As evidenced by the Drake and Meek Mill feud, songwriters and singers are not always the same. That doesn’t mean singers, either, can’t be famous songwriters. From Joni Mitchell with her iconic Reprise Records hit ‘Woodstock’ to songwriter Carole King, who has had hundreds of songs reach the Billboard Hot 100, the names you’ll see on this list are all pop culture favorites who have made themselves famous for their art, both pen to paper and vocally. They also collect a hefty amount of money from all of those royalties.
Neil Diamond – $175 million
Greatest Hits: Song Sung Blue, Cracklin’ Rosie
Neil Diamond is an artist who has sold over one hundred albums worldwide, with thirty-eight singles reaching the top 10 billboard charts. He’s one of history’s best-selling artists. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Hall of Fame of Songwriters in 2011 and 1984. Diamond is also renowned for its humor. Will Ferrell parodied him on SNL and enjoyed the spoof he performed alongside Ferrell in the comedian’s final May 2002 broadcast.
Johnny Cash – $60 million
Greatest Hits: I Walk the Line, Folsom Prison Blues
Johnny Cash is one of the most successful singers, selling over 90 million albums worldwide. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Country Music, the Hall of Fame of Rock & Roll, and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Known for music with hard-edges. “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash” was the opening line for him. Before each concert, he would make a simple introduction, shirking the showboat popular in the rock genre. Cash’s legacy was recalled in Walk, the Line, distributed by 20th Century Fox.
Joni Mitchell – $50 million
Greatest Hits: Woodstock, Big Yellow Taxi
One of the biggest ones is The Blue Album by Joni Mitchell. She is a poet, guitarist, and pianist. In her music, she mixed folk, pop, jazz, and rock elements and began singing in the streets and small bars. In the Baby Boom counterculture, with regular advocacy and demonstrations, she was active. Among her biggest hits were her “Big Yellow Taxi” songs, “Woodstock,” and “Both Sides, Now,” which are all released by Reprise Records. Noted for her adaptability as well. To become a pop and electronic influence, she many times changed her look and voice.
Jerry Garcia – $40 million
Greatest Hits: Truckin’, Sugaree
Jerry Garcia, born in San Francisco, was part of this popular band throughout his thirty-year career. He also had several other bands and other solo albums. On Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitarists” list, he was 13th. He was the Grateful Dead’s primary songwriter, best known for his style of psychedelic rock. He was famous for his improvisation and guitar solos, “Truckin,” which suited him well because it alleviated the stress he said in an interview.
Paul Simon – $75 million
Greatest Hits: Bridge Over Troubled Water
Almost every song, including “Mrs. Robinson,” “Sound of Silence,” and perhaps their most popular hit, “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” owned by Columbia Records, was written by Paul Simon. The duo broke up in 1970, and Simon published Graceland, influenced by South Africa, where he lived for a while. Upon its release, Graceland sold 14 million copies, and it is his most successful solo work so far. He had a Broadway career, writing musicals. He wrote The Capeman with the poet Derek Walcott. He was a screenwriter as well.
James Taylor – $60 million
Greatest Hits: Paint It Black, Night Owl
Singer-songwriter James Taylor was awarded five Grammys, and he was inducted in 2000 by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He’s one of the best artists in the world ever to sell 100 million albums. He had his breakthrough with the “Fire and Rain” album, followed by Carole King’s cover of You’ve Got a Friend.” He also covered several popular songs, including How Sweet It Is,” “HandyMan,” and “Sweet Baby James.” His first U.S. number one album, Before This World, was not released until 2015.
Carole King – $70 million
Greatest Hits: It’s Too Late, Nightingale, Jazzman
From 1950-2000, Carole King was one of the most popular and lucrative female songwriters ever. She wrote 118 Billboard Hot 100 hits or co-wrote them. And that’s America alone. She wrote sixty-one hits, making her hit the UK charts as the most popular female songwriter there, too. She released several albums, including Writer and Tapestry, the latter being her breakthrough. Tapestry remained in the charts for nearly four months in America and remained on the charts six years later. She received a Hollywood Star in 2012.
Stevie Wonder – $110 million
Greatest Hits: Superstition
Stevland, or more famous as “Stevie Wonder,” is one of the most popular artists ever. Besides singing and writing prowess, he also played harmonica, drums, keyboards, Harpejji, and many other instruments. He sold over a hundred million records and won an Academy Award and 25 Grammys. He was also inducted into the Hall of Fame and the Hall of Songwriters of Rock & Roll. Wonder had several major hits on the Billboard Hot 100. He signed with an 11-year-old Motown label named Tamia. A prodigy, he was and is known to be.
Billy Joel – $180 million
Greatest Hits: Piano Man, Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
The singer and composer Billy Joel is dubbed “Piano Man” after his first song’s success. He has been a solo artist in the industry since the 1970s. He has sold more than 150 million records worldwide, and his Greatest Hits collection remains one of America’s best-selling albums ever. Born in the Bronx, he dropped out of secondary school to study music. He seized Columbia Records in 1972 and signed a treaty. He has won five Grammys out of 23 nominations.
Burt Bacharach – $160 million
Greatest Hits: Arthur’s Theme, Close to You
Burt Bacharach is one of the most influential 20th-century composers. He was born in Missouri and started composing in the 1980s. To create songs recorded by over 1,000 singers, he partnered with writer Hal David. For his work with Dionne Warwick, his chord progression, and jazz harmony, he is known as a singer. He also collaborated with smaller orchestras, assigning unique instruments to their members. His styles include contemporary, easy-to-hear, and pop. He also plays the piano and sings.
Randy Newman – $50 million
Greatest Hits: Just One Smile, I’ve Been Wrong Before
Randy Newman is known for his prolific songwriting and arranging and his distinctive voice and film scores. He worked primarily as a composer of films, earning twenty Oscars and winning twice. It’s one of the Oscars with the most nominations. He was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 2007. He composed animated and live-action music for films, including Cold Turkey, Meet the Parents, Seabiscuit, and nine different Pixar films such as Toy Story, Monsters, and Cars.
Dolly Parton – $500 million
Greatest Hits: Jolene, I Will Always Love You, 9 to 5
Dolly Parton has written over 3,000 songs, in addition to being a popular singer. Whitney Houston wrote “I Will Always Love You,” and almost every popular artist covered that song. Interviewed about her songwriting, she said that she began writing when she was just seven years old. She said she tries to write something every day, whether it’s a poem, a concept, an album, or a little tidbit. Her folk childhood influenced her through a profound religious tradition in 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
One of the best-selling artists ever was Tom Petty, a musician. He became interested in rock and roll when he met Elvis Presley, who was ten years old. His version of punk rock, The Rolling Stones, also influenced him. He formed an unsuccessful Mudcrutch Band. But Tom Petty’s formation and the Heartbreakers turned out to be a game-changer. The group was formed in the 1970s by Petty, and their second album reached the Top40. Their third album, with two million copies and singles sold, was even better.
Loretta Lynn – $65 million
Greatest Hits: You Ain’t Woman Enough, Coal Miner’s Daughter
Born in Kentucky, Loretta Lynn is one of the most popular and influential country stars in country music history. She is famous for hits such as “You Ain’t Woman Enough Don’t Come Home A Drinkin,” “Fist City,” “One’s on the Way,” and so on. The Daughter of the Coal Miner, her biographical film, is named after her greatest hits. She’s sold over 45,000,000 records. She had two dozen records, eleven numbers, and a single one. On this day, she is still touring at 87. She’s also at the Grand Ole Opry.
Lou Reed – $15 million
Greatest Hits: Think It Over, Heavenly Arms
Lou Reed was The Velvet Underground’s lead singer and songwriter, and he had a flourishing solo career that lasted over fifty years. During their time together, The Velvet Underground was not commercially successful but is now considered one of the most influential underground alt-rock bands of its time. Reed abandoned the Velvet Underground in 1970 and released 20 solo records. With his second and third albums, he did well but had several ups and downs. His later records, New Sensations, and New York, brought him alive.
Kris Kristofferson – $160 million
Greatest Hits: Me and Bobby McGee, Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down
Speaking of Kris Kristofferson, he’s a successful singer-songwriter with a performing career. He was a writer and often combined his tracks with Shel Silverstein, the popular writer for other singers. He was known for his outlaw country and The Highwaymen collaborations, including Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson. He starred in movies such as Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Heaven’s Gate, Blade, and A Star are Born. He won a Golden Globe for the success of A Star’s Born. Now, he lives in Maui, Hawaii.
Paul McCartney – $1.2 billion
Greatest Hits: Yesterday
Paul McCartney is the only name here that can surpass John Lennon in terms of fame, and it makes sense that he was a Beatles co-founder as well. He had over 2,200 song-covering artists, particularly for Yesterday’s song. He was inducted twice, once for his Beatles career and solo career, into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He received 18 Grammys, and in 1965, he and his fellow Beatles members were named MOBs. He was also knighted in 1997 for music services.
Van Morrison – $90 million
Greatest Hits: Gloria, Brown Eyed Girl
Van Morrison is a legend of music who started his career as a teenager. In Ireland, he played for various show bands, becoming popular as a member of Them, the Northern Irish R&B group. To define the genre, he was the lead singer, recording “Gloria” with Them. In the late 1960s, he released the popular single ‘Brown-Eyed Girl.’ Astral Weeks was his first album, but sales were initially slow. But his second album, Moondance, was a sensation. To this day, Van Morrison also does music tours.
Bob Dylan – $200 million
Greatest Hits: The Times, They Are A’Changin’, Blowin In The Wind
Folk singer Bob Dylan is one of pop culture’s greatest musicians (and counterculture). He released his eponymous album in the early 1960s, followed by the Times They Are A’Changing ‘and’ Blowin ‘In the Wind’ Civil Rights anthems, hit record after hit. Politically, there were many albums and singles he released. In his rock music, he was also among the first to use electrically amplified instruments, a move that was then controversial. In 2012 and 2016, he sold over 100 million albums and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Nobel Prize, respectively.
Brian Wilson – $75 million
Greatest Hits: Good Vibrations, I Get Around, God Only Knows, Barbara Ann
Brian Wilson co-founded the Beach Boys. Signed to Capitol in 1962, he wrote over twenty-four top 40 hits for the band. He is considered one of the most creative songwriters of the twentieth century, and some say he is a genius. He founded the Beach Boys, along with his brothers and cousin. Occasionally, Wilson still tours and is considered an indie pop and punk godfather. Although artists (including the Beatles) gained much from their influence, it proved difficult to initiate his melodies and orchestrations.
John Fogerty – $70 million
Greatest Hits: Proud Mary, Bad Moon Rising, Fortunate Son
As a Creedence Clearwater Revival member, a group he formed with his brother Tom, Doug Clifford, and Stu Cook, John Fogerty had a good solo career and a brilliant career. He was the lead guitarist, composer and most of the songs were composed. In 1972, the band sadly broke up, starting a great solo career. Rolling Stone ranked him among the 100 best guitarists and greatest singers of all time (respectively). He has penned several hits, including “Proud Mary,” which Tina Turner puts back into an iconic bop song.
Willie Nelson – $25 million
Greatest Hits: Family Bible, On the Road Again
Willie Nelson, a Texas-born songwriter, singer, and actor, had his big break when Shotgun Willie was published. Plus, his albums Red Headed Stranger and Stardust made him an iconic 1970s figure. He has also starred in thirty films, written numerous books, and worked as an activist for the legalization of marijuana and the use of biofuels. The IRS Tapes, a double-album whose proceeds went to the IRS to pay off its unpaid tax debt, is also known for its release.
Elton John – $500 million
Greatest Hits: Rocket Man, Crocodile Rock
Elton John, the rock legend, has sold over 300 million albums and had 58 Billboard singles in the top 40. His song, ‘Candle in the Wind,’ which he wrote to honor Princess Diana after her tragic death, remains the best-selling single in the United Kingdom and the United States’ history. He won five Grammys and several other accolades, placing him behind only The Beatles and Madonna in critical success. He is also an excellent LGBTQ activist, raising over $300 million for LGBTQ people.
David Bowie – $100 million
Greatest Hits: Changes, Space Oddity, Modern Love
David Bowie has sold more than 140 million albums worldwide, earning ten Platinum certifications for his many hit songs. He was known for visual presentation and a clear style of reinvention. The androgynous, daring pop legend, Ziggy Stardust, is an alter ego. Bowie, born in South London, began to study art and music when he was very young. He launched his career in music in 1983, releasing Space Oddity. He married the supermodel, Iman, before his sudden death at sixty-two. He’s still an artist of iconic rock and glam rock.
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 songs he wrote, including “Tequila Sunrise,” “Lyin’ Eyes,” “Take It Easy,” “New Kid in Town,” and more. He went solo afterward since the Eagles broke up in 1980. No Fun Aloud was his debut. He had many hits, including “Blues Smuggler,” “The Heat Is On,” “Sexy Girl,” and more, reaching the top 40s. In New York City, he died at 67.
John Prine – $6 million
Greatest Hits: Sam Stone, Illegal Smile, Dear Abby
John Prine has been a songwriter and musician with a successful career ever since the 1970s. He learned to play guitar at the age of 14 and attended Folk’s Old Town School in Chicago. After eighteen, he took a break from music and served as part of the Army in West Germany. He moved back to Chicago, where, until he was noticed by singer Kris Kristofferson and released his first Atlantic album, he worked like a man. He’s famous for his satirical songs about life in general and current affairs.
Bono – $700 million
Greatest Hits: Sunday, Bloody Sunday
One of the most popular musicians in Dublin is Bono. He’s U2’s boss, and he writes almost all the songs for U2. For that band, he won 22 Grammys. He talked at length about his songwriting style. In his songs, he uses social and political themes, and his upbringing at a religious school often influences his songs. He had a defiant sound in his earlier songs, but as he said, he “matured” and started writing about more personal experiences he shared with members of U2. The singer, Ali Stewart, is married.
George Harrison – $400 million
Greatest Hits: Taxman, Here Comes the Sun
George Harrison was the lead guitarist of The Beatles, and he was nicknamed “the Quiet Beatle” because he was not one of their most famous members. He wrote some of the band’s songs, including Here Comes the Sun, Taxman, Something, etc. His musical influences include George Formby, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, and Django Reinhardt. He was also inspired by Indian culture and music, extending pop music to integrate Indian instruments and Hindu spirituality into its work. He was born in Liverpool and died in LA in 2001.
Sam Cooke – $650,000
Greatest Hits: Wonderful World, Chain Gang, A Change is Gonna Come
Sam Cooke was the resident, musician, and business proprietor. He was also an influential songwriter. His pop music power and a popular voice called him “King of Soul.” He began singing when he was young, joining The Soul Stirrers until his later solo career. Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Bobby Womack, Billy Preston, Marvin Gaye, and many more were supported. James Brown and Otis Redding were made popular by him. The author of AllMusic, Bruce Eder, called him the “inventor” of the soul genre.
Bert Berns – $20 million
Greatest Hits: Hang on Sloopy, Twist and Shout, Here Comes the Night
Bert Berns was a very influential producer and songwriter in the 1960s and was born in the Bronx. His credits include popular pieces such as “Twist and South,” “Hang on Sloopy,” and more. When he was young and lived in Havana before the Cuban Revolution brought him back to America, 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. At 38 years of age, he died of heart complications.
Marvin Gaye – $5 million
Greatest Hits: How Sweet It Is, Ain’t That Peculiar, I Heard it Through the Grapevine
The Motown sound of the 1960s helped form Marvin Gaye, nicknamed “Prince of Soul” and “Prince of Motown,” He was the first in-house player before becoming a solo artist. He was one of the first Motown musicians, in addition to Stevie Wonder, to break away from the record industry and make his music independently. He was a significant influence on the neo-soul and quiet storm music genre. Grammy won for midnight love. He sang the anthem in his final appearance at the NBA All-Star Game in 1983.
Chrissie Hynde – $12 million
Greatest Hits: Talk of the Town, Back on the Chain Gang
Chrissie Hynde created The Pretenders, her frontwoman since 1978. She was influenced by the hippie counterculture movement, working with the designer Vivienne Westwood in London in a jointly owned clothing store. For fashion, she left music. She released songs with musicians including UB40, Cher and Frank Sinatra. After making a demo tape in 1978, she gave it to Real Records’ Dave Hill. In her practice room in London, she began paying the back rent that she owed, making it all come back and more.
Lucinda Williams – $15 million
Greatest Hits: Can’t Let Go, Get Right With God
Born in Louisiana, the country singer Lucinda Williams is one of the most prominent folk-rock and country-rock groups. She has been in the music industry since 1978 and became famous for her style when Lucinda Williams, her debut album, was released. This debut included the song ‘Passionate Kisses,’ which earned Williams her first Grammy in 1994. She is renowned for working continuously, releasing just two more albums to date.
Harry Nilsson – $7 million
Greatest Hits: Without You, Coconut
Harry Nilsson made history one of the few successful rock artists of his age, never playing a major concert or touring but enjoying significant commercial success. He is an artist renowned for his Great American Songbook style, mixed with Caribbean sounds. He had a three-and-a-half-octave range as a tenor. On Indie rock, he had an enduring impact. For bands such as The Monkees, he wrote songs. His most commercially effective album is Nilsson Schmilsson.
Curtis Mayfield – $10 million
Greatest Hits: People Get Ready
Curtis Mayfield, renowned for his civil rights activism and songs, was a member of the big band The Impressions of the 1950s and 1960s. Born in Chicago, as part of a gospel choir, he began singing. Mayfield joined the Impressions when he met Jerry Butler, a fellow artist. He wrote songs that became part of the movement for civil rights because of their social consciousness. On Rolling Stone’s Greatest All-Time Songs, his album ‘People Get Ready’ was listed as #24. He also directed Super Fly.
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 NSYNC (“It’s Gonna Be Me”) have composed a hit string for them. He wrote twenty-two number one songs on the Billboard Charts. He has also produced several of these hits. He also wrote for other artists such as Maroon 5, Weeknd, and Taylor Swift for Katy Perry. He’s up there with Paul McCartney and George Martin when it comes to number one singles written.
Allen Toussaint – $3 million
Greatest Hits: Working in the Coal Mine, Yes We Can Can, Java
In Gert Town, Louisiana, Allen Toussaint was one of New Orleans’ most prominent rhythm and blues figures. He began his career in the 1950s as a “backroom figure” for his writing and composition. He wrote several songs such as “Fortune Teller,” “Working in the Coal Mine,” “Java,” “Mother – in – Law,” and more. He also made some big hits, including “Lady Marmalade” and “Right Place, Wrong Time.” As an elderly neighbor, he learned to play the piano. His father played the trumpet as well and worked on the railroad.
Chuck Berry – $10 million
Greatest Hits: Ida Red, You Can Never Tell, Johnny B. Goode
Chuck Berry was hailed as the “Father of Rock ‘N Roll.” To create rock and roll, he refined and re-adapted the rhythm and the blues, creating a style of solo guitars and performances that became the basis of the genre. He was born in St. Louis, and at an early age, was involved in music. He began playing with the Johnnie Johnson Trio band, but he had a break when he met vocalist Muddy Waters. With Chess Records, Muddy got him hooked, and Ida Red was his first hit, selling over one million records.
Pete Townshend – $105 million
Greatest Hits: Happy Jack, Pictures of Lilly
Pete Townshend is a household name. He’s a co-founder of the legendary band called “The Who.” His band career lasted more than fifty years, and the band under his leadership became one of the most prominent voices in music in the second half of the twentieth century. For the eleven The Who albums, he composed more than a hundred songs, including songs for two rock operas, Tommy and Quadrophenia. He also wrote essays, books, columns, etc. As a soloist, he began a promising career.
George Clinton – $1.8 million
Greatest Hits: Can’t C Me, Loopzilla, You’re Thinkin’ Right
A former Motown songwriter, George Clinton is known for writing and recording numerous hit songs for indie Detroit soul labels. He formed The Parliaments, and he later renamed his own band Parliament and Funkadelic. In the years after that, Clinton was known for his distinctive psychedelic rock and electro-funk style. He inspired rap music, writing Tupac’s song “Can’t C Me.” He also wrote, “Bop Gun” for artists including Ice Cube, Outkast, Redman, Wu-Tang Clan, and more. His name, C Kunspyruhzy.
Isaac Hayes – $12 million
Greatest Hits: Soul Man
Isaac Hayes was the key force behind Stax Records. Before becoming a singer-songwriter, he was an in-house session musician for the label. He was born and wrote the song ‘Soul Man’ in Tennessee, which is considered one of the most influential soul songs. He also wrote famous songs for films. For Shaft, he composed the film score, earning an Oscar for his score. As the third African-American man, he won the “competitive” Oscar.
Joe Strummer – $4 million
Greatest Hits: Rock the Casbah
Joe Strummer is one of the most influential figures in punk rock. He founded the band called “The Clash,” which was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. The band’s second album was # 2 on the UK charts, and their third and fourth US albums were successful, becoming platinum-certified. With bands like The Mescaleros, Pogues, Latino Rockabilly, 101ers, and more, Strummer collaborated. He also had a solo career, wrote scores for television and film, made radio plays, and became a major performer for Rock Against Racism, an activist organization.
Patti Smith – $16 million
Greatest Hits: Because the Night
Patti Smith is a songwriter, poet, and singer, and she was an influential part of New York City’s punk rock movement in the 1970s, thanks to her groundbreaking debut album, Horses. She is known as a punk poet’s laureate, merging poetry with 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.
Madonna – $590 million
Greatest Hits: Like a Virgin, Like a Prayer, Vogue, Hung Up
Madonna is referred to as the Queen of Pop, and in her acting, songwriting, and singing, she is known for breaking boundaries, sometimes creating controversy in her pictures and lyrics. She has been in the music industry since 1979. She moved to New York City to pursue a dance career before turning to music and working as a guitarist for the Breakfast Club. In 1982, she signed a record contract with Sire Records. Her songs include “Like a Virgin,” “Ray of Light,” “Confessions on a Dance Floor,” and more, award-winning. Other artists also reference her as an influence.
Fats Domino – $8 million
Greatest Hits: Ain’t That a Shame, Jambalaya, Lady Madonna
The New Orleans rock-and-roll pioneer Fats Domino was one of the genre’s most influential musicians. He also inspired R&B. He sold over sixty-five million records between 1955 and 1960 and had eleven top 10 hits. He was considered to be modest and camera-shy, so his impact on rock is often ignored. With 35 albums, he hit the top 40 billboard charts. Many of these are platinum or gold-certified records. In 1949, he released The Fat Man album, the first rock and roll record to sell a million copies.
Kurt Cobain – $50 million
Greatest Hits: Smells Like Teen Spirit, Sappy
Kurt Cobain was the frontman of Nirvana, considered one of Generation X’s most influential bands. He is the lead guitarist for the band as well. Born in Washington, he founded the band in 1987, along with Aaron Burckhard and Krist Novoselic. It was in Seattle, part of the Grunge scene. Nirvana signed with DGC and flourished, mostly through his second album, which had the single “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Cobain resented media coverage, claiming that the mainstream misconstrued his message and oversimplified it.
Walter Becker – $20 million
Greatest Hits: Bad Sneakers, Do It Again
Walter Becker was Steely Dan’s co-songwriter and founder. For jazz/rock bands, he played guitar and bass, too. He met his co-founder, Donald Fagen when they were students at Bard College. They decided to get Steely Dan started and moved to LA. After a successful commercial run, Becker also moved to Hawaii following the breakup and became a record producer and part of the band China Crisis, an English band. Fagen reformed Steely Dan in 1993.
Tom Waits – $25 million
Greatest Hits: Closing Time, Somewhere
Born in California, Tom Waits is a singer-songwriter and actor. His distinctive, heavy sound and punk lyrics are renowned. In the 1970s, he specialized in jazz, but he also had blues and vaudeville influences. The Beat Generation and Bob Dylan inspired him. He began singing in San Diego and moved to LA to sign an asylum deal. His first albums included Closing Time, Saturday Night’s Heart, and Small Change, which marked his first commercially successful album.
Dan Penn – $1 million
Greatest Hits: Cry Like a Baby, The Dark End of the Street
Dan Penn is a songwriter who wrote and recorded several hits in the 1960s, including The Dark End of the Street,” “Cry Like a Baby,” and Do Right Woman.” Artists such as The Box Tops, Chips Moman, Spooner Oldham have collaborated with him. He preferred songwriting, as he was camera-shy, over showmanship. His writing relationship with Chips Moman for Press Publishing Company was successful, although the pair had a fall-out that ended the partnership, defined as “short-lived” but “intense.” His collaboration with Aretha Franklin is one of his most successful collaborations to date.
Stevie Nicks – $75 million
Greatest Hits: Landslide
Stevie Nicks is the lead singer of Fleetwood Mac, and she is known for her poetic lyrics. She was born in Arizona and joined her boyfriend in 1975, Lindsey Buckingham. The second most successful album by the band was the best-seller of the year. It has sold over forty million copies alone to date. Nicks has sold over 140 million albums, both as a solo artist and as a Fleetwood Mac member, and has had over forty top 50 hits on the charts. In 2014, her latest album, 24 Karat Gold, was released.
Mick Jagger – $360 million
Greatest Hits: Midnight Rambler, Honky Tonk Women
Mick Jagger has been one of the most influential individuals in rock and roll history for over 50 years. 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, before leaving for music, studied at the London School of Economics. He composed most tracks, either solo or with Keith Richards. He was known for his outrageous headlines in his heyday.
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. In the second half of the 20th century, he was one of the most prolific songwriters. The “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “My Babe,” “Spoonful,” and more are his popular songs. Prominent artists have covered his works like Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Willie Nelson, and others. He got a Grammy and a HOF induction for Rock and Roll.
Morrissey – $50 million
Greatest Hits: Shoplifters of the World Unite, Sheila Take a Bow
Steven Morrissey, who went by his stage name Morrissey, was born to work-class Irish immigrants in England and began to enjoy music as a child. He was The Nosebleeds’ band frontman, who had no commercial success. With The Smiths, a band he founded with Johnny Marr, he had more success and more with his solo career. Solo projects such as Viva Hate, Your Arsenal, Kill Uncle, and more have been released, transforming his image from an androgynous singer into one of working-class masculinity.
Smokey Robinson – $100 million
Greatest Hits: Tracks of My Tears, Going to a Go-Go
For The Miracles band, Smokey Robinson formed and was the frontman, and 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. Pleasant reality: the nickname of his uncle, to whom he was similar. He was called “Smokey Joe” by his uncle as a “cowboy name,” and Smokey has stuck 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 worked with great names such as Art Garfunkel and Linda Ronstadt. In 2017, he published his memoirs, The Cake and The Storm, to give critical acclaim. Webb spoke about the type of music that he aspired for and his songwriting career.
Merle Haggard – $40 million
Greatest Hits: Okie from Muskogee, The Fightin’ Side of Me
Merle Haggard is considered one of the country genre’s founding fathers, as well as Bakersfield sound. 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 born in Texas during the Great Depression, becoming a central figure emerging in the 1950s in American rock’n roll. He was also influenced by other genres, such as gospel, R&B, and western, and he started to play in high school. He decided to take music seriously after opening a show for the late great Elvis Presley. Waylon Jennings, Tommy Allsup, and Carl Bunch 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. Most successful during the sixties and seventies, they became popular later in the seventies among the disco crowd. 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 its 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 their breakthrough, the popular hit, ‘You Really Got Me.’ Davies led the band through the sixties and seventies, often adding new sounds to the band, making it commercially more viable.
Paul Westerberg – $9 million
Greatest Hits: Backlash, Dyslexic Heart
In the eighties, 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
Established in 1911, Robert Johnson is considered a blues leader 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.
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 like 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 wit and acerbic social criticism, penning additional sketches and poems for songwriting.
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 a rapper, 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.
Prince – $300 million
Greatest Hits: Kiss, When Doves Cry, Nothing Compares 2 U
Singer-songwriter Prince’s career lasted 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 boosted his popularity.