The highest-earning songs of all time

The highest-earning songs of all time BLOG Thursday 20th January 2022




The highest-earning songs of all time

The highest-earning songs of all time

Imagine if you could write one perfect song that would earn enough money for you to live like royalty for the rest of your life. Such is the case for many of the songwriters on this list, but, being talented geniuses, they kept on working for the love of the music rather than packing it in and retiring in style.

In some cases, a cover became far more successful than the original song. That might cause a little sting for the true owner, but the massive yearly royalty checks are probably an effective salve!

  1. ‘I Will Always Love You’ by Dolly Parton

Many aren’t aware that the song ‘I Will Always Love You’ was first written and performed by Dolly Parton. She wrote it in 1973, and it reached number one on the Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart twice in 1974 and again in 1982.

In 1992, Whitney Houston covered the song for the soundtrack of her movie ‘The Bodyguard,’ and it quickly became one of the best-selling singles of all time. It sold 24 million copies, and earned millions for Dolly Parton!

  1. ‘Yesterday’ by John Lennon and Paul McCartney

The Beatles’ famous song ‘Yesterday’ was written entirely by John Lennon, but due to a deal he and Paul McCartney made to split the credit for all of their songs 50/50, they are both credited as writers.

John Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono was his sole heir, so she has received the royalties earned from the song’s continued popularity. ‘Yesterday’ is one of the most played songs in radio history and has brought in an estimated US$30 million.

  1. ‘White Christmas’ by Irving Berlin

‘White Christmas’ is the quintessential Christmas song. However, it was written by Russian composer Irving Berlin, who was actually Jewish. But he nailed the Christmas spirit even though he didn’t celebrate the holiday himself.

There have been many covers of the Christmas classic, but Bing Crosby’s version is the most popular by far (over 50 million copies have been sold, making it the best-selling single of all time). As a whole, the many versions of ‘White Christmas’ have sold more than 100 million copies worldwide and earned an estimated US$36 million.

  1. ‘Every Breath You Take’ by Sting

Sting wrote the hit song ‘Every Breath You Take’ while he was performing with The Police in 1983. It remained on the Billboard Top 100 list for eight weeks running and was later sampled in another highly successful song.

Sean Combs, then known as Puff Daddy, created the song ‘I’ll Be Missing You’ in memory of his friend and rapper The Notorious B.I.G. This version of the song made US$7 million alone, and the original version by The Police still makes an estimated US$730,000 per year.

  1. ‘Happy Birthday’ by The Hill Sisters

The ‘Happy Birthday’ song was created in 1893 by two sisters from Louisville, Kentucky. Patty Hill was a school teacher and her sister Mildred was a musician and composer. They were both leaders of the national kindergarten movement and came up with the song to entertain their young students.

Their song is still being sung all over the world more than a century later. The rights have changed hands a few times, and the song is currently owned by Warner/Chappell Music. It earns an estimated US$5,000 per day in royalties and has raked in around US$50 million since its creation. It was perhaps most famously sung by Marilyn Monroe to President John F. Kennedy for his birthday in 1962.

  1. ‘Shape of You’ by Ed Sheeran, Steve Mac, and Johnny McDaid

Ed Sheeran’s 2017 song ‘Shape of You’ is one of the best-selling songs of all time, which is particularly impressive considering how recent it is compared to some of the others on this list. It hasn’t even had the chance for a comeback yet!

Co-written with British musicians Steve Mac and Johnny McDaid, ‘Shape of You’ sold 42 million copies. Sheeran also won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Solo Performance with this song.

  1. ‘Candle in the Wind’ by Elton John and Bernie Taupin

Elton John and his writing partner, Bernie Taupin, wrote the song ‘Candle in the Wind’ in 1973. It was originally written about the death of Marilyn Monroe, but John updated it after the death of another female icon, this time a dear friend.

After Princess Diana was killed in a car accident in 1997, Elton John rewrote the lyrics and dedicated the song to her. It became the second-best-selling single of all time. The exact value of the song isn’t known, but it sold at least 33 million copies worldwide.

  1. ‘Despacito’ by Luis Rodriguez, Ramon Ayala, and Erika Ender

Released in 2017, ‘Despacito’ became the third best-selling song in history. It was written by Luis Rodriguez, Ramon Ayala, and Erika Ender, and was originally performed by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee. It was an explosive hit in Latin America.

A few months later, Justin Bieber heard the song in a Colombian nightclub and decided to release a remix. His version was also one of the biggest songs of the year. ‘Despacito’ sold 24 million copies in 2017 alone.

  1. ‘Stand by Me’ by Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber, and Mike Stoller

‘Stand By Me’ was written in 1961 by composers Ben E. King and Mike Stoller and lyricist Jerry Leiber. It was performed by Ben E. King and was a big hit in its own right in the ’60s.

It made a serious comeback 25 years later when it was used in the 1986 movie ‘Stand by Me’ starring the late River Phoenix. The song has been recorded by over 400 different artists and earned an estimated US$27 million.

  1. ‘Unchained Melody’ by Alex North and Hy Zaret

Composers Alex North and Hy Zaret wrote the song ‘Unchained Melody’ for a little-known film called ‘Unchained’ in 1955. It went on to be covered by The Righteous Brothers in 1956 and became an unprecedented success. It was covered by hundreds of other artists, which further extended its popularity.

Unchained Melody’ was used in the 1990 Oscar-winning movie ‘Ghost,’ starring Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze. The song has earned an estimated US$27.5 million.

  1. Oh Pretty Woman’ by Roy Orbison and Bill Dees

Roy Orbison’s song ‘Oh Pretty Woman,’ written by himself and Bill Dees, wasn’t a huge commercial success when it was first released in 1964. However, the two creators hit the big time when it was featured in the 1990 movie ‘Pretty Woman.’

The movie’s success massively increased the value of the song, bringing it up to approximately US$19.75 million. Writer Bill Dees stated in 2012 that he was still earning between US$100,000 and US$200,000 in royalties every year.

  1. ‘The Christmas Song’ by Mel Tormé and Bob Wells

Another Christmas classic that raked in the big bucks is ‘The Christmas Song’ by Mel Tormé and his writing partner Bob Wells. Those comforting lyrics that conjure memories of “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” are still heard every winter. However, it’s not Mel Tormé’s voice we hear!

Nat King Cole’s 1964 rendition truly solidified ‘The Christmas Song’ as a classic. Tormé and Wells earned an estimated US$19 million from their creation. Ironically, they wrote it in the middle of a sweltering Californian summer!

  1. ‘You’ve Lost That Feeling’ by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, and Phil Spector

Songwriting power couple (and real-life married couple) Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil teamed up with the famous music producer (and later convicted murderer) Phil Spector to write a song in 1964. They come up with the hit song ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin.’ Spector suggested adding the line “and he is gone, gone, gone, Whoa, whoa, whoa,” which Mann and Weil grudgingly agreed to.

It ended up being the most iconic line in one of the most successful songs of all time. It was recorded by The Righteous Brothers and became a huge hit in the 1960s. It experienced a renaissance in the 1980s when it was used in the ‘Top Gun’ (1986) soundtrack. It has been covered by more than 2,200 different artists and is estimated to have earned US$32 million.

  1. ‘In the Summertime’ by Raymond Dorset

‘In the Summertime’ was a song released by British rock band Mungo Jerry. It was written by the band’s lead singer, Raymond Dorset. The upbeat skiffle track sold 31 million copies when it was released in 1970.

Raymond Dorset has said that it only took him 10 minutes to write the entire song! Not bad for an instant hit that still frequently appears in film, TV, and advertising.

  1. ‘Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town’ by Haven Gillespie and Fred J. Coots

‘Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town’ was written by Haven Gillespie and Fred J. Coots in 1954. Within a few days of its release, more than 400 copies of the sheet music had been ordered. The song has been covered countless times over the years, but some of the most successful covers were performed by Bing Crosby, Mariah Carey, and Bruce Springsteen. It has earned an estimated US$27 million.

Source: Stars Insider          


REMEMBER: The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.

– Nicolas Chamfort



God puts people in your life for a reason and removes them from your life for a better reason.


Happiness is…writing a bestselling song.


A man entered a local paper’s pun contest. He sent in 10 different puns, in the hope that at least one of the puns would win. Unfortunately, no pun in 10 did.


Love is… big hearted.


A time to listen to ‘Unchained Melody’…A time to listen to ‘Stand by Me’.

A time to listen to ‘Oh Pretty Woman’…A time to listen to ‘Candle in the Wind@.

A time to listen to ‘White Christmas’…A time to listen to ‘Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town’.


©2022 Phil M Robinson