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Jay-Z and Kanye West Among 2021's Highest Paid Musicians

Photo credit: Tyler Cummings 
When former constant collaborators Jay-Z and Kanye West reunited for the first time in five years in 2021 for Ye’s album “Donda,” it would have been hard to imagine the dynamic duo having their names attached to a more impressive feat at the end of the year.

Jay-Z’s verse on “Jail” ended years of semi-public and subtle feuding between the mentor and his former protégée and generated excitement that they might resume their creative relationship, which contributed to many of the artists' biggest hits as well as the quintuple platinum album “Watch the Throne.” 

The 2011 joint project topped the Billboard charts in 12 countries and was the catalyst behind the highest-grossing hip-hop concert tour in history.

The reunion between the Businessman and the Bipolar Billionaire has been overshadowed, however, by the latest report from Rolling Stone. The seminal music publication counted Jay-Z and West among 2021’s top-earning musicians.

In a list compiled by Zach O’Malley Greenburg, the two were the only Black faces on the very white and very male list. Jay-Z took the No. 2 spot with $470 million in earnings and West was fourth with $250 million.

Their high rankings were made more impressive by the fact that the rappers, along with West’s one-time nemesis Taylor Swift (No. 10 with $80 million), were the only ones to make the cut without selling the rights to their musical catalogs.

For, example, Bruce Springsteen, who topped the list, earned $590 million. He sold his publishing copyrights and master recordings to Sony in December for $550 million in a record-setting deal for a solo musician’s catalog.

“These are almost like pieces of art — there’s a finite number of real, super-high-quality hit songs from the past — and there’s this sort of all-out grab to own those rights,” Josh Gruss, CEO of Round Hill Music, which has dropped $1.3 billion on music copyrights in the last 10 years, told Rolling Stone. “It’s a very steady stream of revenue that’s there, and that makes it very attractive for investment.”

Jay-Z and West both had significant earnings outside of music.

The sale of half of his Armand de Brignac champagne to LVMH for $300 million and a portion of Tidal to Square contributed heavily to Jay-Z’s ranking, while West, who also profited from the release of “Donda,” earned most of his green from his Yeezy footwear brand as well as a collaboration with The Gap.

The remainder of the Top 10, according to Rolling Stone, included Blake Shelton (No. 9, $83 million), Mötley Crüe (No. 8 $95 million), Lindsey Buckingham (No. 7, $100 million), Red Hot Chili Peppers (No. 6 $140 million), Ryan Tedder (No. 5, $200 million) and Paul Simon (No. 3, $260 million).

Check out the full report here

Lionel Richie to Receive Gershwin Prize for Pop Music

There’s going to be a celebration for Lionel Richie, and it may just last all night long.

Today the Library of Congress announced that Richie will receive the national library’s Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

The artist, who has sold more than 125 million albums worldwide, will be honored with an all-star tribute concert in Washington, D.C., on March 9, which will be broadcast nationally on PBS stations May 17.

“This is truly an honor of a lifetime, and I am so grateful to be receiving the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song,” Richie said in a statement. “I am proud to be joining all the other previous artists, who I also admire and am a fan of their music.”

Bestowed in recognition of the legendary songwriting team of George and Ira Gershwin, the Gershwin Prize recognizes a living musical artist’s lifetime achievement in promoting the genre of song as a vehicle of entertainment, information, inspiration and cultural understanding. The honoree is selected by the Librarian of Congress in consultation with a board of scholars, producers, performers, songwriters and other music specialists.

In receiving the award, Richie joins an exclusive club. Previous recipients include Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Smokey Robinson, Tony Bennett, Gloria Estefan and Garth Brooks.

“In so many ways, this national honor was made for Lionel Richie whose music has entertained and inspired us — and helped strengthen our global connections,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden of why he was chosen for the award. “Lionel Richie’s unforgettable work has shown us that music can bring us together. Even when we face problems and disagree on issues, songs can show us what we have in common.”

Richie, whose hits include chart-toppers “Endless Love,” “Lady,” “Truly,” “All Night Long,” “Penny Lover,” “Stuck on You,” “Hello,” “Say You, Say Me,” “Dancing on the Ceiling,” at one point in his career wrote No. 1 songs for 11 consecutive years. He also co-wrote the iconic charity tribute “We Are the World,” for USA for Africa.

For his work he has earned an Oscar, a Golden Globe and four Grammy Awards. Richie has also worked to further the career of other musicians, working as a mentor to artists and as a judge on ABC’s “American Idol” for the past four seasons.

Ronnie Spector, ’60s Icon Behind ‘Be My Baby,’ dead at 78

The original bad girl of rock'n'roll, Ronnie Spector, died Wednesday following a brief battle with cancer.

Spector, whose signature reach-for-the-ceiling beehive hairdo and sultry vocals propelled her to pop icon status in the 1960s as the lead singer of the chart-topping girl group The Ronettes, was 78.

"Our beloved earth angel, Ronnie, peacefully left this world today," read a statement posted by her family on the singer's website confirming her passing. "She was with family and in the arms of her husband, Jonathan. Ronnie lived her life with a twinkle in her eye, a spunky attitude, a wicked sense of humor and a smile on her face. She was filled with love and gratitude. Her joyful sound, playful nature and magical presence will live on in all who knew, heard or saw her."

Born Veronica Yvette Bennett in Spanish Harlem. Spector, who was of Black and Cherokee descent on her mother’s side and Irish on her father’s, formed The Darling Sisters while she was a teenager with her older sister Estelle and their cousin Nedra Talley.

The group was signed to Colpix Records in 1961. It was not until two years later, however, when it moved to Phil Spector's Philles Records that its music started to take off, and the girls began to blaze their own path in a market crowded with ready-built acts targeted for teen consumption.

Under Spector, known as “the first tycoon of teen" for his adeptness at the market, the group changed its name to The Ronettes and had a string of 60s hits, such as “Be My Baby,” “Baby I Love You” and “Walking in the Rain.”

The Ronettes 

In 1968 the creative marriage between Phil Spector, who produced and wrote many of The Ronettes hits,
became a real one. In 1974 Spector’s abuse and refusal to allow his wife to perform led to a divorce, as detailed by Ronnie in her memoir “Be My Baby: The Autobiography of Ronnie Spector."

Photo Credit: Chris Hall
“I knew that if I didn’t leave I was going to die there,” Ronnie, whose touring for a time was confined to psychiatric wards, told Vanity Fair, adding that when the judge ordered support of $1,300 per month, Phil had a Brink’s truck deliver the first payment to her lawyer’s office—in nickels. The court put a stop to that, so Phil switched to checks stamped with “f—k off” on the back.

Following the divorce, Ronnie struggled to reestablish her career releasing four solo albums from 1980 to 2016 to middling success. She made a brief return to the limelight in 1986 thanks to a memorable solo in Eddie Money's 1986 hit "Take Me Home Tonight."

The Ronettes, who headlined for rock heavyweights The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and The Beatles during their career, were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.