A History of Musicians Going Bankrupt

With the news that 50 Cent has filed for bankruptcywhere did that $260 million from Vitamin Water go?–it’s timely that we review other financial indiscretions and missteps that resulted in the rapid evaporation of many, many millions of dollars.

Musicians going bankrupt is more common than you might realize. Like who?  Mick Fleetwood. David Crosby. Dee Snider. Marvin Gaye.Vanilla Ice. MC Hammer. UB40. Dionne Warwick. Even Michael Jackson came perilously close. The list goes on.  Let’s consult The Guardian.

Long before 50 Cent filed his “strategic business” bankruptcy this week, high-profile funk, soul and pop acts had applied to manage their debt by declaring they lacked the cash to pay it off. In 1976, Marvin Gaye filed for bankruptcy after the costs of his cocaine habit and mounting alimony payments had dwarfed his profits. Tom Petty, on the other hand, filed in 1979 in a bid to wriggle out of a restrictive record label contract.

For David Crosby, an expensive drug habit may have played a part, too. In the cocaine-dusted years after his Byrds and early Crosby, Stills and Nash heyday, he hit monetary rock bottom. He was arrested on drugs and weapon possession charges in 1983, before filing for bankruptcy in 1985. Since then, he’s bounced back well enough to play a solo acoustic tour and tweet about Kanye West being “dumb as a post” this year, so perhaps time can heal all wounds.

George Clinton had a rough 1985 as well. A convoluted series of legal disputes revealed the funk legend was earning relatively little money from royalties paid in connection to his music. He ended up bankrupt, though he’d written hundreds of popular songs that rappers later sampled with gusto.

Keep going. And if that’s not enough, there are these cautionary tales.  Finally, David Cassidy has gone bankrupt, too, and is being forced to sell his Miami home.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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