The Beatles, Garth Brooks and Barbra Streisand are the top-selling group,
male artist and female artist, respectively, of the 20th century, according
to the Recording Industry Association of America.
The RIAA, which tracks album shipments in the U.S., also announced Wednesday
(Nov. 10) that the Eagles' Their Greatest Hits 19711975
(1976) has surpassed Michael Jackson's Thriller (1982) to become
the century's best-selling album.
Twenty-six million copies of Their Greatest Hits have been shipped,
beating out the 25 million copies shipped of Michael Jackson's Thriller
the RIAA said. A survey of the country-influenced rock band's early years,
the Eagles disc includes such enduring hits as "Best of My Love" and
"Take It Easy," but not such major Eagles singles as "Hotel California" (RealAudio
excerpt) and "New Kid in Town," which were released later.
Thriller, which spawned a string of hits, including "Beat It"
excerpt) and "Billie Jean," remains the best-selling album by a
solo artist as well as the best-selling noncompilation album.
The Beatles have sold 106 million copies of their albums, while country
star Brooks has sold 89 million and pop star and actress Streisand
whose biggest hits include the theme songs to "A Star Is Born" and "The
Way We Were" has sold nearly 63 million, according to the RIAA.
The association, which has been awarding gold records since 1958, bases
its figures on wholesale shipments of albums to record stores and other
retail outlets. It now also issues platinum records for shipments of 1
million and the Diamond Award for shipments of 10 million.
"The artists that we have certified since the program began in 1958 prove
an immense amount of staying power," Angela Corio, the RIAA's senior
director of award certifications, said.
"Both the Beatles and Barbra Streisand, who you would call true veterans,
have had over 40 titles certify with us. Garth Brooks shows that a new
artist, a newcomer over the past 10 years, can garner as much sales. Over
10 releases, he had over 89 million sales, which is just astonishing."
Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997" (RealAudio
excerpt) is the century's best-selling single, with U.S. shipments
of 11 million copies, according to the RIAA. John and lyricist Bernie
Taupin wrote "Candle in the Wind" about late actress Marilyn Monroe for
John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973). After Princess Diana died
in 1997, Taupin rewrote the lyrics for her. The revised version surpassed
Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" to become the best-selling single of all
Elvis Presley had the most gold albums and the most platinum albums, with
total shipments of more than 77 million units in the U.S., the RIAA said.
Presley was the century's top-selling rock artist.
The RIAA said the Beatles were the top-selling rock group, and Madonna
the top-selling female rocker, with shipments of more than 46 million
units. Madonna, whose albums from her 1983 self-titled debut to
1998's Ray of Light have all gone platinum, is the
third-biggest-selling female artist overall, behind Streisand and Whitney
The top hard-rock artist is Led Zeppelin, while U2 holds the title for
top alternative-rock act, according to the RIAA.
In R&B, Jackson is the biggest-selling artist overall, while Houston is
the top female artist and Boyz II Men the top group.
Brooks is the top male country artist. Alabama and Reba McEntire are the
top country group and female artist, respectively.
TLC's CrazySexyCool (1994), which includes "Creep" and "Waterfalls,"
is the biggest-selling hip-hop album, while Bob Marley and the Wailers'
greatest-hits set Legend (1984) leads in reggae. Kenny G's
Breathless (1992) is tops in instrumental music.
Blue-collar rockers Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's three-CD
(or five-LP) set Live 19751985 is both the top live album
and top box set.
The 1992 soundtrack to the movie "The Bodyguard," featuring Whitney Houston's
hit cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," is the top-selling
soundtrack. Boston's self-titled 1976 album is the century's top-selling
debut album, while In Concert, the 1990 release by the Three Tenors
Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti is
the top-selling classical album.