You would think that anyone who can bring in millions of dollars would definitely be a millionaire until the day they died. This is not the case. It is especially not the case with musicians. Famous musicians are known for their party hard, live fast and die young mentality. They have been known to throw their money away on parties and drugs faster than the money ever came in.
This is, of course, just one of the ways musicians have gone bankrupt. It is the most stereotypical way as well. One thing to remember is musicians do not make much money from selling albums. There income comes mostly from performing concerts. It is estimated that for every $1000 a group earns from record sales, they only keep $23.40. The rest goes to their record label. Record labels are notorious for putting strangleholds on musicians that make it very hard for them to be financially successful. This was especially true in the 1960s and 1970s.
This list includes some of the most famous musicians to have filed for bankruptcy. This is in order of how much they lost and the degree to which they were able to pull themselves out of financial ruin. Some of them did. However, most of them are forced to live with a black mark on their credit for the rest of their lives. Some of course, almost made it out and then messed up again. After all, when you have a live fast and die young attitude there is no reason to worry about money.
10 David Crosby
9 Dee Snider
8 Marvin Gaye
7 Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes
6 Vanilla Ice
5 Jerry Lee Lewis
4 Ron Isley
Ron Isley was the lead singer and founder of the Isley Brothers. They rose to fame in 1959 with the hit song “Shout”. Following a brief stint on Motown Records, Ron Isley formed T-Neck Records in order to get the Isley Brothers away from the highly restrictive environment of major record labels. His lavish spending habits forced him into bankruptcy in the 1980s. Isley was a fan of buying many huge mansions and yachts. He pulled himself out of bankruptcy in the 1990s and The Isley Brothers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. Unfortunately Isley did not learn his lesson the first time he had money issues and was convicted of tax invasion in 2006 and sentenced to three years in prison.
3 MC Hammer
Rapper MC Hammer became popular in the 1990s with hit songs such as “2 Legit 2 Quit” and “U Can’t Touch This”. His albums sold over 50 million copies. Hammer spent all his money on highly luxurious items. He constructed a $12 million home and had a staff of 200 personal servants. The payroll for his butlers and maids cost him about $6.8 million a year. By 1996, he had to file for bankruptcy and owed the IRS over $13 million in back taxes. On top of that, he was later sued for $20 million for copyright infringement.
2 Wayne Newton
1 George Clinton
George Clinton was the founding member and front man of the funk pioneers Parliament/Funkadelic. He formed The Parliaments as a teenager in the early 1960s. They performed in barbershops as a doo-wop group. He then became one of the head song writers for Motown. While working with Motown, his band Parliament started to became well known. Due to compensation disputes with his record company, Clinton changed the band’s name to Funkadelic. After the terms of the legal dispute were met the band then became known as Parliament/Funkadelic. He was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1985 due to problems with his record companies. It was in the 1990s that Clinton received the biggest blow, however. In a battle with these record companies, Clinton lost the legal rights to all his songs from the late 1970s and 1980s. This catalog included his most well known songs such as “Flashlight” and “One Nation Under A Groove”. It is estimated the catalog was worth over $100 million. Clinton was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.