Rock Stars Who Are Poorer Than You Think


Many rock stars have earned hefty sums during
their careers, and a lot of them have also lost hefty sums during their careers. The rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle doesn’t tend to
breed paragons of financial responsibility, so let’s take a look at some rock stars who
are surprisingly poor. With his monthly residency at Madison Square
Garden and scores of hit songs, it’s not like Billy Joel wallows in poverty. Still, even a wealthy entertainer feels it
when someone embezzles him out of tens of millions of dollars. This is exactly what happened to Joel, courtesy
of his former manager Frank Weber. The ridiculous numbers involved were revealed
in 1989, when Joel sued Weber for a whopping $90 million. $30 million of that was compensatory damage
for money Weber had allegedly squandered, and $60 million was punitive damages for the
multiple ways Weber had reportedly defrauded According to the lawsuit, Weber had given
huge loans to his own enterprises in Joel’s name, lost over $10 million on various investments,
and even mortgaged the singer’s copyrights without bothering to mention it. All the while, he was pulling strings to make
the papers that Joel received massively misleading. And while he was doing all this, he was also
happily raking in $20 million of Joel’s money in commissions. Joel’s quest for comeuppance didn’t exactly
go well, as Weber cunningly filed for bankruptcy and the case was ultimately settled out of
court. This notably wasn’t even the first time the
Weber family had hurt the singer. In 1982, Joel had a painful divorce from Weber’s
sister Elizabeth, who ironically also used to manage Joel, who would later exclaim, “I hooked up with the Borgias!” Despite being one of country music’s most
popular and longest-tenured artists, Willie Nelson has surprisingly little to show for
himself. Many of his difficulties stem from his issues
with the IRS, which hit him with a ridiculous $16.6 million bill in 1990. While Nelson’s lawyer negotiated it down to
a “mere” $6 million, it didn’t make the sum any more affordable for the artist. Things eventually escalated to a point at
which the IRS confiscated basically everything Nelson owned in 1990, and the poor country
star had to spend years in tax debt limbo. At one point, he even released an album called
The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories? in an effort to raise money to pay his tax bill. “This is a collection of songs that is very
special to me, and I hope you’ll enjoy listening to them as much as I enjoyed playing them
for you.” Despite those efforts to pay back his taxes,
Nelson wasn’t fully in the clear. As Texas Monthly reported in 1991, his finances
were somewhat rocky even without the IRS calling to collect. The country legend had a habit of keeping
a huge entourage and distributing his cash readily to hangers-on, sometimes to the point
that he himself had little left. Chan Marshall, better known as Cat Power,
is one of the premier indie music success stories of the late nineties and early 2000s. By the 2010s, she was a revered artist that
managed to sell out venues wherever she went on tour. That’s the kind of career that not only makes
people assume a musician has financial security, but also root for her to have it. After all, isn’t it nice when an indie rocker
can secure such a huge slice of the success pie? So imagine everyone’s surprise when Marshall
canceled her 2012 European tour due to the fact that she had gone bankrupt. To be fair, she had some perfectly good reasons
for her unfortunate financial situation. She has a history of addiction, psychotic
breaks, and mental health issues. Some of these have led to hospitalization,
which have necessitated wallet-hurting tour cancellations. In 2012, she had spent most of her savings
on producing her hit album, Sun, when she was struck down by angioedema, a nasty immune
disorder that swells up the face, tongue, and throat and is potentially life-threatening. Fortunately, she recovered, and she seems
to be doing a lot better these days. It’s probably fair to say that Ron Isley of
the Isley Brothers isn’t the greatest taxpayer on earth. In 2006, he was charged with five counts of
tax evasion and one count of “willful failure to file a tax return,” which netted him three
years and one month behind bars, along with $3.1 million in back taxes. This was the last straw in a history of IRS
troubles, to the point that the judge called him a, quote, “serial tax avoider.” Isley’s history with money is certainly less
than exemplary. He first filed for bankruptcy in 1984, and
the second time came in 1997, when the IRS had enough with his antics and seized a bunch
of his property, including cars and a yacht. In 2001, the singer was discharged from bankruptcy,
but he promptly failed to file his tax returns for the past four years and cheated on his
return for 2002. Fortunately, his 2006 prison sentence taught
him his lesson and put him back on the straight and narrow. That is, if one ignores that he was still
fighting the IRS in 2013, and his earliest tax return troubles go all the way back to
1971. At least he’s consistent. Brooklyn-bred indie rock band Grizzly Bear
first broke big around 2006. According to a 2012 interview with Vulture,
they went from playing at diners for handfuls of people to opening for Radiohead, having
their music featured in Super Bowl ads, and being praised by Jay-Z. Still, years of indie prestige, sold-out venues,
and critical acclaim didn’t make the band super-rich. In fact, according to singer Ed Droste, they’re
pretty far from any kind of wealth at all. The band members still live in the same places
they did pre-fame, and some of them don’t even have health insurance. While Droste admits they’re getting by, he
told Vulture the fact that no one’s buying records anymore makes bands appear bigger
than they actually are. He also noted that even the seemingly lucrative
act of licensing a song will only bring the band members a small amount of financial security. As Droste put it, it might make them go, “Yay, I don’t have to pay rent for two months.” Grizzly Bear generates most of its revenue
from touring, but after agents, managers, tour staff, venues, Ticketmaster, and others
have taken their share, the band members’ bank accounts are apparently nothing to write
home about. To make things easier on their wallet, they
cut costs by only sleeping in hotels occasionally and generally treating the whole operation
as a risky small business. Sly Stone and his group the Family Stone were
a mainstay of the late sixties and early seventies music scene, and songs like “Dance to the
Music” and “Everyday People” remain pop culture touchstones to this day. So it’s easy to think that Stone, as the frontman
and primary songwriter of the group, would be rolling in the same kind of cash many other
superstars of the era do. Alas, instead, in 2011 he was rolling in his
camper van, which he also lived in. But if you go back to 2007, Stone was still
living the kind of life you’d expect from a star of his caliber. He had a huge house, multiple cars, and a
vineyard in Napa Valley. However, it appears that the combination of
a hefty drug habit and some financial difficulties, including a $50 million lawsuit against his
former manager, eventually left him in a bad place. While Stone himself claimed to enjoy the transient
van life, that may have just been him trying to put a positive spin on his circumstances. Luckily, his finances have somewhat improved
thanks to the Music Modernization Act, which dragged copyright law kicking and screaming
into the modern age. In the process, it netted Stone some surely
welcome streaming royalties. Conor Oberst, who is best known as the founder
of the indie band Bright Eyes, told W Magazine in 2017 that he recently moved to Omaha, Nebraska
because he couldn’t afford New York City rents anymore. One of the reasons he can’t make ends meet
in the Big Apple probably has something to do with the time he fell victim to a strange
and hurtful online hoax. Oberst’s reputation took a serious hit in
2013, when an anonymous woman claimed online that he had assaulted her. That accusation went viral on the internet
and eventually spread to mainstream media. Oberst’s representatives released a statement,
and a back-and-forth over whether the artist was guilty or not started raging. Five months into the incident, Oberst sued
the commenter, who had deleted her initial post, for libel. Two months later, she admitted that she had
made the whole thing up for attention. Still, the story was already out there on
the internet, and tons of people were now seeing Oberst’s name in conjunction with a
nasty accusation. From his time in The Partridge Family to his
status as a major pop star, David Cassidy’s lengthy career and permanently smiling face
always made it seem that he was enjoying a financially secure life. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from
the truth. Before his death in 2017, he was living with
dementia while also dealing with the burden of financial problems. In 2015, People Magazine reported that he
filed for bankruptcy and that his accumulated debts ran as high as $10 million. Meanwhile, his heirs received only roughly
$150,000 in assets and assorted music memorabilia. One possible reason for Cassidy’s surprisingly
low net worth may be that the dementia he claimed he was fighting was not, in fact,
dementia at all. He had a history of alcoholism and had three
DUI arrests in his final years, and in 2018, a documentary that aired on A&E revealed that
prior to his death, Cassidy confessed that the dementia was actually all about alcohol. He had been drinking and quietly suffering
from a liver disease while his family thought he was clean. Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver frontman
Scott Weiland was notorious for his struggles with addiction. His longtime demons finally got the best of
him when he died of an accidental overdose of cocaine, MDA, and ethanol in December 2015. As such tragedies tend to do, this prompted
a look into the late singer’s finances, which weren’t exactly in great shape either. Since his death, Weiland’s estate has been
bringing in an average annual royalty income of almost $265,000. Overall, the total value of his estate was
reportedly $1.6 million, according to court documents filed in 2018. That doesn’t sound too bad, but there are
some significant bills to pay. Weiland reportedly owed $645,000 to City National
Bank and $700,000 to a “significant federal creditor,” which makes the net worth of his
estate less than a year’s worth of royalties. As such, it appears that his kids didn’t exactly
become millionaires overnight. In 2018, a judge ruled that the estate must
pay the two children of Weiland and his ex-wife Mary an allowance of $4,000 per month until
they turn 18. Considering that the children were already
15 and 17 at the time of the ruling, they’re not exactly set for life. Legendary Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister
roamed the earth’s venues nigh-constantly from the seventies to his death in 2015. He’s indisputably one of the greatest rock
stars of all time. As his band’s sole consistent member and their
main songwriter, he should by all accounts have been rolling in countless millions. Or so you’d think. According to Metal Insider, the total worth
of Kilmister’s estate at the time of his death was originally assumed to be around $8.3 million. However, it eventually turned out to be $648,000,
which is certainly nothing to scoff at, but it does seem like a pretty insignificant sum
for so many decades of sheer rock ‘n’ roll. Of course, it’s not like Kilmister didn’t
have opportunities to spend what he earned over the years. He was known for his excesses, from his decades-long
speed and alcohol habits to his extensive collection of German war memorabilia. In some ways, his relative lack of wealth
isn’t surprising at all, considering how much he was living up the rock star lifestyle. “Without drugs, would there be a Motörhead?” “Oh yeah there would be, yeah, some sort
of-” “Would it be the same?” “No, probably wouldn’t be called Motörhead
cause that’s slang for ‘speed freak.'” Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Grunge videos about your favorite
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