Rock ‘n’ roll legend
The list, published on Tuesday, said grunge rocker Cobain earned $50 million between October 2005 and October 2006. Presley wound up in the No. 2 slot with $42 million, down from last year’s $45 million.
Forbes.com bases its dollar amounts on licensing deals for using the deceased celebrities’ work or image in advertising or elsewhere.
This was Cobain’s first time on the list in its six years of publication. Presley has ruled the roost since its inception, said Forbes.com staff writer Lacey Rose.
Cobain’s coup was due to his widow, actress and singer, who sold a 25-percent stake in the Seattle grunge group’s song catalog to New York music publishing company PrimeWave.
Ranked after Presley is "Peanuts" cartoon strip creator Charles Schulz at $35 million.
Rounding out the top five were Beatle John Lennon at $24 million and groundbreaking physicist Albert Einstein at $20 million, whose estate profited from such licensing deals as the popular "Baby Einstein" educational videos.
Other celebrities on the list include Theodore Geisel, better known as children’s book author Dr. Seuss; rhythm & blues pioneer Ray Charles, silver screen legend Marilyn Monroe and reggae superstar Bob Marley.
Past top earners include songwriter Irving Berlin and actor Marlon Brando.