Songwriters and musicians aren’t quite the same, as Drake and Meek Mill feud. That doesn’t mean singers can’t be popular songwriters. From Joni Mitchell hit “Woodstock” with her classic Reprise Albums to songwriter Carole King, who had hundreds of singles hitting the Billboard Hot 100, the faces you’ll find on this list are all pop culture favorites who rendered themselves popular with their work, both on paper and vocally. Needless to mention, these royalties often earn a nice penny.
Neil Diamond – $175 million
Greatest Hits: Song Sung Blue, Cracklin’ Rosie
Neil Diamond is an artist who has sold over a hundred records globally, with thirty-eight songs hitting the top 10 charts. He’s a best-selling artist in history. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2011 and 1984, respectively. Diamond’s humor is also known. Will Ferrell’s parodied on SNL, but he loved the sketch he featured opposite Ferrell in the last broadcast of the comedian in May 2002.
Johnny Cash – $60 million
Greatest Hits: I Walk the Line, Folsom Prison Blues
Johnny Cash is one of the most popular artists, selling over 90 million records worldwide. He was inducted into Popularity’s Country Music Hall as well as Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Known for hard-edged music. “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash” he opened. Before each gig, he will literally add the showboat to the rock genre (but less so in country music). Cash’s legacy was honored by 20th Century Fox in Walk the Line.
Joni Mitchell – $50 million
Greatest Hits: Woodstock, Big Yellow Taxi
Joni Mitchell’s Blue album is the best. She’s a musician, pianist, artist. She combined folk, pop, jazz, and rock components in her music and started singing in the streets and bars. She was involved in the Baby Boom counterculture, with frequent activism and protests. Her “Big Yellow Taxi” tracks, “Woodstock,” and the two sides, now all issued by Reprise Music, were among her successes. Often noted for adaptability. She adjusted her appearance and sound several times, becoming pop and mechanical.
Jerry Garcia – $40 million
Greatest Hits: Truckin’, Sugaree
Jerry Garcia, born in San Francisco, entered the iconic band during his thirty-year career. He also had many other bands and records. He was 13th on Rolling Stone’s list of “100 Greatest Guitarists” He was Grateful Dead’s key songwriter, better recognized for his form of acid music. One of Warner Records’ greatest successes was “Truckin’,” making his first appearance on Dead’s debut, American Beauty. He was renowned for his improvisation and guitar solos since he said in an interview, it eased the tension.
Paul Simon – $75 million
Greatest Hits: Bridge Over Troubled Water
Paul Simon composed almost all tracks, including “Mrs. Robinson,” “Sound of Silence,” and possibly their most successful smash, “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” held by Columbia Records. In 1970, the couple split up, and Simon released Graceland, inspired by South Africa, where he stayed for a while. Graceland sold 14 million copies on his debut and his most profitable solo work to date. He had a start in Broadway, writing musicals. He wrote The Capeman with Derek Walcott. He’s a screenwriter.
James Taylor – $60 million
Greatest Hits: Paint It Black, Night Owl
James Taylor won five Grammys and was inducted by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. He’s one of the best-selling singers to 100 million records sold worldwide. He made his breakout with the “Fire and Rain” soundtrack, preceded by the cover of You’ve Got a Buddy by Carole King.” He also covered several popular songs including How Sweet It Is,” “Handy Man” and “Sweet Baby James.” His first number-one U.S. album wasn’t issued until later with Before This World release in 2015.
Carole King – $70 million
Greatest Hits: It’s Too Late, Nightingale, Jazzman
From 1950-2000, Carole King was one of the most influential female songwriters ever. She wrote or co-wrote 118 Billboard Hot 100 tracks. That’s America alone. She published sixty-one hits that entered the UK charts, making her also the most successful female songwriter. She debuted many songs, including her breakout, Writer and Tapestry. Tapestry remained in America’s rankings for almost four months and stayed on the charts six years after. Her 2012 Hollywood Queen.
Stevie Wonder – $110 million
Greatest Hits: Superstition
Stevland is one of the most famous musicians ever. He played harmonica, percussion, keyboards, harpejji and several other instruments besides his singing and writing prowess. He sold over 100 million albums and won 25 Grammys and Oscar (among many other accolades). He was later inducted into Fame’s Rock & Roll Hall and Songwriters Hall. Wonder had some major Billboard Hot 100 tracks. He signed Tamia’s 11-year-old Motown label. He is a prodigy.
Michael Jackson – $825 million
Greatest Hits: Beat It, Billie Jean, Smooth Criminal.
One of the most significant singers of the 20th century, Michael Jackson is someone everyone knows about, even years after his passing. He made his claim to fame as part of the Jackson 5 along with his brothers, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, and Marlon. After their immense success, Michael started his solo career journey in 1971. Of course, we all know how that turned out. He released hit songs like “Bad” and “Thriller” that are popular to this day. Not to mention, he became the third best-selling artist of all time.
Billy Joel – $180 million
Greatest Hits: Piano Man, Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
Billy Joel is called “Piano Man” because of his first song’s popularity. He’s been an industry solo performer since the 1970s. He’s sold over 150 million albums globally, and his Greatest Hits album remains one of America’s best-selling records ever. Founded in The Bronx, he quit high school for music. He captured Columbia Records in 1972, agreeing on a deal. He’s received five 23 nominations Grammys.
Burt Bacharach – $160 million
Greatest Hits: Arthur’s Theme, Close to You
Burt Bacharach is one of the twentieth-most century’s influential composers. Born in 1928 in Missouri, he began writing in the 1980s. He collaborated with writer Hal David to produce songs from over 1,000 artists. He’s known for his collaboration with singer Dionne Warwick, as well as his chord progression and jazz harmony. He often partnered with smaller orchestras, assigning their participants with special equipment. His designs are new, easy-to-hear, and pop. He plays the piano and dances.
Randy Newman – $50 million
Greatest Hits: Just One Smile, I’ve Been Wrong Before
Randy Newman is known for his extensive songwriting and composition, and his recognizable voice and film scores. He worked primarily as a film composer, receiving twenty Oscar awards and twice. He’s the most-nominated Oscar. He was inducted into 2007’s Fame Songwriters Hall. He wrote live and animated music for movies like Cold Turkey, Meet the Parents, Seabiscuit, and nine separate Pixar movies including Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., and Vehicles. Signed to Warner Bros.
Dolly Parton – $500 million
Greatest Hits: Jolene, I Will Always Love You, 9 to 5
Besides becoming a famous musician, Dolly Parton published over 3,000 albums. Whitney Houston sang, “I Will Always Love You,” and almost every famous artist covered that tune. Interviewed regarding her songwriting, she said she began writing when she was just seven. She said she’s striving to compose something every day,” whether it’s a poem, concept, song, or little tidbit. She’s been inspired by her folky upbringing with a strong religious heritage in the Appalachian Mountains.
Tom Petty – $95 million
Greatest Hits: Here Comes My Girl, Refugee, Don’t Do Me Like That
Musician Tom Petty was one of the best-selling musicians ever. He got involved in rock and roll after he encountered ten-year-old Elvis Presley. He was often inspired by The Rolling Stones, his own interpretation of punk rock. He founded the disastrous Mudcrutch band. But Tom Petty’s band and the Heartbreakers turned out to be a game-changer.
Ed Sheeran- $200 Million
Greatest Hits: Thinking Out Loud, The A Team, Shape of You
Ed Sheeran will certainly have years of hits and tons of songs to be written and recorded. However, he is widely one of the most adored and versatile artists of this generation. His music has been featured and recorded across the boards. Sheeran began his career by playing in bars and small gigs until he finally moved to London and started to gain more recognition. His first album was recorded and released independently.
Loretta Lynn – $65 million
Greatest Hits: You Ain’t Woman Enough, Coal Miner’s Daughter
Loretta Lynn, born in Kentucky, is one of country music history’s most successful and powerful country stars. She is recognized as “You Ain’t Woman Enough Don’t Come Home A’Drinkin,” “Fist City,” “One’s on the Way” etc. Her biographical film, Coal Miner’s Daughter, was called after her hits. She’s sold over 45,000,000 albums. She had two million albums—one and eleven. She’s already touring at 87. She also appears at Ole Opry.
Lou Reed – $15 million
Greatest Hits: Think It Over, Heavenly Arms
Lou Reed was the lead singer and songwriter of The Velvet Underground and had a successful solo career that lasted fifty years. The Velvet Underground was not commercially popular but is still considered one of the most prominent underground alt-rock bands of its period. Reed quit Velvet Underground in 1970, publishing twenty songs. His second and third albums sold good, although he had ups and downs. His later documents, Fresh Sensations, and New York alive.
Kris Kristofferson – $160 million
Greatest Hits: Me and Bobby McGee, Sundy Mornin’ Comin’ Down
Speaking of Kris Kristofferson, he’s a singer-songwriter who’s had a successful career. A composer for other artists, he also paired his tracks with famous author Shel Silverstein. He was recognized for his country partnerships and The Highwaymen party, like him, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson. He appeared in movies like Heaven’s Doors, Dagger, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and Born is A Star. He won a successful Golden Globe for A Star’s Born. Lives in Maui, Hawaii.
Paul McCartney – $1.2 billion
Greatest Hits: Yesterday
Here, Paul McCartney is the only name that can overtake John Lennon in terms of fame, because it makes sense that he was a Beatles co-founder. He had songs covered by over 2,200 musicians, particularly yesterday’s album.” He was inducted twice into Fame’s Rock & Roll Hall, once for his Beatles career and once for his solo career. He won eighteen Grammys, and in 1965 he and his fellow Beatles members were called Gang. He was also knighted for music services in 1997.
Van Morrison – $90 million
Greatest Hits: Gloria, Brown Eyed Girl
Van Morrison is a music legend who began his professional career as a teenager. He played in Ireland for various showbands and became popular as part of the band Them, a Northern Irish R&B group. He was the lead singer, recording the song “Gloria” with Them which would define the genre. He released the popular late 1960s single “Brown-Eyed Girl.” His first album was Astral Weeks, but sales were initially slow. But his second album, Moondance, was a sensation. Van Morrison also tours this day, making music.
Bob Dylan – $200 million
Greatest Hits: The Times, They Are A’Changin’, Blowin In The Wind
Folk singer Bob Dylan is one of the most pop-culture (and counterculture) artists, penning Civil Rights anthems The Days They Are A’Changin’ and “Blowin’ In the Wind,” launching his eponymous album in the early 1960s, preceded by hit record after hit. Politically, he published several records and singles. He was perhaps one of the first to use electrically amplified instruments in his rock songs. He sold over 100 million records and won the 2012 and 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom and Nobel Prize.
Brian Wilson – $75 million
Greatest Hits: Good Vibrations, I Get Around, God Only Knows, Barbara Ann
Wilson co-founded Beach Boys. Signed to Capitol in 1962, he wrote over twenty-four top-40 band songs. He’s called one of the twentieth-most century’s innovative songwriters, others claim he’s a genius. His brothers and cousin formed Beach Boys. Wilson also performs occasionally and is dubbed indie music and punk godfather. His melodies and orchestrations were hard to initiate, but musicians (including the Beatles) learned plenty from their influence.
John Fogerty – $70 million
Greatest Hits: Proud Mary, Bad Moon Rising, Fortunate Son
John Fogerty had both a successful solo career and a great career as a part of Creedence Clearwater Revival, a band he and his brother Tom, Doug Clifford, and Stu Cook created. He was the lead singer, writer, and several albums. The band, unfortunately, split up in 1972, beginning a brilliant solo career. Rolling Stone put him #40 and #72 in the 100 Finest Guitarists and Greatest Singers of all time (respectively). He has written several songs, including “Proud Mary,” which Tina Turner returns to an enduring bop tune.
Willie Nelson – $25 million
Greatest Hits: Family Bible, On the Road Again
Songwriter, a musician, and performer Willie Nelson, born in Texas, earned his first break by releasing Shotgun Willie. That, plus his albums Red Headed Stranger and Stardust, made him an iconic character of the 1970s. He also appeared in thirty films, published several novels, and served as an activist to legalize marijuana and utilize biofuels. He’s also known for launching The IRS Recordings, a double album that went to the IRS to pay off his outstanding tax debt.
Elton John – $500 million
Greatest Hits: Rocket Man, Crocodile Rock
Music legend Elton John recorded over 300 million records to date and had 58 Billboard hits in the top 40. His album, “Candle in the Wind,” which he wrote to remember Princess Diana after her devastating death, remains the best-selling single in UK and US history. He received five Grammys and numerous other accolades, putting him behind the Beatles and Madonna in critical popularity. He’s still a notable LGBTQ supporter, raising LGBTQ’s $300 million.
David Bowie – $100 million
Greatest Hits: Changes, Space Oddity, Modern Love
David Bowie sold more than 140 million records worldwide, receiving ten Platinum certifications for his hit singles. He was renowned for visual and simple theme reinvention. His alter ego is Ziggy Stardust, an androgynous music legend. Bowie, born in South London, spent his early years learning art and music. His music career began in 1983, releasing Space Oddity. He married Iman at 62 before his unexpected death. He remains an influential glam rock art.
Glenn Frey – $200 million
Greatest Hits: Tequila Sunrise, Lyin’ Eyes, James Dean
Glenn Frey’s lead singer was The Eagles (and their guitarist as well). He penned some of the best-known singles, including “Tequila Sunrise,” “Lyin’ Eyes,” “Take It Easy,” and more. He went solo after the Eagles split up in 1980. No Fun Aloud’s debut. He had several hits to the top 40s, including “Blues Smuggler,” “The Heat Is On,” “Sexy Girl” and more. He died in New York City, 67.
John Prine – $6 million
Greatest Hits: Sam Stone, Illegal Smile, Dear Abby
John Prine is a songwriter with prosperous careers since the 1970s. He began to play guitar at 14, taking lessons at Folk’s Old Town School in Chicago. After eighteen, he took a music break and worked as part of West Germany’s army. He went back to Chicago, where he served as a guy before singer Kris Kristofferson discovered him, helping him release his first album with Atlantic. He’s known for songs about public affairs and overall life.
Bono – $700 million
Greatest Hits: Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Born in Dublin, Bono is a favorite singer. He’s the boss of U2 who authors almost all U2 albums. He’s won 22 Grammys. He spoke about his songwriting style. He utilizes social and political concepts in his music, also inspired by his childhood at a religious school. He had a rebellious tone in his songs earlier, but as he said, he “matured” and began singing about more intimate encounters he and U2 members shared. Singer Stewart’s married.
George Harrison – $400 million
Greatest Hits: Taxman, Here Comes the Sun
George Harrison was The Beatles’ lead guitarist and was called “the Quiet Beatle” though he wasn’t one of their more prominent members (as opposed to McCartney or Lennon). (Unlike McCartney, Lennon). He wrote several of the band’s songs, including Here Comes the Light, “Taxman,” “Something,” etc. His creative influences include George Formby, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, Django Reinhardt. He was also influenced by Indian culture and music, evolving pop music to involve Indian instruments and Hindu spirituality in the band’s work.
Sam Cooke – $650,000
Greatest Hits: Wonderful World, Chain Gang, A Change is Gonna Come
He was also an influential songwriter. His pop culture influence and famous voice dubbed him “King of Soul.” He began performing when he was young, leading The Soul Stirrers before his later solo career. He helped Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Bobby Womack, Billy Preston, Marvin Gaye, and several more.
Bert Berns – $20 million
Greatest Hits: Hang on Sloopy, Twist and Shout, Here Comes the Night
Bert Berns (also by Bert Russell and Russell Byrd) was an important producer and songwriter in the 1960s. His credits include “Twist and South,” “Hang on Sloopy” and more. He created successful songs including “Brown Eyed Girl,” “Under the Boardwalk” and “Baby Please Don’t Go,” for Atlantic, Bang, and Shout. Before the Cuban Revolution took him back to America, he used to perform in mambo nightclubs living in Havana. He died of cardiac problems 38-year-old.
Marvin Gaye – $5 million
Greatest Hits: How Sweet It Is, Ain’t That Peculiar, I Heard it Through the Grapevine
Nicknamed “Prince of Soul” and “Prince of Motown,” Marvin Gaye helped shape Motown sound in the 1960s. He was the first player in-house before becoming a solo artist. He was, alongside Stevie Wonder, one of Motown’s first artists to split free from the album business to produce his own music independently. He was a significant influence on neo-soul and quiet storm pop. He won the Midnight Love Grammy. His last performance on the NBA All-Star Game in 1983 sung anthem. He was still on Soul Train.
Chrissie Hynde – $12 million
Greatest Hits: Talk of the Town, Back on the Chain Gang
Chrissie Hynde produced The Pretenders since 1978. Hippie counterculture movement inspired her, working with designer Vivienne Westwood at a jointly run clothes store in London. She abandoned music fashion. She published songs like UB40, Cher and Frank Sinatra. She gave it to Actual Records owner Dave Hill after a 1978 demo tape. She resumed paying the rent she owed in her London practice space, making it all back and more.
Lucinda Williams – $15 million
Greatest Hits: Can’t Let Go, Get Right With God
Born in Louisiana, Rock-country artist Lucinda Williams is one of the most influential folk-rock and country-rock movements. Since 1978, she’s been in the music business and became popular for her style when she launched her debut album, Lucinda Williams. This debut featured “Passionate Kisses,” which in 1994 won Williams’ first Grammy. She’s reported to work regularly, producing two more albums to date. Her big break came when she lost on a gold-certified Gravel Route.
Harry Nilsson – $7 million
Greatest Hits: Without You, Coconut
Harry Nilsson made history as one of the few popular rock stars of his day, never performing a major show, but achieving tremendous commercial success. He’s an artist known for his Fantastic American type songbook, combined with Caribbean sounds. He had three-and-a-half-octave tenor range. He has a lasting impression on Indie music. He wrote music like The Monkees. His best-selling record, Nilsson Schmilsson. He was also Hollywood Vampires’ drinking party founder and John Lennon’s best mate.
Curtis Mayfield – $10 million
Greatest Hits: People Get Ready
Curtis Mayfield was a member of the 1950s and 1960s big band The Impressions, known for its music and civil rights advocacy. Born in Chicago, he began performing as part of a gospel group. He joined Impressions when he encountered fellow artist Jerry Butler. He wrote songs that with their social awareness were part of the civil rights movement. His record, “People Get Ready,” was #24 on Rolling Stone’s Greatest All-Time Tracks. He guided Super Fly, too.
Max Martin – $260 million
Greatest Hits: Baby One More Time, It’s Gonna Be Me, I Want It That Way
Max Martin is our most contemporary poet. Born in Sweden, Britney Spears (“…Baby One More Time”), The Backstreet Boys (“I Want It That Way”), and NYSNC (“It’s Gonna Be Me”). He wrote twenty-two Billboard Charts number-one albums. He’s also produced many such songs. He also wrote for Katy Perry, Maroon 5, and Weeknd. He’s behind Paul McCartney in the number one songs he’s written.
Allen Toussaint – $3 million
Greatest Hits: Working in the Coal Mine, Yes We Can Can, Java
Born in Gert Area, Louisiana, Allen Toussaint was one of New Orleans’ most influential genre rhythm-and-blues figures. He started his career in the 1950s as a “backroom figure” for his writing and composition. He has published songs including “Fortune Teller,” “Working in the Coal Mine,” “Java,” “Mother – in – Law” and more. He also created several major hits, including “Lady Marmalade” and “Right Place, Wrong Time.” As an elderly neighbor’s child, he learned to play the piano. His father also trumpeted and served on the railway.
Chuck Berry – $10 million
Greatest Hits: Ida Red, You Can Never Tell, Johnny B. Goode
Chuck Berry was called “Father of Rock ‘N Roll.” He perfected and re-adapted rock and roll rhythm and blues, developing a style of guitar solos and showy shows that became the basis of the music. Born in St. Louis, he was interested in early music. He started performing with The Johnnie Johnson Trio but got his break when he met singer Muddy Waters. Muddy had him hooked on Chess Music, and Ida Red was his first success, selling over a million records.
Pete Townshend – $105 million
Greatest Hits: Happy Jack, Pictures of Lilly
Pete Townshend is the most famous term. The legendary co-founder, The Who. His band career lasted over fifty years, and for the second half of the twentieth century, the band under his leadership became one of music’s most influential voices. He wrote over one hundred songs for The Who’s eleven records, including two rock operas for Tommy and Quadrophenia. He published essays, journals, tables, etc. He started a successful solo career. Doesn’t harm a legendary musician.
George Clinton – $1.8 million
Greatest Hits: Can’t C Me, Loopzilla, You’re Thinkin’ Right
George Clinton – known for composing and producing several hit singles for independent Detroit soul labels. He founded his own team, The Parliaments, later called Funkadelic and Parliament. After years, Clinton is remembered for his distinctive acid rock and electro-funk sound. He influenced rap music and wrote Tupac’s song “Can’t C Me” for artists like Ice Cube, Outkast, Redman, Wu-Tang Clan, and more. His name, Kunspyruhzy.
Isaac Hayes – $12 million
Greatest Hits: Soul Man
Isaac Hayes was Stax Records’ main influence. Before being a singer-songwriter, he was a label guitarist in-house. Born in Tennessee, he wrote “Soul Man,” one of the most influential soul songs. He wrote popular movie songs. He wrote Shaft’s film music, winning his score an Oscar. He was the third African-American to earn Oscar’s “competitive” He was named BMI Symbol in 2003, earning ten awards.
Joe Strummer – $4 million
Greatest Hits: Rock the Casbah
Joe Strummer is one of punk rock’s founding figures. He formed The Clash party, inducted into Fame’s Rock and Roll Hall in 2003. The band’s second UK charts album was #2 and their third and fourth albums were successful in the US, being certified platinum. Strummer also played with bands like The Mescaleros, Pgues, Latino Rockabilly, 101ers, etc. He also composed TV and film scores, made radio broadcasts, and became a big artist for Rock Against Racism, an activist organization.
Patti Smith – $16 million
Greatest Hits: Because the Night
Patti Smith is a songwriter, poet, and musician, and with her pioneering debut album, Horses, she was an influential part of New York City’s punk rock scene in the 1970s. She’s regarded as punk poet laureate, mixing art with punk music. She wrote Bruce Springsteen’s song “Because the Night” and it’s her most popular single. She’s also a writer, earning the 2010 National Book Award with her memoir, entitled Just Men. Often Rolling Stone’s “Greatest Artists.”
Madonna – $590 million
Greatest Hits: Like a Virgin, Like a Prayer, Vogue, Hung Up
Madonna is regarded as the Queen of Pop,” and in her performing, songwriting, and singing she is known for bending boundaries, even causing uproar with her photographs and lyrics. She has been in music since 1979. She relocated to New York City to try a disco career before turning to music and performing as a Breakfast Club guitarist. She signed a record deal with Sire Records in 1982.
Fats Domino – $8 million
Greatest Hits: Ain’t That a Shame, Jambalaya, Lady Madonna
New Orleans rock-and-roll pioneer Fats Domino was the most influential guitarist of the genre. He influenced R&B. He sold over 65 million albums and had 11 top-ten singles between 1955 and 1960. He was deemed humble and camera-shy, but his rock is mostly overlooked. Thirty-five songs reached the top 40 billboard charts. Most albums are silver or gold-certified. In 1949, he published “The Fat Man” the first rock and roll album to sell a million copies.
Kurt Cobain – $50 million
Greatest Hits: Smells Like Teen Spirit, Sappy
Kurt Cobain was Nirvana’s singer, one of Generation X’s most influential artists. He’s also the lead guitarist of the project. Born in Washington, he formed Aaron Burckhard and Krist Novoselic in 1987. It was in Seattle’s grunge scene. Nirvana signed with DGC and succeeded, mainly via his second album with the song “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Cobain resented media attention, saying his meaning was misconstrued and oversimplified. He’s married to the rocker, Courtney Love.
Walter Becker – $20 million
Greatest Hits: Bad Sneakers, Do It Again
Steely Dan’s co-songwriter and member, Walter Becker. He also played rock/jazz guitar and bass. He met his co-founder, Donald Fagen, both students of Bard College. They started Steely Dan and transferred to LA. After a good commercial period, Becker also relocated to Hawaii after the split and became a record producer and an English band, China Crisis. In 1993, Fagen reformed Steely Dan.
Tom Waits – $25 million
Greatest Hits: Closing Time, Somewhere
California-born singer-songwriter and actor, Tom Waits. He’s known for his distinctive, gravely, rock lyrics. He concentrated in jazz in the 1970s, but also inspired blues and vaudeville. His inspirations include Beat and Bob Dylan. He started singing in San Diego, traveling to LA for an asylum contract. His first songs included Closing Time, Saturday Night’s Heart, and Slight Shift, which marked his first popular record. Waits wrote Francis Ford Coppola’s One Heart Score.
Dan Penn – $1 million
Greatest Hits: Cry Like a Baby, The Dark End of the Street
Dan Penn is a songwriter who composed and released many songs in the 1960s, including The Dark End of the Path, “Cry Like a Boy” and Do Right Lady.” He associated with artists like The Box Tops, Chips Moman, Spooner Oldham, among others. He favored songwriting to showmanship, being camera-shy. His writing relationship was successful with Chips Moman for Press Publishing Business, but the pair had a fall-out that ended the partnership, which was characterized as “short-lived” but “intense.” His work with Aretha Franklin is one of his most successful to date.
Stevie Nicks – $75 million
Greatest Hits: Landslide
Stevie Nicks, the lead singer of Fleetwood Mac, is renowned for her poignant songs. Born in Arizona, she followed her partner in 1975. The band’s second most popular album was best-seller year. It’s shipped more than 40,000,000 copies alone. Nicks, both as a recording artist and Fleetwood Mac member, has recorded over 140 million records and had over 40 top 50 singles on the charts. Her new song, 24, released in 2014.
Mick Jagger – $360 million
Greatest Hits: Midnight Rambler, Honky Tonk Women
Mick Jagger is one of the most famous figures in rock and roll culture. He’s renowned for his vibrant, distinctive voice. He’s a founder founding Rolling Stones. He and Keith Richards are two of rock’s most popular legends. He grew up in England and studied music at the London School of Economics. He wrote most songs, either solo or with Keith Richards. He was known for his heyday outrageous stories.
Willie Dixon – $2 million
Greatest Hits: Hoochie Coochie Man, My Babe
Due to their dual impact on Chicago blues (post-WWII), they sometimes placed Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters in the same term. Dixon, Mississippi-born. He played bass with a distinctive accent. He was one of the twentieth-most century’s successful songwriters. His famous songs include “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “My Babe,” “Spoonful” Prominent musicians including Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Willie Nelson and others covered his work. His induction was Grammy and Rock and Roll HOF.
Morrissey – $50 million
Greatest Hits: Shoplifters of the World Unite, Sheila Take a Bow
Steven Morrissey, who was born to work-class Irish immigrants in England, began to love music as a boy. He was band frontman The Nosebleeds, no commercial performance. He achieved further popularity with The Smiths, a band he formed with Johnny Marr and his solo career. He launched solo projects including Viva Hate, Your Gun, Destroy Uncle, and more, converting his persona from an androgynous artist into masculinity of the working class. He’s a prominent Britpop and indie-rock icon.
Smokey Robinson – $100 million
Greatest Hits: Tracks of My Tears, Going to a Go-Go
Smokey Robinson was the guitarist for The Miracles band and their lead artist and songwriter. From 1955-1972, when he resigned, he led the party. After quitting the project, he returned as a solo artist. He quit Motown Records in 1990, writing a ton of songs, as other Motown representatives. Nice fact: his uncle’s nickname, like him. His uncle named him “Smokey Joe” as a “cowboy name,” and Smokey’s life was trapped.
Kenny Gamble – $8.5 million
Greatest Hits: I’m Gonna Make You Love Me
Born in Philly, Kenny Gamble was credited with Philly soul genre development. He recorded himself on recording machines as a boy, and his music love developed. He formed Gamble & Huff, and was operated by Jerry Ross, with whom he had a long friendship. He is known for his smash “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” and “Expressway to Your Heart,” covered by the 1967 Soul Survivors band for mainstream success.
Jimmy Webb – $10 million
Greatest Hits: Wichita Lineman, MacArthur Park
Songwriter Jimmy Webb was inducted into the 1986 Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He’s got “Wichita Lineman,” “All I Know,” “MacArthur Park,” and more. He collaborated with names like Linda Ronstadt and Art Garfunkel. Webb discussed his songwriting career and the type of music he aspired to, claiming it was a kind of “crushed lonely hearts.” In 2017, he released widely acclaimed his memoirs, The Cake and The Hurricane.
Merle Haggard – $40 million
Greatest Hits: Okie from Muskogee, The Fightin’ Side of Me
Merle Haggard is considered one of the founding fathers of the country genre and Bakersfield sound. Born amid California’s Great Depression, he eventually started a country music career after his father died. His songs became popular and he was able to turn his life around with work-class albums, American independence, Vietnam War, and more. He had thirty-eight numbers—one hits on country lists, and others crossed Billboard’s tables.
Taylor Swift – $360 million
Greatest Hits: Shake It Off, I Knew You Were Trouble
Singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, born in Pennsylvania, is one of today’s most famous artists. When she was fourteen, she started traveling to Nashville to pursue her dream. She signed with Big Machine and was Sony’s youngest artist ever. She launched her first album in 2006, the longest chart run in the 2000s. She registered some sales, mainly because of her young age. She switched to a more pop-rock genre, composing her own tracks.
Buddy Holly – $1 million
Greatest Hits: That’ll Be the Day, Peggy Sue
Buddy Holly was a popular singer-songwriter born after Texas’ Great Depression, becoming a key figure of American rock’n roll developing in the 1950s. He was also influenced by other styles, including gospel, R&B, and western, and started playing high school. Since opening a show for the late great Elvis Presley, he took music seriously. He joined Waylon Jennings party, Tommy Allsup, Carl Bunch, and hit the road. He’s named several artists today’s twin guitars, keyboards, and bass lineup pioneer.
The Bee Gees – $86 million
Greatest Hits: Stayin’ Alive, How Deep Is Your Love
Three brothers: Maurice, Robin, and Barry Gibb. Highly successful during the sixties and seventies, they later became popular with the disco crowd. Their signature sound shifted constantly, with various brothers heading the mic. Born on Man’s Isle, they grew up in Manchester. They began The Rattlesnakes before changing their name. They followed producer Robert Stigwood in 1967, promoting them worldwide. They sold over 220 million albums during their lifetime, creating history.
Ray Davies – $12 million
Greatest Hits: You Really Got Me, Something Better Beginning
Ray Davies is the main singer-songwriter for The Kinks project, with his brother Dave Davies. He’s called the godfather of Britpop’s genre. After the Kinks dissolved in the late 1990s, Davies became famous with a solo career. The Kinks received their recording deal in 1964, taking decades together. Davies wrote the hit “You Really Got Me,” their breakout. Davies guided the band through the 1960s and 1970s, sometimes introducing different styles to the band, rendering it commercially viable. Even covering famous Long Tall Sally songs.
Paul Westerberg – $9 million
Greatest Hits: Backlash, Dyslexic Heart
Alt-rock artist Paul Westerberg was a part of the alt-rock band The Replacements in the 1980s. When the band was disbanded, a solo career started. He approached The Replacements as a janitor. He watched the band play, followed the songs, and talked his way into joining the band. He tried to get into the band by convincing the lead singer that his fellow members would fire him, forcing the si.
Robert Johnson – $500,000 (estate)
Greatest Hits: Terraplane Blues, Come On In My Kitchen
Founded in 1911, Robert Johnson is considered a blues pioneer and Delta blues master. His life wasn’t well-documented, but his music continues on and stories surround his name. He only performed in a few recording sessions, producing 29 songs that weren’t famous in his lifetime. Producer Don Law published the songs as singles after Johnson’s death.
Eminem – $210 million
Greatest Hits: The Real Slim Shady, Superman, Not Afraid
Eminem is the most popular rapper ever. He is also a songwriter, composing all his own songs and helping to launch his company, Shady Records, which houses artists including Yelawolf, 50 Cent, Obie Trice, and more. Eminem (born Marshall Mathers) sold over 230 million albums, earning 15 Grammys, 8 AMAs, 17 BMAs, an Oscar, and more. Nine of his albums charted 200 charts top of the Billboard, rendering him a list.
John Lennon – $800 million
Greatest Hits: Working Class Hero, Imagine
Very few artists are like John Lennon. Born in Liverpool, the British singer-songwriter was a co-founder of The Beatles. He originally founded his first band as a child, named Quarrymen. He composed (and co-wrote) many of The Beatles’ greatest hits and even had successful hits for his solo career like “Imagine,” “War is Over” and “Working Class Hero.” Lennon was renowned for his acerbic social commentary and wit, penning songwriting and poetry.
R.E.M. – $75 million
Greatest Hits: The One I Love
R.E.M. are among America’s first rock-bands. Bill Berry, Mike Mills, Peter Buck, Michael Stipe produced it. It was noted for its arpeggiated guitar solos, a pop-punk revolutionary. His first independent publication, Hib-Tone. Early success came from their single Radio Free Europe.” They released their first EP, Chronic Town, accompanied by a full-length album, Murmur, a little later. Murmur was commercially successful and critically praised.
Jeff Barry – $1 million
Greatest Hits: Do Wah Diddy Diddy, Be My Baby
Jeff Barry, born in Brooklyn in 1938, was widely successful in the pop-rock genre. Musician, songwriter, and album producer. He was well known for his relationship with technical and personal Ellie Greenwich, and the two would become the most prominent recording and songwriting pair of the sixties. Barry produced numerous famous songs including “Do Wah Diddy Diddy,” “Chapel of Love” and “River Deep.”
Kanye West – $250 million
Greatest Hits: Monster, Graduation, Through the Wire, Slow Jamz
Rapper, songwriter, and promoter Kanye West is one of today’s most successful rappers. He has sold over 140 million songs and his success has since been characterized by massive style changes, mixing genres such as baroque music, soul, indie-pop, gospel, and more. West is also noted for his strong relationship with rapper Jay-Z. Born in Chicago, West started raping in 1996.
Prince – $300 million
Greatest Hits: Kiss, When Doves Cry, Nothing Compares 2 U
Singer-songwriter Prince’s career lasted over four decades. He was recognized for his eclectic and flamboyant stage shows and songs that spanned a lot of genres and integrated a well-established, high-falsetto voice. He influenced dance, R&B, punk, psychedelic rock, pop, and soul genres. At the age of seven, he released his first song and signed to Warner Bros when he was seventeen.
Billie Joe Armstrong – $75 million
Greatest Hits: Boulevard of Broken Dreams, American Idiot, Holiday.
Billie Joe Armstrong is the creator and lead singer of the famous pop-punk band, Green Day. Back in 1994, he wrote the songs that made it to the band’s breakthrough LP, Dookie. This LP turned out to sell millions of copies. Throughout the years, he has amassed one of the most impressive song-books. And all this in about 20 years. Once the hit song American Idiot was released and topped the charts, the band has been on the rise ever since.
Freddie Mercury – $50 million
Greatest Hits: Bohemian Rhapsody, We Are The Champions, Killer Queen.
Freddie Mercury, the frontman and lead vocalist of the legendary band, Queen, is known as one of the greatest singers in the history of rock music. While at the top of his musical career, Freddie was famous for his flamboyant stage persona in addition to his impressive four-octave vocal range. He’s written many of Queen’s biggest hits, including “Killer Queen”, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Somebody to Love”, “We Are the Champions”, “Don’t Stop Me Now”, and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”. After his passing, Freddie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003, and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004 as a member of Queen.
FINNEAS – $20 million
Greatest Hits: Let’s Fall In Love For The Night, Break My Heart Again, I Lost A Friend.
A singer-songwriter, Finneas is someone whose biggest hits aren’t technically his despite the fact that he’d help write them: they’re his little sister’s, Billie Eilish. On top of co-writing many of her major hits like “Bad Guy”, Finneas is an artist in his own right and has plenty of hits of his own. His own hits include songs like “Let’s Fall In Love For The Night”, “Break My Heart Again”, and “I Lost A Friend”. In addition to all that, he writes and produces songs for other famous artists. In fact, he’s won five Grammy Awards so far.
Sean Combs AKA P. Diddy – $855 million
Greatest Hits: Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down, Bad Boy Life, I Need A Girl.
You most likely know of Sean Combs as his stage name, P. Diddy. He has become a giant in the music industry during his successful career. A rapper, singer, songwriter, producer, and actor, his breakthrough came along with his debut album, “No Way Out”. The album went seven times platinum – a rarity for debut albums. It goes without saying that the albums he released afterward were just as successful as the first. Funny enough, he’s become known for changing his names many times over the course of his career.
Jay-Z – $1 billion
Greatest Hits: Crazy in Love, Déjà vu, Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem).
No matter if you’re a fan of hip-hop or not, you’ve probably heard of Jay-Z at one point or another. He’s the very first rapper to reach an incredible $1 billion net worth. Of course, this feat didn’t happen overnight. Throughout his career. Jay-Z has been able to grow and evolve, adapting to the needs of the fans and the hip-hop music industry through the decades. Aside from being a talented rapper, this obviously showcases his excellent business skills. He’s also signed other famous singers like Rihanna. It goes without saying since he’s on this list, but he’s written many successful hits as well.
Jon Bon Jovi – $410 million
Greatest Hits: Wanted Dead or Alive, Livin’ on a Prayer, It’s My Life.
As Jon Bon Jovi’s career went on, his music was able to keep up with his immense success. As of now, he’s sold more than 120 million albums globally. This just goes to show how he managed to make his millions. He’s definitely proved that rock music has a massive fan base and is one of the highest-paying genres in the music industry. He might only have two solo albums, but together with his iconic band, Bon Jovi, he’s released 13 studio albums. The most incredible thing is that he kept his relevance going through the decades. His band became successful in the mid-80s and to this day is one of the most popular rock bands. As a matter of fact, Jon was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2009.
Toby Keith – $365 million
Greatest Hits: How Do You Like Me Now?!, Should’ve Been A Cowboy, Upstairs Downtown.
Toby Keith is an American country music star who’s risen to fame in the early 1990s and is now one of the highest-paid country songwriters in the world. Seeing as his current net worth is $365 million, it’s easy to see the level of success he’s reached. Winning several awards, Toby won the Academy of Country Music (ACM) award and a Grammy as well. He’s released hits like “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” and “How Do You Like Me Now?!” which helped him reach the top of the country music industry.
Keith Richards – $340 million
Greatest Hits: Slipping Away, Thru and Thru, Take It So Hard.
Keith Richards is a famous member of the even more famous band, the Rolling Stones. He’s another singer-songwriter with an impressive net worth. At the moment, he has a net worth of $340 million. It only makes sense seeing as the Rolling Stones are the longest-performing rock band ever. Other than writing songs and being a backup vocalist, Keith plays the guitar too. With decades of songwriting under his belt, it’s clear why he’s made as much money as he has.
Tim Rice – $200 million
Greatest Hits: A Whole New World, I Just Can’t Wait To Be King, Can You Feel The Love Tonight.
You might not know this, but Tim Rice is the writer behind some of the biggest, most famous productions of all time. You’ll probably know some of these. One little movie made by Disney – “The Lion King” – maybe you know it? Well, its soundtrack was mainly his own songs. On top of that, Tim is famous for writing songs for more Disney movies such as “Aladdin” and “Beauty and the Beast”. A lot of the time, these same songs are still used in shows today.
Herb Alpert – $250 million
Greatest Hits: Tijuana Sauerkraut, Struttin’ With Maria, A Quiet Tear (Lágrima Quieta).
Herb has spent most of his life as part of the music industry. He owns his very own record label he’s founded, a band, and he’s also written loads of the most famous songs in the world. His band, Tijuana Brass, is as famous as it gets. The band might not be as famous now as it was in the ’60s, but that doesn’t change the fact that Herb made his wealth by making music and songwriting for the most part.
Sting – $395 million
Greatest Hits: Every Breath You Take, Desert Rose, Shape of My Heart.
You might not know this, but Sting wasn’t always a solo artist. He started his career with a small band named The Police. We’re kidding, of course. They were very famous. Well, Sting isn’t just famous for his singing abilities. He’s famous for his incredible songwriting talent as well. He’s written many of his own songs throughout his solo career in addition to his time with The Police. Nowadays, he spends his time mainly on charity work. All the same, he’s still famous for his hit songs.
Jimmy Buffett – $400 million
Greatest Hits: Cheeseburger in Paradise, He Went to Paris, Fins.
You most likely know Jimmy Buffett as everyone’s favorite beachy summertime singer. He became famous for his iconic sandals and shorts. There’s no doubt that he’s earned his fortune. He wrote many of his own songs such as “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” and “Margaritaville”. When he would perform them, you wouldn’t be able to help but feel good. Naturally, Jimmy’s ability to write these songs is what made him rich and famous in the first place.
Mariah Carey – $500 million
Greatest Hits: Fantasy, Vision of Love, Love Takes Time.
We all know and love Mariah Carey for her angelic voice. She’s made plenty of popular music throughout the years. With songs like “Hero” and “One Sweet Day”, it’s no surprise that she’s made such a fortune. She wrote these songs herself, of course. She has more number-one singles than any other solo artist in the world, and most of these songs were written by her. As a matter of fact, Mariah sold over 200 million records worldwide throughout her career.
Andrew Lloyd Webber – $1.2 billion
Greatest Hits: Any Dream Will Do, Close Every Door, Everything’s Alright.
We have absolutely no doubt that Andrew Lloyd Webber is the most successful songwriter of all time. Famous for writing music for some of the most famous musicals, you can hear his songs in musicals like “Phantom of the Opera”, “Cats”, and “Jesus Christ Superstar”. There are many more musicals he’s famous for. However, that list is practically endless so we couldn’t include them all. Andrew also happens to be one of 15 people to have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony — otherwise known as an EGOT winner.
Sia — $25 million
Greatest Hits: Chandelier, Diamonds, Titanium.
Sia is an Australian singer, songwriter, and record producer who’s written some incredibly famous pop hits over the years. In fact, she’s behind some songs other artists have sung that not many people know about. “Diamonds” is the most famous one, for sure. Sia has had a long career in music – it hasn’t always been this successful. Still, she always puts her heart and soul into her music. She only made her breakthrough in 2013 with her massive hit, “Chandelier”.
Beck — $25 million
Greatest Hits: Loser, Whiskeyclone, Hotel 1997, Where It’s At.
Another incredible songwriter is Beck. He’s known most for switching musical styles often – and doing it well. Throughout his career, he’s written alternative, folk, pop, Americana, hip-hop songs, and more. There’s no doubt that he’s one of the most creative musicians out there. His mainstream success came about in 1994 with his single, “Loser” which helped him reach global fame. The song cause record labels to rush to him and start a bidding war!
John Mayer — $40 million
Greatest Hits: Why Georgia, Edge of Desire, Your Body is a Wonderland.
Who hasn’t heard this story? A talented songwriter attends Berklee College of Music, drops out, and becomes a multi-millionaire. Well, that’s John Mayer’s story. He started out in humble beginnings but soon started seeing commercial success. Before long, songs like “Your Body is a Wonderland” and “Why Georgia” were getting played on the radio. John’s second album received positive reviews but it didn’t do as well as his first. Still, he has an impressive net worth.
Bill Withers — $40 million
Greatest Hits: Just the Two of Us, Ain’t No Sunshine, Lean On Me.
Bill Withers was a legendary icon. A singer-songwriter, he inspired countless others. He wrote hits like “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lean On Me” that are adored to this day. As a matter of fact, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015. Throughout his life, he won three Grammy Awards. It might be decades since these songs were first released, but Bill’s music still gets played on the radio often.
Justin Timberlake — $230 million
Greatest Hits: Cry Me a River, Rock Your Body, Mirrors.
Justin Timberlake made his claim to fame by being part of the boy band NSYNC. However, he decided to venture off on his own and begin a career as a solo artist. In 2002, his debut solo album, “Justified” impressed fans with iconic songs like “Cry Me a River” and “Rock Your Body.” Ever since then, Justin has released five solo albums. In addition to his successful music career, he’s been acting as well. He made appearances in movies like “The Love Guru” and “The Social Network”.