Mo' Money, Mo' Problems: 5 Musicians Who Had to File for Bankruptcy

Recently it was revealed that Cat Power was not only suffering from a serious illness called angiodema that was threatening to stop her European tour, but also that she has filed for bankruptcy. That tour has indeed been postponed, but Cat Power is hardly the first musician to be running low on cash.

Everyone remembers the famous story of MC Hammer blowing virtually all the money he made from "U Can't Touch This" on needless excess and winding up in Chapter 11 court. He was hardly the first. They say a fool and his money are soon parted, and plenty musicians have made fool of themselves after their seemingly never-ending success has suddenly dried up.

5. David Crosby

In the '60s and '70s, David Crosby was a bona fide star through the Byrds and his collaborations with Neil Young, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash. By the '80s, he was virtually forgotten after undertaking a poorly received solo career. The folkie and hippie movements had ended abruptly.

By 1985, Crosby was so broke that he not only had to file for bankruptcy but was quickly selling off some of his most prized possessions, including his boat. That year, however, CSNY reunited for a show at Live Aid, which probably recouped a good deal of Crosby's losses.

4. George Clinton

Maybe 1985 was just a bad year for musicians. George Clinton had also been a major star in the '70s with his funk-rock bands Funkadelic and Parliament. However, as funk went in a more pop-oriented direction with the advent of disco and stars like Prince, Clinton's time passed him by. In 1985, he was also forced into bankruptcy.

Ironically, it would only be a few short years later that Clinton would launch a career revival on Prince's Paisley Park Records. As it turned out, a lot of fans were inclined to check into some of Prince's biggest influences, including Clinton, and soon Clinton was awarded with the acclaim of the important veteran that he is considered today.

3. Harry Nilsson

Unfortunately, the story of Harry Nilsson doesn't have a happy ending like those mentioned above. After some serious embezzlement by his manager in 1990, Nilsson said he went from being a multimillionaire to literally having $300 in his bank account. He started working hard to make back his money, since his manager never paid him a single dime back for it -- even after being convicted and sent to jail -- but it was too late.

Resale Concert Tickets

Powered By
powered by Seats For Everyone SEE MORE

  • Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019 / 6:30pm @ House Of Blues - Houston 1204 Caroline St Houston TX 77002
    1204 Caroline St, Houston TX 77002

  • Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019 / 7:30pm @ Scout Bar - Houston 18307 South Egret Bay Boulevard Houston TX 77058
    18307 South Egret Bay Boulevard, Houston TX 77058

  • Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019 / 7:00pm @ White Oak Music Hall - Upstairs 2915 N. Main Houston TX 77009
    2915 N. Main, Houston TX 77009

In 1993, Nilsson suffered a serious heart attack. Instead of taking care of himself, he was forced to continue working on his career and what would prove to be his final recordings. Shortly after the beginning of the next year, he was dead of heart failure and still broke. Only since his death has his recording catalogue been reappraised and given the critical acclaim that it deserves.

2. Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye definitely had better years than 1976. Not only did he find himself divorced from his wife, Anna Gordy, daughter of Motown owner Berry Gordy, but his commercial success was drying up. On top of that, he owed money to the IRS and was getting hooked on cocaine. And if all that wasn't bad enough, a court ordered him to pay a large portion of the royalties from his next album to his now-ex-wife to pay for alimony.

With all that in mind, Gaye filed for bankruptcy, then recorded what is considered one of his greatest works, Here, My Dear, an album mostly inspired by his divorce and subsequent problems. Unfortunately, the album flopped and he never quite recovered financially or commercially from the whole ordeal before his untimely death -- shot by his father, Marvin Gay Sr., during a domestic quarrel -- in 1984.

1. Leonard Cohen

Similar to the Nilsson story, Cohen's former manager also embezzled most of Cohen's money, forcing him to declare bankruptcy in 2005. At that time, Cohen had not toured since the early '90s and was only recording sporadically, having gone into semi-retirement. He was forced to come out of retirement and get back on the road to recoup his losses. Thankfully, he seems to be doing fine these days and seems to have rediscovered his love for the stage, even at his advanced age.

Unfortunately, his ordeal with his manager did not end there. After he found out about her crime and took her to court, she began to call Cohen constantly, harassing him and leaving him extremely threatening and unbalanced voicemails, also dredging up a brief romantic relationship the two had shared. In the end, she found herself in prison for both the embezzlement and the harassment.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >