The legends of rock from days past accumulated an unfathomable amount of money over the years. John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Elvis Presley could practically swim in the amount of money they would have today. The numbers coming in from the merchandise sales from these musicians alone must be staggering; they are used on anything and everything that you can paste their face onto.
This brings us to the question of where do all of the royalties from those songs, albums, and merchandise go to now that they are gone?
John Lennon– Following Lennon being killed by Mark David Chapman in 1980, his nationally adored wife Yoko Ono became the sole controller of his estate; including all of his music and over a thousand of his drawings that Ono sends to museums and special John Lennon tributes all over the world.
Jimi Hendrix– much like the controversial death of Hendrix, control of his estate has been riddled with conflict. In 1995 Jimi’s father, Al Hendrix, rightfully gained the rights to his sons music. However, in 2002 when Al died, he left the entire estate to Jimi’s sister Janie, leaving his brother Leon (who apparently has a fairly severe substance abuse problem) totally out of the will. Leon tried to take his sister to court, but in the end the only piece of Jimi Hendrix that he won wasvthe right to use his name and his face. Janie Hendrix is the president and CEO of Experience Hendrix LLC today.
Janis Joplin -the estate of Janis was handed off to her younger siblings following her death in 1970. Laura Joplin was 21 and Michael Joplin was 17 when their big sister was found dead from an accidental heroin overdose after years of battling her issues with substance abuse. Imagine being handed that responsibility when you were at that age and immediately following the death of your idol and big sister. The estate is now managed by Jeff Jampol, president of Jam Inc., on behalf Janis Joplin’s younger brother and sister.
Elvis Presley– is, not surprisingly, one of the most sought after estates in the music industry. Lisa Marie Presley would seem the obvious candidate for controlling shareholder of the estate, but that is not the case. According to Rolling Stone, “Robert F.X. Sillerman-the businessman who founded SFX Entertainment and sold it to Clear Channel, which morphed into Live Nation, the world’s biggest concert promoter-bought 85 percent of Elvis Presley Enterprises for $53 million in 2004. Sillerman’s company, CFx, was sold to Apollo Global Management last year. Lisa Marie, Elvis’ sole heir, retains a 15 percent stake in the estate and continues to own Graceland.” Obviously, that whole scenario is clear seems to be working itself out just wonderfully.
I wonder if these legends of rock would be happy where their money is going today? I wish we could ask them.