production and songwriting team. Barry wrote many popular songs, including “Do Wah Diddy Diddy,” “Chapel of Love,” and “River Deep – Mountain High.” With writers Andy Kim and Shadow Morton, two colleagues, he also wrote “Pack Leader” and “Sugar Sugar.”
Kanye West – $250 million
Greatest Hits: Monster, Graduation, Through the Wire, Slow Jamz
One of today’s most popular rappers is rap artist, songwriter, and producer Kanye West. He sold more than 140 million albums, and his career was also marked by major changes in style, combining various styles such as baroque pop, soul, indie-pop, gospel, and more. West is known for his close relationship with rapper Jay-Z as well. Born in Chicago, West started to rap in 1996. He was a Roc-A-Fella Records writer and producer first, before stepping in front of the mic. He married businesswoman and personality Kim Kardashian in 2014.
Prince – $300 million
Greatest Hits: Kiss, When Doves Cry, Nothing Compares 2 U
Prince’s career spanned over four decades. He was known for his diverse and flamboyant stage performances and songs, which included a well-known, high-falsetto voice and spanned many genres. He has inspired disco, R&B, punk, psychedelic rock, pop, and soul. At the age of seven, he recorded his first song and signed to Warner Bros when seventeen. His albums went platinum, which made him a force of reckoning. He had his film debut, Purple Rain, which increased his fame. His band is called The Revolt.