Dead rockers still raking in cash

Clockwise from top left: Jim Morrison (QMI Agency/LFP ARCHIVE), Elvis Presley (QMI Agency/LFP...

Clockwise from top left: Jim Morrison (QMI Agency/LFP ARCHIVE), Elvis Presley (QMI Agency/LFP ARCHIVE), Michael Jackson performs in Taipei (Reuters), Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols (File/Handout) and Whitney Houston (Reuters/Ethan Miller/Files).

DARRYL STERDAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:37 PM ET

Eternal youth. Universal adulation. Multiple awards. No more paparazzi. And more money than you can ever spend.

They're what every musician wants. And getting them is easier than you think. All you have to do is kick the bucket.

It's no secret that death has always been the best career move for musicians (if not all celebrities). Just ask Jim Morrison. Or Sid Vicious. Or Whitney Houston. This week, the late diva joins the ranks of the rocking dead with the release of the Sparkle soundtrack, featuring what are said to be two of her final recordings. Doubtless, they'll soon be followed by other posthumous tributes, compilations and rarities sets. We will always love her, after all.

But will we always buy her music? That's another question entirely. Even in the afterlife, not all careers are created equal. Some performers still manage to, um, bury the competition. Here are a few of the most prolific, productive and profitable performers on the posthumous pop chart.

Michael Jackson

Died: June 25, 2009. Age: 50. Cause: Overdose

The King of Pop continues his reign as music's eternally golden goose: According to Forbes' 2011 list of top-earning dead musicians, Jackson's estate raked in $170 million in the previous year. Based on the conduct of his family, it's likely safe to assume there's plenty more where that came from -- or did you really think they've been squabbling over his kids out of familial concern?

Elvis Presley

Died: Aug. 16, 1977. Age: 42. Cause: Heart attack

The No. 2 man on Forbes list, Presley is quite a ways behind Jacko -- he only raked in a comparatively paltry $55 million during the same period. Still, that's a whole lot of peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Not bad for a guy who's been pushing up daisies for a generation -- and whose label keeps recycling and repackaging the same songs and albums over and over again.

Bob Marley

Died: May 11, 1981. Age: 37. Cause: Cancer.

During his life, reggae icon Marley released 18 live and studio albums -- but his posthumous anthology Legend dwarfed them all. The hits collection is one of the best-selling albums of all time, moving more than 25 million copies globally. Between that and aggressive licensing -- his name is on everything from earbuds to tea -- it's no wonder he's been dubbed the '$1 billion rasta.'

Tupac Shakur

Died: Sept. 13, 1996. Age: 25. Cause: Murder.

Rapper Shakur may not be the richest stiff on the scene with an estimated worth of just $40 million. But what he lacks in funds, he makes up in initiative. Since his shooting death, his name has appeared on more than 70 albums of hits, leftovers and new songs assembled from outtakes and ephemera. This year, he even appeared at Coachella as a hologram. Get ready for Tupac 2.0.

Jimi Hendrix

Died: Sept. 18, 1970. Age: 27. Cause: Overdose

The original Tupac, guitar god Hendrix's archive was endlessly and thoughtlessly raided, razed and repackaged in the decades following his untimely death -- until his heirs and their lawyers finally got the situation under control. Now, his catalog is being treated with the respect it deserves -- and raking in something like $6 million a year. If 6 was 9, he'd be further up the list.

John Lennon | George Harrison

Died: Dec. 8, 1980. Age: 40. Cause: Murder. | Died: Nov. 29, 2001. Age: 58. Cause: Cancer.

Paul McCartney was reportedly paid £1 to perform at the Olympics. His former Beatles bandmates don't come nearly so cheap. Thanks to the savvy business sense of their respective widows Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison -- not to mention royalties, Cirque du Soleil shows and licensing -- the Fab Four's guitarists earn nearly $20 million annually between them. All you need is cash.


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