Washington, DC - Based on the Recording Industry Association of America’s universally recognized Gold®, Platinum®, Multi-Platinum™ and Diamond® Award program, which has tracked the careers of artists since 1958, the recording community today announced its own “Artists of the Century” list.
Thirty-five years after Beatlemania reached its crest, the Fab Four remain the most successful recording act of the 20th Century. According to the RIAA, the Beatles have sold more than 106 million albums in the U.S. alone -- more than any other artist in this century.
Two of the award program’s brightest stars, Garth Brooks and Barbra Streisand, are the century’s most successful male and female artists. Brooks has sold 89 million albums in the United States -- a total second only to the Beatles. Streisand has sold nearly 62 million albums. Combined, these three artists alone have sold more than 250 million albums domestically -- epitomizing the explosive growth of the music industry in the past four decades.
The RIAA also announced today that the Eagles’ “Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975” has reached the 26-million mark, becoming the best-selling album of the 20th century. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” held the record from 1984, -- when the RIAA introduced Multi-Platinum™ awards -- until January of this year when the Eagles tied his record. “Thriller” remains this century’s best-selling studio album by a solo artist.
Elton John’s “Candle In The Wind 1997” is named the top-selling single of the century, with certified U.S. sales of 11 million copies.
Elvis Presley reigns as the performer with the most Gold® albums and the most platinum albums. The King’s wealth has surpassed 77 million units in the U.S. alone.
“These artists represent the very best of popular music,” said Hilary Rosen, president and CEO of the RIAA. “All have been major trendsetters, as well as record-breakers. Their exceptional talent has opened doors for other artists to follow. They deserve the highest accolades the music industry has to offer.’’
The Beatles and Elvis Presley revolutionized pop culture—reshaping music, fashion and society--in the 1950s and 1960s. Barbra Streisand proved that women could achieve and sustain stardom on par with any male artist. The Eagles have influenced a generation of rock and country artists. Michael Jackson’s success in the 1980s broke the barriers for other African American artists, in the same way that Garth Brooks’ success in the ‘90s blazed a trail for other country performers. Sir Elton John has been one of the century’s most enduringly popular and prolific entertainers.
Beatles: John, Paul, George and Ringo are the only act in history with five Diamond® albums, signifying U.S. sales of 10 million copies or more. These include the three best-selling albums of the 1960s, “The Beatles (White Album),” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Abbey Road,” as well as a pair of 1973 hit compilations. The Beatles received their first gold album, “Meet The Beatles!,” and their first gold single, “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” on the same day - February 3, 1964. Music hasn’t been the same since.
Garth Brooks: The country icon is the only solo artist in history with four Diamond® albums. Brooks has the two best-selling country albums of all time - “No Fences” and “Ropin’ The Wind.” Brooks triggered the country explosion of the’90s and paved the way for such country crossover stars as Shania Twain and Alan Jackson. Brooks’ other two Diamond® albums are “Double Live!” and “The Hits.” With all that Brooks has achieved, it’s hard to imagine that he received his first gold album less than 10 years ago. With sales of 89 million albums, Brooks has been officially recognized by the RIAA as the top male artist of the decade.
Barbra Streisand: The legendary performer has had 26 Platinum® albums, 13 of which are multi-million sellers. Four Streisand albums have reached the five-million certification plateau -- “Guilty,” “A Christmas Album,” “Memories” and “Barbra Streisand’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2.” Streisand received her first gold album on May 12, 1964. In the years since, she has never been out of the limelight.
Eagles: The Eagles’ first greatest hits album was released in 1976 and has been a steady catalog seller ever since. The Eagles' "Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975" was the first Platinum album ever certified by the RIAA. Earlier this year, it caught up with “Thriller,” at the 25 million sales mark. Today, as it reaches 26 million, it stands as the best-selling album of all time. It is one of two Diamond® albums by the legendary California based group. The other is “Hotel California,” which is certified at the 15-million mark. An array of top country artists saluted the Eagles on the multiplatinum 1995 album, “Common Thread: Songs of the Eagles.”
Sir Elton John: Sir Elton John and his long-time collaborator Bernie Taupin wrote “Candle In The Wind” for Elton’s 1973 album, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” Taupin rewrote the lyric in 1997 after the tragic death of Princess Diana. The revised version, “Candle In The Wind 1997,” soon surpassed Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” to become the best-selling single of all time.
Elton is represented with two other Diamond® recordings - “Elton John-Greatest Hits,” which is certified at 15 million, and “The Lion King” soundtrack, which features his Academy Award-winning ballad “Can You Feel The Love Tonight.” Elton has been a regular presence in the RIAA certifications since February 1971, when he received his first Gold® album.
Elvis Presley: The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll has had 80 Gold® albums, 43 of which are Platinum®. His top-selling titles, both of which are certified at the 6-million level, are “Elvis’ Golden Records,” which is the best-selling album of the 1950s, and “Elvis’ Christmas Album,” the 1970 adaptation of his classic 1957 holiday release. In 1992, the RIAA marked the 15th anniversary of Elvis’ death at Graceland, with a commemorative wall of all of his Gold® records. Presley also has been awarded more Gold® (50) and Platinum® (27) singles than any other performer.
Country Artists: In addition to his title as the best-selling male solo artist of the century, Garth Brooks was named the number one country artist. Alabama and Reba McEntire were identified as the top country group and female artist respectively.
Top R&B Artists: In the R&B category, the leaders are all major pop crossover stars. Michael Jackson is the top-selling R&B/pop artist overall. Whitney Houston is the top female artist and Boyz II Men are the top group in this category.
Top Rock Artists: The Beatles and Elvis Presley are the top group and male artist in rock. Madonna, whose music straddles the pop, dance and rock worlds, is the top-selling female rock artist. Led Zeppelin is the top hard rock artist and U2 is the top alternative rock artist of the century.
Other Honors: Whitney Houston’s 1992 blockbuster, “The Bodyguard,” was named top-selling soundtrack album. "Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Live/1975-85" was cited as both top-certified live album and top-certified box set. Boston’s 1976 blockbuster “Boston’’ is the century’s top-selling debut album. “In Concert,’’ the 1990 release by the Three Tenors -- Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti -- is the top-selling classical album. Bob Marley & The Wailers’ “Legend” is the top reggae title; TLC’s “CrazySexyCool” is the top hip-hop album; and Kenny G’s, “Breathless” is the best-selling instrumental album.
ABOUT THE RIAA The Recording Industry Association of America, which represents U.S. record companies, has been the official certification agency for single and album certifications since 1958. The gold award is bestowed on albums that have shipped 500,000 units. The RIAA added platinum awards, signifying shipments of one million copies, in 1976, multiplatinum awards, for 2 million units and above, in 1984, and Diamond awards, 10 million units for a single title, earlier this year.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is the trade organization that supports and promotes the creative and financial vitality of the major music companies. Its members comprise the most vibrant record industry in the world. RIAA® members create, manufacture and/or distribute approximately 85% of all legitimate recorded music produced and sold in the United States.
In support of this mission, the RIAA works to protect the intellectual property and First Amendment rights of artists and music labels; conduct consumer, industry and technical research; and monitor and review state and federal laws, regulations and policies. The RIAA® also certifies Gold®, Platinum®, Multi-Platinum™ and Diamond sales awards as well as Los Premios De Oro y Platino™, an award celebrating Latin music sales.
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