13 Highest Paid Dead Celebrities In 2020

Forbes released its list of the highest-paid dead celebrities of 2020, and it’s just as I suspected. I’m not rich. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine how much money in royalties the song “Imagine” is raking in? Celebs can’t stop singing it! John Lennon’s estate must get a few dollars every time you hate-watch that video of celebs singing the song. I’m not sure that’s true. What is true, however, is that while regular living people struggle to make ends meet in 2020, dead celebrities are still making money. Shouldn’t that be a bigger scandal that dead people supposedly voting? Not really. Because this story is true. 

Here are the highest-paid famous people who made more money than you did in 2020 while dead:

1. Actress Marilyn Monroe

highest paid dead celebrities of 2020, marylin monroe
via shutterstock

Earned in 2020: $8 Million

Tragedy struck before she could reap what she sowed and enjoy the benefits of 100 different brands all over the world using her name and image. The actress made $8 million dollars in 2020.

2. Former Beatle George Harrison

highest paid dead celebrities of 2020, George Harrison young playing guitar with the Beatles in black and white
via Getty

Earned in 2020: $8.5 Million

George wrote some great tunes in his post-Beatles career. The most lucrative songwriting, however, was not from All Things Must Pass (the best post-Beales album IMHO). Instead, Harrison’s estate is racking in $8.5 million because of a Cirque du Soleil show called Love that didn’t even have much of an opening in Vegas thanks to COVID.

3. Lead Singer For Queen, Freddie Mercury 

highest paid dead celebrities of 2020, Freddie Mercury singing into microphone
via Getty

Earned in 2020: $9 Million

Thanks in part to the 2018 film Bohemian Rhapsody, singer Freddie Mercury made at least $9 Million. Queen members helped produce the film along with Mike Myers, the man who made an unlikely hit jump back on the charts because it was featured in Wayne’s World. It’s true. Look it up!

4. Prince

highest paid dead celebrities of 2020, Prince jamming
via shutterstock

Earned in 2020: $10 Million

The artist formerly known as “The Artist formerly known as Prince,” made $10 million in 2020. His tragic death from an overdose in 2016 reminded everyone that one of the greatest guitarists to ever live, also was one of the strangest and most versatile music producers in the world. He left behind a ton of tracks in a vault that will one day be released.

5. Former Beatle John Lennon

highest paid dead celebrities of 2020, John Lennon glasses black and white
via Getty

Earned in 2020: $13 Million

The Beatles’ revenue is endless. Lennon’s estate owns most of it, and every time a new streaming service appears, Lennon’s music is not far from being played. Add to that, his solo music and tracks he laid down with the Plastic Ono Band are used as TV show theme songs and in movies around the world. Total received in 2020: $13 million.

6. Reggae Legend Bob Marley

highest paid dead celebrities of 2020, Bob Marley smiling of course
via Getty

Earned in 2020: $14 Million

Bob Marley died of cancer in 1981. I’m sorry to inform you that 1981 was 40 years ago. Ugh. I know. Yet, despite so much time passing since his death, he’s still relevant. His songs received over a billion plays this year, and the reggae legend’s image on t-shirts only added to the $14 million he made.

7. Rapper Juice WRLD

highest paid dead celebrities of 2020, Juice WRLD singing
via Getty

Earned in 2020: $15 Million

Juice WRLD also amassed a billion listens on Spotify after his second album was released. Sadly, he died of a drug overdose at the age of 21 before he could see how many adoring fans added to his $15 million fortune in 2020 alone.

8. Beloved Lakers Star Kobe Bryant

highest paid dead celebrities of 2020, Kobe Bryant
via Getty

Earned in 2020: $20 Million

2020 sucked. It all started to suck with the news of Kobe dying with his daughter in a helicopter crash. Americans grieve by buying stuff, and that’s what we all did. Stocking up on Kobe merch and his memoir shortly after the tragic loss. I’ve personally added to his posthumous $20 million, especially if his family gets any money for a thousand views of the ESPN highlights from his final game (60 points).

9. The King Of Rock And Roll Elvis Presley

highest paid dead celebrities of 2020, elvis presley black and white
via Getty

Earned in 2020: $23 Million

50 million Elvis fans can’t be wrong, and many of them make the hajj to Graceland every year to look at his stuff and go “ahhh. Yep. That’s Elvis stuff, all right.” Between his home-turned-museum and music library, the king stays the king. His estate made $23 million this year.

10. Pro Golfer Arnold Palmer

highest paid dead celebrities of 2020, arnold palmer swinging a golf club black and white
via Getty

Earned in 2020: $25 Million

Every time you even get thirsty for tea and lemonade, Arnold Palmer makes $4. That might not be true, but thanks to a deal with Arizona Iced Tea, his name alone garnered $25 million in 2020.

11. ‘Peanuts’ Creator Charles Schulz

highest paid dead celebrities of 2020, charles Schulz near a bunch of Peanuts cartoons
via Getty

Earned in 2020: $32.5 Million

I love Peanuts. The original comic strip, the TV specials. Hell, I even watched the new movie. I was a depressed child every kid on the street mocked for being boring and a little thick. This cartoon spoke to me. Between the characters trying to sell me life insurance and the Christmas special streaming exclusively on Apple TV+, the cartoonist received over $32.5 million.

12. Dr. Seuss

highest paid dead celebrities of 2020, Dr. Seuss
via Getty

Earned in 2020: $33 Million

Could you make some off a book? Could you, would you, read them on a Nook? The children’s author made $33 million, mostly on book sales. Hard to imagine, but it’s true. People still read.

13. The King Of Pop Michael Jackson

highest paid dead celebrities of 2020, Michael Jackson in black jacket
via Getty

Earned in 2020: $48 Million

Look, there’s been some bad news revealed since this man died of a drug overdose (thanks to a criminally negligent doctor) in 2009. Did any of that information make his music worse? Probably. I can’t listen to “Man In The Mirror” anymore. We were dealing with much different personal issues. Still, The King of Pop remains the king even after his death. His estate made a long-term deal with Sony, and made $48 million in 2020.

h/t Madeline Berg at Forbes 

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