Among Highest-Earning Dead Celebs, a Surprise Name

Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro comes in at No. 9 on new 'Forbes' ranking
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 3, 2022 1:34 PM CDT
Updated Nov 6, 2022 12:50 PM CST
Among Highest-Earning Dead Celebs, a Surprise Name
The estate of the late NBA legend Kobe Bryant made $400 million last year.   (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

Forbes is out with its annual ranking of the highest-earning dead celebrities, and those on the top 10 have plenty of name recognition. No. 1, for example, is JRR Tolkien, whose estate pulled in $500 million thanks to the sale of Middle Earth Enterprises to a video game company. At No. 2, Kobe Bryant's estate similarly pulled in $400 million because Coca-Cola bought BodyArmor energy drinks, in which he had a stake. At No. 9, however, is a name that might not be familiar to most—unless you happen to be a serious music aficionado. That would be Jeff Porcaro, drummer for the 1980s band Toto, who died of a heart attack in 1992 at age 38. His estate made $25 million.

The explanation: Porcaro was an "industry legend" while alive, and his "publishing and recording royalties were snapped up by Primary Wave," per Forbes. Among other things, Porcaro co-wrote Toto's mega-hit "Africa," played drums on Michael Jackson's Thriller, and was the go-to drummer for recording giant Quincy Jones. He collaborated with some of the biggest names of the day. Stereogum, for instance, calls him the greatest drummer of all time in its breakdown of the song "Africa."

Here are the top 5 names on the list:

  1. JRR Tolkien, $500 million
  2. Kobe Bryant, $400 million
  3. David Bowie, $250 million
  4. Elvis Presley, $110 million
  5. James Brown, $100 million
See the full list. (Or check out more notable lists.)

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