Songwriters don’t always get the credit they deserve. While we often fawn over performers who spend their days singing our favorite tunes, they’re not always the people who write the songs we still sing in the shower today.
Who are the people who wrote some of our favorite songs? Well, we can reveal that some of the biggest songwriters in the world have made millions writing the most popular tunes ever played on the radio. Let’s take a look at some of the fortunes they’ve built for themselves…
Fortune: $110 millionHits: Superstition
Is it possible to listen to the first few seconds of Superstition without breaking into a little dance? Stevie Wonder has perfected the groovy bass lines over the years and has been making rooms dance since the 1970s. Today, the songwriter and performer has sold more than 100 million records and has earned 25 Grammys for his contributions to the music industry. As a young blind boy, he was signed by Tamia music label at the age of 11.
Fortune: $60 millionHits: Walk The Line, Hurt, Ring of Fire
As one of America’s biggest performers, Johnny Cash is also one of the most respected songwriters. With hits like Walk the Line, Ring of Fire, and Hurt, Cash managed to tap into American sentiments and human emotions with his lyrics. Overall, he has sold 90 million records across the world and was welcomed into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Today, his legacy is retold in the Hollywood film, Walk the Line starring Joaquin Phoenix.
Fortune: $50 millionHits: Big Yellow Taxi, Woodstock
One of the greatest albums ever recorded? Well, you won’t have to go far to find someone who thinks that Joni Mitchell’s Blue is one of the best out there. The painter and singer is also a successful pianist, author, and guitarist. It makes sense that she would also be one of the best songwriters in the world today. Her fortune speaks for itself – with around $50 million in the bank, you can be sure that she has amassed plenty of fans from her years as a performer.
Fortune: $40 millionHits: Sugaree, Truckin’
Garcia is the lead singer of Grateful Dead and one of the most prominent members of the band during their 30-year run. Jerry Garcia was one of the most successful songwriters of the band, proving more correct with his work on other bands such as The Jerry Garcia Band and New Riders of the Purple Sage. His styles rely on more psychedelic rock riffs and tunes, appreciated by stoners all over the country.
Fortune: $75 millionHits: Bridge Over Troubled Water, The Boxer, You Can Call Me Al
As one half of Simon and Garfunkel, Paul Simon wrote some of the most popular and iconic songs of all time. Together, these two penned anthems like Mrs. Robinson, and Sound of Silence. Generally, Simon was largely responsible for most of the creative process, although it is said he often bounced ideas and phrases off Art Garfunkel. After they broke up in 1970, Paul Simon wrote and released Graceland, which sold more than 14 million copies.
Fortune: $160 millionHits: Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down, Me and Bobby McGee
You might not recognize the name Kris Kristofferson right away, but you’ll definitely know his music. The singer-songwriter was often seen pairing with authors like Shel Silverstein to record some of his hits. As well as songwriting, he has also been a seasoned actor, appearing in films like A Star is Born, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, and Heaven’s Gate. In his career, he has collaborated with musicians like Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash.
Fortune: $70 millionHits: Jazzman, It’s Too Late, Nightingale
Carole King is one of those songwriters who has been behind many more songs than people initially think. Would you believe us if we told you there were more than 118 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 with her name on them? As well as collaborating with other artists, King has also released several albums, such as Tapestry and Writer. In 2012, Carole King was awarded a Hollywood Star due to her success as a singer and songwriter.
Fortune: $175 millionHits: Cracklin’ Rosie, Song Sung Blue
With more than 100 million records sold across his career, there’s no doubt that Neil Diamond is one of the most successful songwriters out there today. In total, 38 of his songs have reached the Top 10 Billboard charts, helping him amass quite the fortune today! Diamond can sit back and relax on more than $175 million from all his catchy tunes. He even performed alongside Will Ferrell on a 2002 episode of SNL.
Fortune: $60 millionHits: Carolina In My Mind, Night Owl
James Taylor is one of the best-selling music artists and songwriters of all time, with his songs selling more than 100 million records. The American singer and guitarist often collaborated with famous bands and performers, including Carole King and The Rolling Stones. He is the brain behind some classic hits like Carolina In My Mind. He has won six Grammys and is recognized as one of the Greatest Living Artists by Rolling Stone.
Fortune: $160 millionHits: Close to You, Arthur’s Theme
Burt Bacharach is often cited as one of the most influential songwriters of the 20th century. Since the 1950s, he has been behind some of the most classic and iconic songs we love today. As a piano player and singer, he can be seen (and heard!) reciting his meaningful lyrics and relaxing tunes to audiences everywhere. To date, his fortune has grown to more than $160 million. Seems like his formula appears to be working!
Fortune: $50 millionHits: You’ve Got a Friend in Me, Mama Told Me Not To Come
Although he has been writing songs for artists for decades, Randy Newman can best be recognized for his film songs -particularly in Disney films! You would have definitely heard his tunes in films like Toy Story, Monsters, Inc. and James and the Giant Peach. As well as writing and performing soundtracks, he has also scored plenty of films and gifted them with iconic sounds and feelings. Today, his fortune is reaching more than $50 million due to his continued success on the big screen.
Fortune: $500 millionHits: 9-5, I Will Always Love You, Jolene
Dolly Parton is one of the best-selling musicians of all time – let alone in the Country Music space. Her songs transcend generations and have allowed her to garner a fortune of half a billion dollars. For decades, she has contributed to some of the biggest and baddest female empowerment songs that have earned her a space in the history books. Did you know that she wrote the Whitney Houston classic song, I Will Always Love You?
Fortune: $95 millionHits: Refugee, Don’t Do Me Like That, Here Comes My Girl
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers quickly became one of the biggest bands in the world upon their formation. This was surely due to most of the incredible songs penned by Tom Petty. Across his career, he had written songs including Here Comes My Girl and Don’t Do Me Like That. Having been inspired by musicians like the Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley, it is safe to say that Petty has made his own impact on the music scene.
Fortune: $65 millionHits: Coal Miner’s Daughter, You Ain’t Woman Enough
Here’s another female country star that fundamentally changed the way we listen to music. As one of the most successful songwriters in history, Loretta Lynn is responsible for hits like Fist City, One’s on the Way, and Don’t Come Home A’Drinkin’. Even after reaching the age of 87, fans can still catch her in concert helping increase her sales even more! To date, she has sold more than 45 million records and amassed a fortune of more than $65 million.
Fortune: $15 millionHits: Nobody But You, Sick Of You
As lead singer and one of the main songwriters of The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed has had a career spanning more than 50 years. In that time, he has written 20 solo albums – each of which is full to the brim with classic tunes. His hits, including Nobody But You and Sick Of Youhave helped him build a fortune of more than $15 million. While his fame and popular have changed over time, his succesful hits will remain classics for years.
Fortune: $180 millionHits: Piano Man, New York State of Mind, Uptown Girl
Ever since the 1970s, Billy Joel has been writing and performing some of the best songs of the last 40 years. Who hasn’t ended a wedding party with Uptown Girl, or sung Piano Man at your office Christmas party? Well, his millions of fans have left Joel with more than $180 million in the bank and plenty of awards to his name. For example, he has won a total of five Grammys from 23 nominations.
Fortune: $90 millionHits: Brown Eyed Girl, Gloria
Morrison started his music career when he was just a teenager, but managed to develop into one of the best songwriters in history. In the last few decades, audiences have enjoyed his classic tunes like Brown Eyed Girl and Gloria. His second album, Moondance, topped the charts and has been covered by contemporary artists like Michael Buble. Today, Morrison enjoys a fortune of nearly $100 million. He is still touring today.
Fortune: $200 millionHits: The Times They Are A-Changin’
Love him or hate him: you can’t deny that Bob Dylan helped lend a voice to a whole generation of hippies in the 1960s. He often wrote meaningful lyrics pertaining to the civil rights and freedoms of Americans. His politically charged anthems helped shape the voice and tone of rock music – the effects of which can still be felt today. In 2012 and 2016 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a Nobel Peace prize – which he refused to acknowledge.
Fortune: $75 millionHits: I Get Around, Good Vibrations, Barbara Ann, God Only Knows
As one of the co-founders of The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson was the mastermind behind some of the biggest hits ever recorded. After being signed to Capitol Records in 1962, he went on to write 24 Top 40 records. Generations later, many younger songwriters have claimed that he was a genius and he is often cited as an inspiration. He was in The Beach Boys with his brothers and their cousin.
Fortune: $70 millionHits: Bad Moon Rising, Fortunate Son
Anywho who was around during the Vietnam War was probably familiar with Fogerty’s music. As a member of Creedence Clearwater Revival, and then as a solo artist, he was the mastermind behind some of the most prominent anti-war anthems still popular today. Rolling Stone magazine has him as one of the best songwriters and guitarists in the world and his music ultimately speaks for itself. Are you inspired by his sentimental music?
Fortune: $25 millionHits: On the Road Again, Family Bible
Willie Nelson’s big break came after Shotgun Willie from 1973, and the star has been performing his classic hits ever since. Today, the American songwriter, actor, and poet has left a huge impact with his meaningful lyrics and melodies. He is considered one of the most celebrated and famous country music singers in the world, as well as someone who advocates for drug use – notably weed and others.
Fortune: $500 millionHits: Your Song, Rocket Man, Crocodile Rock
One of the most famous songwriters of all time, Elton John has probably written some of your favorite songs. Across his career, he has sold more than 300 million records and had 58 Billboard singles enter the Top 40 charts. John has won five Grammys and is just behind The Beatles regarding critical success. As well as writing and performing, he has personally raised more than $300 million for AIDS and LGBT-related issues.
Fortune: $100 millionHits: Changes, Modern Love, Space Oddity
The world briefly stopped turning in 2016 when we said goodbye to David Bowie. Over his career, he had inspired millions of people around the world through his quirky and iconic performances. Born and raised in London, Bowie (alongside his alter ego Ziggy Stardust) wrote and performed some of the best songs Britain has ever produced. His death in 2016 left a large hole in the music world.
Fortune: $200 millionHits: Tequila Sunrise, Hotel California, Lyin’ Eyes
As lead singer and guitarist of The Eagles, Frey wrote some of the most iconic music of the last 40 years. Their hit, Hotel California, remains one of the best campfire and road trip songs to come out of America. Several of their songs hit the charts and he had an equally successful solo career after they disbanded. Sadly, he died at the age of 67 in New York City – but his music will live on for years.
Fortune: $6 millionHits: Illegal Smile, Sam Stone, Dear Abby
Since the 1970s, John Prine has had a successful career as both an artist and a songwriter. From the age of just 14, he worked on perfecting the guitar and wrote some of the greatest songs heard today. While his lyrics often pertain to current events and life, they are also credited as being humorous and lighthearted. Despite taking a short break from music to join the army in his teens, Prine has been a consistent musical talent for decades.
Fortune: $700 millionHits: Sunday Bloody Sunday, Vertigo
Since 1976, U2 has been writing and performing some of the most iconic anthems ever recorded. The Irish band is one of rock’s most consistent features and includes many social and political messages in their songs. As well as critical acclaim from fans, U2 has also won 22 Grammy awards as well as countless other accolades. Its lead singer, Bono, is a philanthropist and has earned a fortune of nearly a billion dollars.
Fortune: $400 millionHits: Here Comes The Sun, Taxman
As one quarter of The Beatles, you can be sure that George Harrison built quite the fortune before his death. The lead guitarist was one of the songwriters who brought pop to the mainstream and captured the hearts of young girls all over the world. He was nicknamed ‘the quiet Beatle’ due to his introvert nature, but his messages definitely shined through with his work and contributions in the band.
Fortune: $50 million
Hits: Bang Bang, Break Free, Problem
At just 26 years old, Ariana Grande has truly proved herself in music and songwriting. Getting her start on Nickelodeon show Victorious, Grande achieved teen idol status before taking the world by storm with her exquisite voice and heartfelt lyrics.
Her five studio albums have all seen mass success on the charts and she is the first female artist since Kesha to have her debut top the music charts.
Fortune: $110 million
Hits: Shape Of You, Thinking Out Loud
Ed Sheeran is one of the greatest modern exports to come out of the UK. After signing with Atlantic Records in 2011, Ed has gone on to sell millions of albums around the world and topping charts with his incredible voice and musical abilities.
He has written smash hits for artists including One Direction, Justin Bieber, The Weeknd and Taylor Swift. He has won four Grammys from hits including Thinking Out Loud and Shape Of You.
Fortune: $115 million
Hits: Who’s Next
Pete Townshend is the main songwriter for The Who and has written over 100 songs for their 11 albums. Townshend was at the helm of successful rock opera albums including Tommy and Quadrophenia as well as some of their most successful singles.
In addition to writing for the band and his solo album, he has also penned commercial jingles and T.V. theme songs. Although known for playing guitar, he can also play keyboards, banjo, accordion, ukulele, mandolin, violin, and drums.
Fortune: $175 million
Hits: All For You
The youngest sibling in the Jackson family, Janet, is by no means the least successful. After getting her start on The Jacksons TV series, she went on to sign a record deal in the 80s, and soon after became a pop icon.
She has collaborated in writing music with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, which incorporated rhythm and blues, disco, rap and funk. She has sold over 100 million records.
Fortune: $250 million
Hits: A Whole New World, Can You Feel The Love Tonight
Tim Rice began his career in music as the lead vocalist of a pop group before becoming one of the most iconic theatre songwriters of all time. He is an Academy Award winner, Golden Globe Award winner, Emmy Award winner, Tony Award winner, and Grammy Award-winning lyricist.
He is responsible for creating hits from The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Fortune: $300 million
Hits: To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before
Julio Iglesias has recorded songs in the most languages in the world. He became the Latin artist with the most records sold and has sold more than 250 million records around the world in 14 languages.
He has played over 5000 concerts and performed for over 60 million people in all different places around the globe. He has won both a Grammy and a Latin Grammy among plenty of other awards.
Fortune: $305 million
Hits: Love Yourself, What Do You Mean
After getting his start when he was just a teenager, Justin Bieber became an international heartthrob and his EP was certified platinum in the U.S.
He became the first artist to have seven songs hit the Billboard Hot 100 and his debut album debuted at number one and went triple platinum. He has written songs for DJ Khaled and Post Malone along with selling over 140 million records of his own.
Fortune: $305 million
Cher started out as pop duo Sonny and Cher before going solo. She was hailed as the goddess of pop and known for her distinctive voice and versatility of her range. She has won Grammys, Emmys and even an Oscar, along with selling over 100 million records worldwide.
Her Las Vegas residency earned her $300,000 per week and performing to sold out crowds every single night.The residency show has made over $50 million in profits.
Fortune: $320 million
Hits: Bad Blood
Taylor Swift was signed to Big Machine Records as a young country star in Nashville and her debut album for to number 5 on the charts. Her second album however, became the best-selling album of 2009 as she crossed over from country into pop.
She has also written songs for Miley Cyrus and Calvin Harris and Rihanna. Swift has sold over 50 million albums and won 10 Grammy awards, one of which made her the youngest recipient for Album Of The Year.
Fortune: $332 million
Lead singer of the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger, is a vocalist musician, writer and performer with his career spanning over five decades. Jagger is seen as an icon in rock and roll and alongside Keith Richards’ guitar skills, his vocals have been the trademark of the Rolling Stones
. Despite his success, Jagger often found himself at the center of substance abuse. He wrote the vast majority of the band’s music which won them a plethora of awards.
Andrew Lloyd Webber
Fortune: $1.2 billion
Hits: Every iconic musical song
Andrew Lloyd Webber is the songwriting genius behind Evita, Phantom of the Opera, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar and so many more. Several of his musicals have ran for over a decade, both in the West End and on Broadway.
He is an inductee into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and is one of just fifteen people to have won an Emmy, Oscar, Grammy and Tony.
Fortune: $1.2 billionHits: All of them. Seriously.
The first billionaire on our list, Paul McCartney had a direct impact on music and the trajectory it would take for generations. Penning songs like Yesterday, Hey Jude, and Live and Let Die, McCartney starting songwriting in the 1960s and has never stopped! McCartney, alongside his band members, helped make The Beatles some of the best songwriters ever produced. In 1997, he was knighted by the Queen and appointed an MBE back in 1965.