Elvis is king among top-earning dead celebrities

Even in death, The King can print money
Even in death, The King can print money

Elvis left the building a long, long time ago. But just because he's past on doesn't mean he's past his prime money-making days. In the last twelve months alone, The King raked in $52 million. That could feed the Memphis Mafia and then some.

Just in time for Halloween, Forbes has compiled a list of the 13 highest-earning dead celebrities. Along with Elvis Presley, two rockers made the cut of big-time boneyard breadwinners: John Lennon (no. 7) and Marvin Gaye (no. 13).

Debuting on the list in third place is Australian actor Heath Ledger, most famous for his role as the Joker in The Dark Knight, the latest installment of the Batman movie franchise. At the time of his tragic overdose in January, the 28-year star seemed poised on the cusp of a lucrative film career.

Ledger had reportedly secured a sweet deal for his role in The Dark Knight that included merchandizing and a percentage of film revenues. With The Dark Knight grossing close to $1 billion worldwide, his earnings are somewhere in the $20 million range.

Some celebrities, like Charles Schulz and Albert Einstein, are staples on the Forbes list. They owe their spots to steady revenue streams from their artistic creations and licensing of their names and images. But occasionally a celebrity who has been dead for a while manages to have a great year.

Such is the case of Marvin Gaye, who lands in 13th place on the list with earnings of some $3.5 million. Coinciding with Motown Records' 50th birthday, two major studios have announced upcoming Marvin Gaye biopics, and some of his classic albums have been remastered and re-released. What's going on? The rent, for one thing.

Here's Forbes' lucky 13 list

Elvis Presley
Charles M. Schulz
Heath Ledger
Albert Einstein
Aaron Spelling
Dr. Suess
John Lennon
Andy Warhol
Marilyn Monroe
Steve McQueen
Paul Newman
James Dean
Marvin Gaye

Fortunately, or unfortunately, the list is bound to change next year.

Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar WorldGuitar PlayerMusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.