The King of Pop passed away from an accidental overdose in 2009, but his legacy has prevailed as fans continue to play his songs, despite facing renewed allegations of child abuse following the release of the damning Leaving Neverland documentary earlier this year (2019).
Instead, streaming of his music “surged”, according to Forbes officials, racking up 2.1 billion spins in the U.S., compared to the 1.8 billion from last year.
His ongoing popularity has boosted his estate’s value by an estimated $60 million in the past 12 months, thanks to proceeds from his back catalog of hits, as well as Michael Jackson: One, the Las Vegas show staged by Cirque du Soleil bosses.
The Thriller icon beats Elvis Presley to the top spot – the King of Rock & Roll raked in around $39 million during the same period, while Peanuts comic strip creator Charles Schulz takes third place with $38 million.
Golf legend Arnold Palmer and reggae star Bob Marley round out the new top five for 2019.
Meanwhile, tragic rappers Nipsey Hussle and XXXTentacion, who were both shot and killed, enter the Top-Earning Dead Celebrities list at numbers 10 and 11, respectively.