From Celebrity Net Worth:
1.Hill Sisters – “Happy Birthday” (1893). Estimated earnings: $50 million
Most people have no idea that the song you sing at every birthday party ever is copyrighted material. The song was written by a pair of sisters who were kindergarten teachers. Ownership of the song has traded hands several times over the last century. In 1990 Warner Chappell paid $15 million for the rights. Technically it’s illegal to sing “Happy Birthday” in a large group of unrelated people (like an office party) without paying a royalty to the current copyright holder Warner Music Group (which is owned by a private corporate conglomerate called Access Industries). Today the song brings in $2 million a year in royalties ($5000 per day). It costs $25,000 to use the song in a movie or TV show which explains why you often see the characters sing an odd, amalgamated version on screen. This also explains why chain restaurants sing their own custom songs for a guest’s birthday. The copyright for “Happy Birthday” expires in 2030 in the United States and 2016 in the European Union, at which point we can all finally sing Happy Birthday without writing a royalty check.
2. Irving Berlin – “White Christmas” (1940). Estimated earnings: $36 million
Written by a Jewish immigrant from Russia, no song really captures the heart of Christmas like this song. Bing Crosby’s cover of “White Christmas” has sold over 100 million units since to date worldwide.
3. Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Phil Specter – “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” (1964). Estimated earnings: $32 million
Super producer (and convicted murderer) Phil Spector applied his “Wall of Sound” production techniques to this massive hit. Spector also insisted (against everyone’s judgement) that the writers add the now-famous line “and he is gone, gone, gone, Whoa, whoa, whoa”. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” is the number one most played song in radio history. Interestingly, just like the #5 song “Unchained Melody”, the song received a massive boost thanks to a Righteous Brothers cover version that has appeared in dozens of movies, most notably 1986′s “Top Gun”.
4. John Lennon and Paul McCartney – “Yesterday” (1965). Estimated earnings: $30 million
Even though Paul McCartney wrote and sang 100% of this song on his own, he had a longstanding agreement with fellow Beatle John Lennon to split all writing credits 50/50. That means Yoko Ono still earns millions today off a song that has been covered by more than 2200 artists and is the second most played song in radio history. Due to their standard practice, the song is credited to “Lennon-McCartney”, in 2000 Paul asked Yoko if they could change it to “McCartney-Lennon” but she refused.
5. Alex North & Hy Zaret – “Unchained Melody” (1955). Estimated earnings: $27.5 million
This song has been covered by more than 650 different artists, most notably The Righteous Brothers in 1965. The song was given another massive boost in 1990 when it was featured in the blockbuster film “Ghost”.
Continue reading the rest of the story on Celebrity Net Worth