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Leonard Cohen Is Making More Money From The Grave Than You (Probably) Will In Your Lifetime

He's among 2022's highest-earning dead celebrities. 💰

MTL Blog, Associate Editor
​Montreal city skyline view from Mount Royal.

Montreal city skyline view from Mount Royal.

Even dead celebs make more money than you're likely to see in a lifetime. A new Forbes list tracked the income of deceased artists, athletes and performers, finding some stars have continued to rake in dough from beyond the grave.

The top 12 earners made a whopping 72% more in 2022 than the previous year, showing that even the dead aren't impervious to inflation, although they weirdly seem to benefit from it.

Aside from that depressing detail, the list of top "graveyard earnings" offers a fascinating glimpse into the most enduring creations that continue to captivate popular culture. Unsurprisingly, a number of singers made the list and one of them harkens from Montreal.

"Hallelujah" singer Leonard Cohen placed toward the middle of the pack with a $55 million score for his estate this year. The crooner hasn't left the hearts and minds of many a Montrealer, not just because his face is featured on the side of two downtown buildings.

Cohen's songs are calming and poetic, exploring topics like depression and isolation, which has surely been a draw during these uncertain pandemic times. The singer is also buried in a cemetery near Mount Royal, attracting fans wishing to pay their respects. His grave is covered in stones, many of them decorated, per the Jewish tradition of remembrance.

The rock-covered grave of Montreal gem Leonard Cohen.The rock-covered grave of Montreal gem Leonard Cohen.@sofsilva.mtl | Instagram

The top earner on the list was J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit, who raked in a Smaug-worthy horde of $500 million this year. The money didn't just come from book sales: a video game company purchased the rights to some of his material. The company didn't shire away from spending hundreds of millions to own a piece of Tolkien intellectual property.

Basketball legend Kobe Bryant came in second on the list with the sale of his shares in BodyArmor energy drink. About $400 million went to Bryant's estate after Coca-Cola bought the remaining shares. David Bowie's estate made bank with a $250 million deposit from what looks like royalties from his music alone, followed by Elvis Presley, whose estate made about half that. The so-called King banked $110 million, mostly from visits to his Graceland theme park. Around $80 million of the earnings came from merch and show sales alone.

Other 2022 top deceased earners include:

  • James Brown ($100 million)
  • Michael Jackson ($75 million)
  • Dr. Seuss ($33 million)
  • Jeff Porcaro ($25 million)
  • Charles Schulz ($24 million)
  • Juan Gabriel ($23 million)
  • John Lennon ($16 million)
  • George Harrison ($12 million)
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