Musicians who lost everything

We all admire musicians and sometimes their incredible fame and fortune appears to be the stuff dreams are made of. They live lavish lifestyles and are treated like gold everywhere that they go. They acquire multi-million dollar homes and apartments, at times maintaining residences in multiple places around the world.

But there are a lot of people who were on top of the world that lost it all and many of them never got it back, nor will they ever. A few people on this list might surprise you.

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Billy Joel

This one shocked me. Billy Joes is one of the most successful artists of all time and he has so many hits that even if you can't name them, there are more than a couple that you would recognize and be like "oh yeah, of course, Billy Joel." He has so many hits that some of his songs that people don't even ever hear are better than 90% of the music that is out there. I say this when I think about The Downeaster Alexa which I had never heard until it was played in the Hangover film.

Billy Joes was raking in the millions but like a lot of superstars he allowed his finances to be handled by someone else. In a truly terrible twist, Joel's brother in law and the godfather to one of Joel's children, had siphoned nearly $30 million of Billy's money and racked up tons of debt for in the singer's name. Joel has had to file for bankruptcy 3 times in his life and even though he sued his brother in law for $90 million and actually won, the amount of money that he received is rumored to have not even covered the legal fees that were involved. Tragic. I think the Piano Man will likely be doing Vegas gigs until the end of time trying to pick himself back up.

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Willy Nelson

When I think about Willy I imagine a really nice guy who makes really iconic and memorable music. Even people that don't particularly care for country music like Nelson and even though I have no reason to believe this is true, he seems like a genuinely kind person.

Nelson, like a lot of musicians, focused on his music and didn't really have much to do with his own finances. As it turns out, Nelson's accountants had been putting his earnings into dodgy offshore accounts that the IRS wasn't supposed to be able to touch. Well that didn't really work out for him and the IRS did find out and then stuck him with a bill for $32 million in back taxes. Nelson didn't have enough to pay this and the IRS seized almost all of his assets.

He had his daughter mail his favorite guitar named "Trigger" and ship it to him in Hawaii where he was playing golf. He did end up getting to keep his guitar. However his ranch and house in Texas were sold to the highest bidder to pay off his debt. The story does have a silver lining though because the people who bought the ranch were folks who felt indebted to Nelson for all the work he had done with his "Farm Aid" charity events over the years.

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MC Hammer

I don't need to tell you this one as it is probably the most famous riches to rags story in all of music history. What's so crazy about it is that Hammer was truly banking on always being as famous as he was with the Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em album. Unfortunately for him that didn't end up being the case at all and when sales declined he still kept living his life in his $30 million mansion with a massive entourage and full staff that was reportedly costing him half a million dollars a month. He filed for bankruptcy multiple times and now probably has a net worth less than your uncle.

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For me, Isaac Hayes is the voice of Chef on South Park and probably this is the case for most people who weren't alive in the 60's and 70's where he was considered one of the best Soul singers in the world. Unfortunately for Hayes, he decided that he wanted to get into the recording industry as an owner and his company "Stax" didn't do very well. When the company was declared insolvent, they didn't have the $5 million that they owed Hayes for his involvement.

He owed more than he had in debts and as payment for these debts and his bankruptcy, he had to sign away the royalty rights to his own music in the process. He tragically passed away at the age of 65 back in 2008 after suffering a second stroke.

So perhaps making it to the big time isn't the best thing that can happen to a person. All of these men and many more have managed to have very little left after the spotlight turns off and most of this is because while they are indeed very talented individuals, they seem to lack sensibility when it comes to their own finances. I don't think that I have managed to accrue even $1 million in my lifetime but I have never had to declare bankruptcy. It seems impossible to me that someone could blow so much money, but it happens time and time again... and this is before we even start talking about the people with horrible drug addiction... which none of the above ever had much of.... Maybe I'll talk about that some other time



Future reading