Go to main content

Kurt Cobain Dethrones Elvis

October 25, 2006 | People
Elvis Presley is no longer the King of Dead Celebrities. The pelvis-swiveling crooner was dethroned from his perch atop Forbes.com's annual roundup of top-earning deceased celebrities by the late Kurt Cobain, who made his first appearance on the list in its six years of publication.

The former Nirvana frontman, who committed suicide in 1994, earned $50 million between October 2005 and October 2006, according to the site. Presley landed in the number two slot, with earnings of $42 million for the same time period, down from $45 million in the year before.

The earnings are based on licensing deals for the deceased celebrities' work or images. Presley has consistently been the top-earning dead star since the list's inception until this year.

Cobain's surge in wealth was due to his widow Courtney Love's sale of one-quarter of the Nirvana song catalogue to New York music publisher PrimeWave. Coming in at third place, with $35 million was Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, followed in fourth by John Lennon with $24 million. (Lennon's fellow dead Beatle George Harrison ranked 12th with $7 million.) Albert Einstein rounded out the top five with earnings of $20 million, thanks in large part to the licensing of Disney's hit Baby Einstein video series.

The only woman to rank in the top 13 was Marilyn Monroe. The actress, who died of an overdose in 1962, pulled in $8 million, good for ninth place.

Here is the rundown of the top 10 (the complete list is online at Forbes.com):
1. Kurt Cobain, US$50 million
2. Elvis Presley, $42 million
3. Charles Schulz, $35 million
4. John Lennon, $24 million
5. Albert Einstein, $20 million
6. Andy Warhol, $19 million
7. Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel), $10 million
8. Ray Charles, $10 million
9. Marilyn Monroe, $8 million
10. Johnny Cash, $8 million
Source:E! Online
MarkE wrote on October 25, 2006
oh wonderful, oh and who is Kurt Cobain again?
see see rider wrote on October 25, 2006
I would venture to say if Courtney Love hadn't recently (or whenever she done it) sold 25% of her share of the bands catalog to Primewave, Elvis would still have been Number one, I mean C'mon..Elvis has been number one in this for the last six years since the Magazine started doin' this. But I knew of this news since yesterday because my wife had seen it on the ticker on CNN.
Jerome wrote on October 25, 2006
unimportant news, just a sign of change in society. In 10 years it will be 2PAC, 20 years it will be 50 cent, 50 years Oprah Winfrey
Shakingruud wrote on October 25, 2006
I´m pretty sure Elvis will be on top of the list again next year! That means... if we ALL gonna buy the ´30 years after, greatest hits´ cd compilations!
JerryNodak wrote on October 25, 2006
Big deal!! Headlines today. Forgotten tomorrow. Elvis will be back on top next year.
MarkE wrote on October 26, 2006
im totally surprised by these statistics, i didnt know Kurt Cobain was THAT popular! :s
vegaselvisfan wrote on October 26, 2006
as the article states: Cobain's coup was due to his widow, actress and singer Courtney Love, who sold a 25-percent stake in the Seattle grunge group's song catalog to New York music publishing company PrimeWave. so this was just a SPIKE in activity. this won't be the same next year. anyway, this is nonsense news. what's really important is that ELVIS IS STILL #1 WITH THE MUSIC!!!
Narek wrote on October 26, 2006
LOL, Now that's funny. Gues how many times can Courtney sell Kurt's catalogue? Just once. And guess whot position he is gonna have next time? Obviously not even top 5. I just wonder what's the frequency of publishing that list. It's not once a year cos I remember list being published May-June this year already. So Elvis may be on top again in few months. :)
ep010835 wrote on October 26, 2006
Let me think about this, Elvis has been dead 30 years and is #2 earning $42 million. Hmmm. How about we revisit this after Mr. Cobain has been dead 30 years and see where the two of them rank respectively, or more to the point, who is even on the list!!How does a posthumous star land, and stay, on the list? Solitary events -- a successful film release, an estate sale, or the sale by a *grieving* widow of 25% of a catalogue, for example -- won't necessarily do it over the long term. Staying power comes from a body of work or simply an iconic image with long-lasting appeal. Elvis Presley has both, which has kept the King at or near the top of the list every year.
ext_mnx wrote on October 26, 2006
About this news I was in a music shop and a employee annoyed me about "Kurt Cobain Beats Elvis Presley". I never said any word about Elvis Presley in the shop but the music shop see which is their public. This employee was wounding because became with these words " How is Elvis?" and the next "Kurt Cobain Beats Elvis Presley". We must recognize: 2007 will be a real disaster and a failure. Forbes is very powerful and will give the credit for the next successful piece of merchandise in the market for the next year. This year Forbes in july 3, 2006 put Elvis Presley in first place again. But during this year Elvis Presley like a piece of merchandise became bored and abusive with the personal image of Elvis that was under the piece of merchandise. Elvis Presley as a CKX product CKX, lisa, priscilla and the kids of lisa abused image of Elvis Presley . For example Daniella Riley Keough that is not a piece of interest in the powerful world of beauty houses. Lisa and MAC were not a success like her mother with her sales. Forbes got bored and decided to put Kurt Cobain as a more fresh face.
ext_mnx wrote on October 26, 2006
Forbes is very powerful and will give the credit for the next successful piece of merchandise in the market for the next year. And will not Elvis Presley
elvisfan1958 wrote on October 27, 2006
Everybody calm down. Elvis is still #1. The only reason Kurt is on the list, is because Courtney sold 25% of his music rights, for 50 million. That doesn't mean he was more popular than Elvis this year. It means Courtney made a good deal on his music rights. He wasn't on the list last year, and he won't be on the list next year. Elvis will be on the list for many years to come. p.s. I don't remember Forbes adding the 100 million that Lisa Marie got, for selling 85% of Elvis, to his total, so, why did they add this 50 million, to Kurts total? Just a thought.
get real wrote on October 27, 2006
it just goes to show how out of touch most of you are here. If you dont know who Kurt Cobain was, and if you dont know what contributions he has made, then please dont show your ignorance by saying it here in public. Keep it to yourselves, and that way you can hide your lack of knowledge of the cultural importance of individuals other than Elvis. And by the way Armenian, Courtney Love can sell her share in Kurt's catalogue FOUR times total if she sells 25 % stakes in it. Math is not difficult. So therfore, she can sell it three more times.
efan4ever wrote on October 27, 2006
Well said get real.
MarkE wrote on October 27, 2006
we're only kiddin Get Real, we all know who Kurt Cobain is and his impact, but when you compare it the the legacy of Elvis, thats where we have a problem, and why we are complaining
Steve V wrote on October 27, 2006
To me Cobain means nothing, but I know people who think of him as much as we think of Elvis. They put him up there as others do Elvis, The Beatles, or Dylan. I dont get it, but he certainly is a force to many.
John4126 wrote on October 28, 2006
Just what is the point of slagging off Kurt Cobain? So what if he made more money dead this year than our man? I have no reason to doubt the figures but some of the reaction here speaks volumes!
Mystery Rider wrote on November 21, 2006
But he's still stiff
Elvisy wrote on December 15, 2006
Now Look GET REAL! Curt Cobain may have earned more than Our King but what the heck,Kurt was and never will be called any king for another century! Curt who?? someone asked me! And Pluz no one is ignorant just never thought so much about any Cobain when it comes to talking about Kings! And here its Elvis so do get real! It truly says all when June spoke about the 100 million that Lisa sold for and also aptly put by the elvisfan. So......you get real with due respect to Curt Cobain there is and will never be any match to the One and only King.... ELVIS PRESLEY. It just goes to show even Elvis needed a break to rest in peace.... after 30 years?? so what if Curt takes over for a few!!