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Most successful musical artists of all time

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Most successful musical artists of all time

No matter how they come to music or what genre they fall into, almost every recording artist privately shares the same dream: to become an icon in the industry, transforming the face of music along the way. And while there are hundreds of talented and successful artists out there, very few will end up doing all of that. Most will have a hit or two, and many may even achieve a string of successful albums, but few will change the course of popular music or pave a new path for those who follow.

But of course, there have been a handful of modern musicians who have done that. Stacker has rounded up the 50 most successful musical artists of all time. These folks have been trailblazers and icons. They've sold millions of albums and singles, performed countless live shows, and even invented new genres.

In order to come up with this list, Stacker looked at data from both the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Grammy Awards. The RIAA gives out certifications based on the number of albums and singles an artist has sold. Gold albums have sold 500,000 copies; platinum albums have sold 1,000,000 copies; multi-platinum have sold 2,000,000 (with increments of 1,000,000 thereafter), and diamond albums have sold 10,000,000 copies. Stacker then came up with an index to rank each artist that takes into account the total number of RIAA certified units (70%), Grammy wins (20%), and Grammy nominations (10%). Additionally, to be considered for this story, artists must have sold 10 million RIAA certified units.

Some artists found on the list are predictable, like Michael Jackson and The Beatles, while others might be more surprising, like Eminem and Kenny G. Read on to find out whether your favorite musicians made the cut.

You may also like: 50 ways music has changed in the last 50 years

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#50. Kenny G

- Certified units: 48 million (15 gold, 11 platinum, 8 multi-platinum, 1 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 1
- Grammy nominations: 17

One of the best instrumentalists of all time, Seattle-born saxophonist Kenny G has sold a whopping 75 million records throughout his career. His 1992 album “Breathless” topped 8 million copies in the United States alone, and his holiday album “Faith” also sold millions of copies. In the ‘90s, Kenny G worked with dozens of other big names in the music industry like Aretha Franklin and Natalie Cole. He and Whitney Houston also collaborated on several tracks for the “Bodyguard” soundtrack.

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Paul Kane // Getty Images

#49. Neil Diamond

- Certified units: 49.5 million (40 gold, 21 platinum, 12 multi-platinum)
- Grammy wins: 1
- Grammy nominations: 13

In March 2017, Neil Diamond released his 50th anniversary collection, marking five decades since he'd released his first hit “Solitary Man.” Diamond has sold over 130 million albums worldwide throughout his half-century-long career and has had 37 Top 40 hits. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer's most well-known albums include “Home Before Dark,” “Serenade,” and “Moods.”

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Rogers/Stringer // Getty Images

#48. Frank Sinatra

- Certified units: 27 million (34 gold, 10 platinum, 4 multi-platinum)
- Grammy wins: 9
- Grammy nominations: 31

Most famous during the “crooner-swooner” era, Frank Sinatra is best known for his swing style. “Ol' Blue Eyes” was not only a singer but also a well-known actor, starring in flicks like “Ocean's 11.” Some of his top albums include “Strangers in the Night,” “Come Fly with Me,” and “A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra.”

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Walmart // Wikimedia Commons

#47. Alicia Keys

- Certified units: 15.5 million (6 gold, 5 platinum, 3 multi-platinum)
- Grammy wins: 15
- Grammy nominations: 29

Alicia Keys actually turned down a spot a Columbia University at the age of 16 in order to pursue music full-time. Five of the Grammy winner's six albums have gone platinum: “Songs in A Minor,” “The Diary of Alicia Keys,” “As I Am,” “The Element of Freedom,” and “Unplugged.”

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Rob Bogaerts/Anefo // Wikiemedia Commons

#46. Simon & Garfunkel

- Certified units: 38.5 million (12 gold, 11 platinum, 7 multi-platinum, 1 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 7
- Grammy nominations: 11

Folk-rock duo Simon & Garfunkel got their start early; their rendition of “Hey Schoolgirl” peaked at #49 on the Pop Chart when the two were just 15 years old. But it was during the ‘60s and ‘70s that the duo became a household name with albums like “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Bookends,” and “The Graduate” soundtrack. The countercultural icons were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

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#45. Paul Simon

- Certified units: 13.5 million (11 gold, 6 platinum, 2 multi-platinum)
- Grammy wins: 16
- Grammy nominations: 35

Paul Simon found plenty of success outside of Simon & Garfunkel. After the group's split at the height of their fame in the ‘70s, Simon struck out on his own and released his most beloved solo album, “Graceland,” in 1986. At the end of 2018, Simon announced he'd no longer be writing music, essentially ending his seven-decade-long career.

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Gustavo Caballero // Getty Images

#44. Phil Collins

- Certified units: 33.5 million (10 gold, 7 platinum, 6 multi-platinum, 1 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 8
- Grammy nominations: 28

Phil Collins got his start as the drummer for the band Genesis before becoming the group's lead singer and eventually striking out on his own. His first solo hit, “In the Air Tonight,” is an ‘80s anthem, and his albums “No Jacket Required,” “Face Value,” and “...But Seriously” are often regarded as some of the best records to come out of the era. While Collins' more recent work hasn't had quite the same levels of success, his “Still Not Dead Yet” tour has been selling out thanks to dedicated fans.

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#43. Linda Ronstadt

- Certified units: 30 million (17 gold, 13 platinum, 7 multi-platinum)
- Grammy wins: 10
- Grammy nominations: 26

A true genre-bender, Linda Ronstadt has sung everything from rock to Latin to country to light opera. Most successful in the ‘70s and ‘80s, her top albums include gems like “Heart Like a Wheel,” “Canciones de Mi Padre,” “What's New,” and “Simple Dreams.” Diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 2013, Ronstadt no longer performs but she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 2014.

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#42. Van Halen

- Certified units: 56.5 million (14 gold, 13 platinum, 12 multi-platinum, 2 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 1
- Grammy nominations: 4

Since their self-titled debut in 1978, Van Halen has been credited with “restoring hard rock to the forefront of the music scene.” The hard rock group is probably just as famous for how much they partied as they are for how major their music was. Some of their most notable albums include “Van Halen,” “1984,” and “5150.”

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#41. Kenny Rogers

- Certified units: 47.5 million (28 gold, 17 platinum, 7 multi-platinum, 1 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 3
- Grammy nominations: 19

Old school country music singer Kenny Rogers has a genuine talent for storytelling, which is evident in the number of records (120 million) he's sold. Currently in the midst of his final world tour, “The Gambler's Last Deal,” Rogers has been playing hits from some of his top albums like “Love or Something Like It,” “The Gambler,” “The Heart of the Matter,” and “Water & Bridges” in countries all over the world.

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Warner Bros. Records // Wikimedia Commons

#40. Fleetwood Mac

- Certified units: 54.5 million (14 gold, 9 platinum, 8 multi-platinum, 1 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 2
- Grammy nominations: 7

British-American pop-rock band Fleetwood Mac can lay claim to one of the best selling albums of all time, “Rumours,” which has sold 45 million copies to date—more than some musical groups sell in a lifetime. Initially formed in 1967, the group took a long time to hit their stride, in part because of near-constant lineup changes. Once they found their niche in 1977, things really took off for them.

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#39. Dixie Chicks

- Certified units: 30.5 million (5 gold, 4 platinum, 4 multi-platinum, 2 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 12
- Grammy nominations: 19

This Texas-born trio was at the height of their career in 2003 when Dixie Chicks member Natalie Maines made an on-stage comment about then-President George W. Bush and his decision to pursue the war in the Middle East. Overnight, the group's career came crashing to the ground as many American radio stations refused to play their songs and many fans swore to never buy another Dixie Chicks album. However, their records “Taking the Long Way,” “Wide Open Spaces,” “Fly,” and “Home” remain some of the best-selling modern country albums of all time.

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Atlantic Records // Wikimedia Commons

#38. Aretha Franklin

- Certified units: 10 million (14 gold, 4 platinum, 1 multi-platinum)
- Grammy wins: 18
- Grammy nominations: 44 

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin has a Presidential Medal of Freedom award, 18 Grammy Awards (including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award), and the #1 spot on Rolling Stone's list of the greatest singers of all time. Her top albums include “Lady Soul,” “Young, Gifted and Black,” “Who's Zoomin' Who,” and “Amazing Grace.” Franklin worked alongside legendary producer Clive Davis for 25 years of her nearly 60-year career.

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#37. Johnny Cash

- Certified units: 23.5 million (19 gold, 10 platinum, 6 multi-platinum)
- Grammy wins: 13
- Grammy nominations: 35 

From his first original album “Ragged Old Flag” to his live albums like “Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison” to his religious albums like “Hymns by Johnny Cash,” nearly everything this Arkansas singer released was an instant hit with fans and demonstrated a staying power that still makes him one of country's biggest artists. Cash died in 2003 from diabetes complications just months after losing his beloved and long-suffering wife, June Carter Cash.

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ian // Wikimedia Commons

#36. Santana

- Certified units: 43.5 million (21 gold, 10 platinum, 7 multi-platinum, 1 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 8
- Grammy nominations: 12

Santana burst into the public eye with their performance of the single “Soul Sacrifice” at Woodstock in 1969. The attention surrounding their Woodstock appearance skyrocketed Santana's self-titled debut album—as well as follow-ups “Abraxas” and “Santana II”—to the top of the charts, after which the original lineup parted ways. Since 1971, the makeup of the band has been fluid, with the exception of guitarist Carlos Santana.

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#35. Shania Twain

- Certified units: 48 million (5 gold, 5 platinum, 4 multi-platinum, 3 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 5
- Grammy nominations: 18

The best-selling female artist in country music, Shania Twain burst onto the scene in 1993. Her second album “The Woman in Me,” produced by then-husband Mutt Lange, sold over 12 million copies, while her third, “Come on Over,” sold over 40 million copies worldwide. Twain took a break from music after her fourth album, “Up!,” but came back in 2012 with a Las Vegas residency before releasing her final album in 2015.

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Graham Denholm // Getty Images

#34. Adele

- Certified units: 28 million (3 gold, 3 platinum, 3 multi-platinum, 2 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 15
- Grammy nominations: 18

Soul singer/pop star Adele attended the renowned BRIT School for the Performing Arts and Technology in London, where she was discovered as a teenager. Her debut album “19” earned her four Grammy nominations, while her sophomore album “21” won her six Grammys. But it was her third, most recent album “25”—which was the best-selling album in the world in 2015—that really secured her place as a legend.

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Bradley Kanaris // Getty Images

#33. Celine Dion

- Certified units: 50 million (13 gold, 11 platinum, 8 multi-platinum, 2 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 5
- Grammy nominations: 16

Canadian-born Celine Dion wrote her first song at the age of 12, and released her first album, which she sang entirely in French, at 13. But it wasn't until 1993, with the release of “The Colour of My Love,” that Dion became a household name. Now, with over 220 million albums sold, she's solidified herself as an icon. Never one to turn down an opportunity, Dion contributed to the 1997 “Titanic” soundtrack and has held multiple residencies in Las Vegas, both of which have allowed her to build a huge and diverse fanbase.

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Minette Layne // Wikimedia Commons

#32. Willie Nelson

- Certified units: 31.5 million (18 gold, 15 platinum, 6 multi-platinum)
- Grammy wins: 9
- Grammy nominations: 51

One of the most recognized artists in country music, Willie Nelson made it big with albums “Shotgun Willie,” “Red Headed Stranger,” and “Stardust.” Famous for his affinity for marijuana and his incredible work ethic, Nelson is pushing 90 but shows no signs of slowing down with at least 35 tour dates currently listed on his Club Luck website.

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Yancho Sabev // Wikimedia Commons

#31. Sting

- Certified units: 18 million (11 gold, 9 platinum, 5 multi-platinum)
- Grammy wins: 17
- Grammy nominations: 45

The lead singer and principal bassist for The Police, Sting didn't embark on his solo career until 1985. His solo albums “...Nothing Like the Sun,” “The Dream of Blue Turtles,” and “Ten Summoner's Tales” were among his most commercially successful, while Police songs like “Every Breath You Take” and “Every Little Thing She Does” were ‘80s classics.

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Daniel Janin // Getty Images

#30. Bob Dylan

- Certified units: 36 million (33 gold, 15 platinum, 6 multi-platinum)
- Grammy wins: 10
- Grammy nominations: 38

Noted for its political undertones, Bob Dylan's breakthrough came in 1963 with “The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan.” Within a few years, Dylan released “Bringing It All Back Home,” “Highway 61 Revisited,” and “Blonde to Blonde.” Six decades into his career, Dylan is also a little over three decades into his Never Ending Tour, for which dates are still being announced.

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Kevin Winter // Getty Images

#29. Taylor Swift

- Certified units: 43 million (7 gold, 7 platinum, 6 multi-platinum, 1 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 10
- Grammy nominations: 32

Country music star-turned-pop singer Taylor Swift is best known for writing extensively about her personal life. Each of the singer-songwriter's six studio albums have gone multi-platinum. Cryptic social media hints have led fans to believe that Swift is dropping new music in the spring of 2019, and she's already delivered at least one song with her new single "ME!"

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#28. AC/DC

- Certified units: 72 million (22 gold, 20 platinum, 12 multi-platinum, 1 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 1
- Grammy nominations: 7

Australian band AC/DC has been described in turns as heavy metal and blues rock, but the band has always referred to their own work as simply rock and roll. From 1975's “High Voltage” to 1979's “Highway to Hell” and 1980's “Back in Black,” the group has had a string of commercially and critically successful albums. While their hard-partying ways led to the death of former lead singer Bon Scott, they bounced back with Brian Johnson and have been going strong ever since.

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Bede735 // Wikimedia Commons

#27. George Strait

- Certified units: 69 million (39 gold, 33 platinum, 13 multi-platinum)
- Grammy wins: 1
- Grammy nominations: 16

The “king of country music,” George Strait has had 60 #1 singles in his three decades of artistry, more than any other artist in the genre. Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006, Strait has often been referred to as “true country,” as he's always brought the music back to its roots: twangy guitar, a little bit of banjo, and lyrics that tell a story.

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Chris Ware // Getty Images

#26. The Rolling Stones

- Certified units: 66.5 million (43 gold, 28 platinum, 11 multi-platinum, 1 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 3
- Grammy nominations: 12

Famous for their swagger almost as much as their music, The Rolling Stones burst onto the scene with their self-titled debut in 1963. “Aftermath,” which was released in 1966, featured all original music and secured their place as rock and roll gods. Often placed in opposition to The Beatles both in image and sound, the Stones went on to have a much longer tenure, most recently releasing “Blue & Lonesome” in 2016 to positive reviews.

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Keystone Features // Getty Images

#25. Pink Floyd

- Certified units: 75 million (19 gold, 15 platinum, 12 multi-platinum, 2 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 1
- Grammy nominations: 4

Another English rock band, Pink Floyd has a more psychedelic and progressive sound than contemporaries like The Rolling Stones. “Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wall” are considered some of the most ambitious albums of the era, while fans often cite “Wish You Were Here” and “Momentary Lapse of Reason” as some of the group's most lyrically interesting works.

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Kevin Winter // Getty Images

#24. Paul McCartney

- Certified units: 15.5 million (16 gold, 7 platinum, 4 multi-platinum)
- Grammy wins: 18
- Grammy nominations: 78

After The Beatles split up in 1970, Paul McCartney decided it was time to pursue a solo career. Many of his solo albums—like “McCartney,” “Red Rose Speedway,” and “Wings at the Speed of Sound”—reached the top of the charts in both the U.K. and the U.S. McCartney is also recognized as a successful composer and was knighted for his services to music.

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Asterio Tecson // Wikimedia Commons

#23. Whitney Houston

- Certified units: 58.5 million (10 gold, 9 platinum, 7 multi-platinum, 2 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 6
- Grammy nominations: 25

With over 200 million album, single, and video sales throughout her career, Whitney Houston brought superstardom to a new level. The first ever female artist to enter the Billboard 200 Album Chart at #1 with her second album “Whitney”—and the only artist to have eight consecutive platinum albums—Houston's many records still stand nearly seven years after her sudden and unexpected death in 2012.

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David Klein // Getty Images

#22. Aerosmith

- Certified units: 66.5 million (25 gold, 18 platinum, 12 multi-platinum, 1 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 4
- Grammy nominations: 14

Aerosmith led rock and roll through the ‘70s, ‘80s, and early ‘90s. Lead singer Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry were known as “the toxic twins” for their fondness for illicit substances, but even in the midst of all the partying, they still managed to keep their focus on the music, producing albums like “Rocks,” “Nine Lives,” and “Get a Grip.”

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Christopher Polk // Getty Images

#21. Kanye West

- Certified units: 13.5 million (8 gold, 7 platinum, 4 multi-platinum)
- Grammy wins: 21
- Grammy nominations: 69 

Chicago-born rapper Kanye West has become one of the most controversial figures in rap following his comments about his political and religious views and a handful of onstage meltdowns. From his debut album “The College Dropout” to “Graduation” to “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” and “The Life of Pablo,” West has proven he's not only a lyrical genius but an artist with a vision and a pioneer for his genre. At his recent Coachella "Sunday Service" set, Kanye released a new song, “Water,” showing fans he has no plans to step back from the mic just yet.

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Frederick Breedon // Getty Images

#20. Vince Gill

- Certified units: 24 million (13 gold, 11 platinum, 6 multi-platinum)
- Grammy wins: 21
- Grammy nominations: 45

Vince Gill was a dominant country music artist throughout the 1990s and early ‘00s. His breakout album “When I Call Your Name” won him a collection of CMA Awards, as well as a role as a Grand Ole Opry cast member. It also spawned follow-up albums “When Love Finds You” and “The Key.” Married to fellow singer Amy Grant, Gill has sold over 26 million albums total.

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Larry Busacca // Getty Images

#19. Beyoncé Knowles

- Certified units: 13 million (6 gold, 6 platinum, 4 multi-platinum)
- Grammy wins: 23
- Grammy nominations: 66

Rising to fame as a member of Destiny's Child, it wasn't until she embarked on a solo career that Beyoncé found her current level of success and superstardom. With over 100 million recordings sold, Knowles' albums, beginning with “Dangerously in Love” and culminating with “Lemonade,” have spawned legions of hardcore fans and made Beyoncé an essential recording artist of the 21st century. She currently holds the record for the most Grammy nominations for a woman.

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Herbert P. Oczeret // Getty Images

#18. Metallica

- Certified units: 63 million (13 gold, 13 platinum, 11 multi-platinum, 1 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 8
- Grammy nominations: 18

In 1981, Lars Ulrich placed a newspaper ad which fatefully found its way to James Hetfield. Overnight, Metallica was born. After recruiting a few more members, the heavy metal band found their groove and has been playing together ever since. Some of their most famous albums include the self-titled “Metallica,” “Load” and its follow up “Reload,” “St. Anger,” and “Hardwired...to Self Destruct.”

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Kevin Winter // Getty Images

#17. Mariah Carey

- Certified units: 64 million (16 gold, 14 platinum, 10 multi-platinum, 2 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 5
- Grammy nominations: 34

Born in Long Island, N.Y., with a five-octave vocal range, Mariah Carey released her debut album “Mariah Carey” in 1990. The album sold a stunning 6 million copies and was the first in a long string of successful records including the iconic holiday hit “Merry Christmas,” 1997's “Butterfly,” and 2005's “The Emancipation of Mimi.” Although her personal life has been troubled, Carey has remained one of the best-selling and most-decorated recording artists of all time.

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Express // Getty Images

#16. Eric Clapton

- Certified units: 40 million (23 gold, 11 platinum, 7 multi-platinum, 1 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 17
- Grammy nominations: 37 nominations)

The only musician to ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times, Eric Clapton has the potential to be inducted four more times. One of the best guitarists of all time, Clapton's albums “From the Cradle,” “Slowhand,” and “461 Ocean Boulevard” are also excellent displays of his talents as a singer-songwriter.

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Nicholas Hunt // Getty Images

#15. Madonna

- Certified units: 64.5 million (20 gold, 17 platinum, 12 multi-platinum, 2 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 7
- Grammy nominations: 28

The second best-selling female recording artist of all time, Madonna has earned her title as the “Queen of Pop.” Controversial from the outset, Madonna has never been tame and has certainly been trailblazing. Albums such as “Like a Prayer,” “Erotica,” and “Hard Candy” have inspired many of the world's top musical acts and artists, and her openness with audiences paved the way for reality stars and social media influencers.

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Kevin Winter // Getty Images

#14. Eminem

- Certified units: 46 million (11 gold, 9 platinum, 8 multi-platinum, 2 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 15
- Grammy nominations: 44

One of the few white rappers to ever achieve widespread commercial acclaim, Eminem—born Marshall Mathers—won the 1997 Rap Olympics MC Battle in Los Angeles before releasing “The Slim Shady EP,” which was an instant blockbuster. His follow-up, “The Marshall Mathers LP,” did even better, selling nearly 2 million copies in its first weeks. With 13 studio albums to his name, Eminem has established himself as not only one of the best white rappers but one of the best rappers of all time.

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Kevin Winter // Getty Images

#13. Stevie Wonder

- Certified units: 19.5 million (12 gold, 7 platinum, 2 multi-platinum, 1 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 25
- Grammy nominations: 74

A child prodigy, Stevie Wonder was signed to a Motown label by the age of 11. After a brief break from the spotlight, he reemerged with 1968's “For Once In My Life.” The ‘70s brought some of his biggest albums including “Songs in the Key of Life” and “Fulfillingness' First Finale.” Wonder has always been a prominent social activist, and in 2014 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his humanitarian efforts.

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Gustavo Caballero // Getty Images

#12. Jay-Z

- Certified units: 27.5 million (14 gold, 13 platinum, 8 multi-platinum)
- Grammy wins: 22
- Grammy nominations: 77

Growing up in Brooklyn's Marcy Projects, Jay-Z may not have had any idea he'd become one of the major players shaping modern culture and music. From his first album “Reasonable Doubt” to “The Blueprint” and “The Black Album” to Roc Nation and Tidal, Jay-Z is not only an incredible musician but an astute businessman. In 2008, he married fellow recording superstar Beyoncé Knowles.

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#11. Barbra Streisand

- Certified units: 68.5 million (51 gold, 30 platinum, 12 multi-platinum)
- Grammy wins: 8
- Grammy nominations: 45

Barbra Streisand wears many hats as an actress, composer, director, and author, among other things, but the one role she's adopted with unparalleled success is recording artist. She's sold 72.5 million albums—the most of any woman musician—and her greatest records include titles like “People,” “Guilty,” “The Way We Were,” and “Partners.” A host of awards sit on Streisand's shelf, including two Grammys (one of which was Album of the Year) for her debut album “The Barbra Streisand Album.”

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Raph_PH // Wikimedia Commons

#10. Elton John

- Certified units: 78.5 million (38 gold, 27 platinum, 14 multi-platinum, 1 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 5
- Grammy nominations: 34

Elton John holds the record for best-selling single of all time with 1997's “Candle in the Wind.” Another child prodigy—at 3 years old he could play “The Skater's Waltz” by ear—Sir Elton John has been releasing music since 1969. From 1972–1975, he had seven #1 albums, including “Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” and “Caribou.” He recently announced his final tour “Farewell Yellow Brick Road," after playing over 4,000 shows throughout the course of his career.

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Jamie McCarthy // Getty Images

#9. Billy Joel

- Certified units: 84.5 million (18 gold, 17 platinum, 13 multi-platinum, 2 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 5
- Grammy nominations: 23

Billy Joel signed his first recording contract in 1972 with the goal of writing and recording songs that “meant something during the time in which I lived ... and transcended that time.” Records like “Piano Man,” “The Stranger,” “52nd Street,” and “Glass House” are evidence that he's done more than accomplish that goal. Madison Square Garden announced in 2013 that Billy Joel would be their first-ever music franchise, and in July 2018, he marked a record-setting 100 shows at the venue (many of which were sold out).

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Wikipedia brown // Wikimedia Commons

#8. U2

- Certified units: 52 million (17 gold, 17 platinum, 12 multi-platinum, 1 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 22
- Grammy nominations: 46

Much like Metallica, U2 started with a “musicians wanted” ad posted on the notice board at Dublin's Temple Mount School in 1976. 45 years later, the Irish rock band is one of the best-selling groups of all time, having released iconic albums like “Joshua Tree” and “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.” They've also had the most successful concert tour of all time, U2360°, which played 110 shows to 7.2 million fans.

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Hulton Archive // Getty Images

#7. Led Zeppelin

- Certified units: 111.5 million (19 gold, 18 platinum, 14 multi-platinum, 5 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 1
- Grammy nominations: 3

After the Yardbirds split in 1968, Jimmy Page got right to work putting together his next band, a group that would give us albums like “Led Zeppelin II,” “Houses of the Holy,” and “Physical Graffiti.” While their time together was short-—they only released new music from 1969 to 1979—it was hugely influential.

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Phil Walter // Getty Images

#6. Michael Jackson

- Certified units: 84 million (15 gold, 13 platinum, 9 multi-platinum, 2 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 13
- Grammy nominations: 38

Dubbed “The King of Pop” Michael Jackson was one of the greatest entertainers of all time and a significant cultural icon. Although his life was clouded by controversy—some of which followed him into death—his music, from his debut album “Got to Be There” to his bigger hits like “Thriller,” “Bad,” and “Dangerous,” resonated with millions of fans. There's some disparity surrounding how many albums Jackson has sold, although most estimates put it somewhere in the hundred-millions. Regardless, he can lay claim to the only album (“Thriller”) to have ever gone 30 times multi-platinum in the United States.

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Jamie McCarthy // Getty Images

#5. Bruce Springsteen

- Certified units: 65.5 million (22 gold, 17 platinum, 11 multi-platinum, 2 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 20
- Grammy nominations: 50

Bruce Springsteen has long been credited as the voice of the working class, thanks to the fact that his music often details what life is like for those born without a silver spoon in their mouths. His most iconic album, “Born in the U.S.A.,” and others like “Born to Run” and “Tunnel of Love” are filled with lyrics about summer love and relaxing after a long day of work. The New Jersey native crushed fans' dreams when he announced he wouldn't be touring with his E Street Band in 2019, but his upcoming album "Western Stars" should ease the pain.

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Lisa Blumenfeld // Getty Images

#4. The Eagles

- Certified units: 120 million (13 gold, 13 platinum, 11 multi-platinum, 3 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 6
- Grammy nominations: 18

This 1970s rock band has sold more than 150 million albums in their lifetime. Formerly Linda Ronstadt's backup players, the Eagles produced the best-selling album of the 20th century with “Their Greatest Hits 1971–1975,” and “Hotel California” is one of the Rolling Stone's greatest albums of all time. Diehard fans will be excited to learn that the modern incarnation of the Eagles is set to play “Hotel California” in its entirety for the first time this year at a select handful of shows on their tour.

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Rick Diamond // Getty Images

#3. Garth Brooks

- Certified units: 148 million (30 gold, 30 platinum, 16 multi-platinum, 7 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 2
- Grammy nominations: 14

The first artist in history to have seven albums achieve diamond status, Garth Brooks combines country and rock and roll in a winning sound for audiences everywhere. The Oklahoma native is also the best-selling solo artist of all time, moving more albums than Elvis Presley and lagging just behind The Beatles. His most recent tour, “Garth Brooks World Tour with Trisha Yearwood,” sold 6.3 million tickets in North America, making it the biggest North American tour in history.

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Keystone // Getty Images

#2. Elvis Presley

- Certified units: 146.5 million (117 gold, 67 platinum, 27 multi-platinum, 1 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 3
- Grammy nominations: 14

The King of Rock and Roll,” Elvis Presley changed the face of music with his golden voice and scandalous dance moves following the release of his debut album “Elvis Presley” in 1956. His numerous movie soundtracks—like “Blue Hawaii” and “Girls! Girls! Girls!”—sold just as well, if not better, than his original studio albums. A total heartthrob, Elvis incited riots nearly everywhere he went. Today, devoted fans can still get a glimpse of the cultural icon's life by visiting his estate-turned-museum, Graceland, in Memphis, Tenn.

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Ron Case // Getty Images

#1. The Beatles

- Certified units: 183 million (48 gold, 42 platinum, 26 multi-platinum, 6 diamond)
- Grammy wins: 7
- Grammy nominations: 23

Finally, the title for the most successful musical artist of all time goes to The Beatles. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr joined forces in Liverpool, England in 1960. Worldwide sales for the group have reached unparalleled levels: 1.6 billion singles and 600 million albums. “A Hard Day's Night,” “Help!,” “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club,” “The White Album,” “Abbey Road,” and “Let It Be” were amongst the best of their offerings before their untimely dissolution in 1970.

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