Special Report

Artists With the Most Hit Albums

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The history of recorded music begins with a fragment of the French folk song “Au Clair de la Lune,” captured by an instrument called a Phonautograph in Paris in 1860. Unfortunately, no playback mechanism existed, so nobody ever heard it.

Fast-forward — by way of Thomas Edison, who invented the playable wax cylinder; Peter Goldmark, who invented the vinyl record; James Russell, who gave the world the CD; and countless others — to 2021, when (according to Music Business Worldwide) some 60,000 songs are uploaded to Spotify every day. Here are 35 musicians with legendarily long careers.

In terms of global sales, recorded music in all formats from the U.S. alone generates almost $22 billion in annual revenue. A healthy portion of the amount brought in each year is generated by a comparatively small group of superstars — hitmakers who, despite changing tastes and the fragility of careers at the top, have managed to have immensely profitable and internationally celebrated careers, selling many millions of singles and albums. These are the best-selling pop albums of all time.

To identify the artists with the most hit albums, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the total number of certified album unit sales for the 2,650 artists with at least one Gold album as designated by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). A Gold album is one certified to have sold at least 500,000 units. Higher categories are Platinum (1 million minimum units), multi-Platinum (2 million minimum units), and Diamond (“10,000,000 and counting,” according to the RIAA). Our list includes the 50 groups and solo artists who have sold the most certified units. The most popular album for each artist and its release date are also taken from RIAA data.

Click here to see the artists with the most hit albums

The results span decades and numerous musical styles. Artists from Bob Dylan to the Backstreet Boys, 2Pac to Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift to Barbra Streisand are included. Whatever the genre, these performers are the most popular and in many cases influential of our era.

50. Bon Jovi
> Certified units: 35 million
> Most popular album: Slippery When Wet (1986)

Formed in Sayreville, New Jersey, rock band Bon Jovi — co-founded by lead singer Jon Bon Jofi — landed in the Top 40 with their first single, “Runaway.” In 1986, their third album, “Slippery When Wet,” included two No. 1 songs, “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Livin’ on a Prayer.” The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted him in 2018.

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49. Britney Spears
> Certified units: 35 million
> Most popular album: …Baby One More Time (1999)

Dubbed “the Princess of Pop,” Britney Spears was a teenager when she released two of the best-selling albums of all time, “…Baby One More Time” and “Oops! … I Did It Again.” Spears has had six albums reach the top of the Billboard 200 list.

48. Dave Matthews Band
> Certified units: 35 million
> Most popular album: Crash (1996)

Formed in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Dave Matthews Band built its huge following by touring and filling stadiums year after year. DMB has a large catalog of both studio and live albums. Although COVID-19 forced the jam band to cancel its tour dates in 2020, it is back on the road this year.

47. Def Leppard
> Certified units: 36 million
> Most popular album: Hysteria (1987)

The English rock band Def Leppard released its last album, “Def Leppard,” in 2015. But it remains active, with a U.S. stadium tour scheduled for 2022. The group’s 1987 album “Hysteria” is one of the best-selling albums of all time. It was certified Platinum 12 times in the United States and has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. In 2019, they became members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

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46. Bob Dylan
> Certified units: 36 million
> Most popular album: Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits (1967)

Bob Dylan, the singer-songwriter who grew up in Hibbing, Minnesota, was named “the greatest songwriter of all time” by Rolling Stone magazine. His 1967 greatest hits album includes “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Positively 4th Street.” He has also released two more volumes of greatest hits, and his fans are urging him to do a fourth. Dylan has been a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame since 1988.

45. 2Pac
> Certified units: 37 million
> Most popular album: Greatest Hits (1998)

Although Tupac Shakur, known professionally as 2Pac, was killed at age 25 in a drive-by shooting in 1996, the rapper, who was inducted into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame, has a huge fan base. His double-disc “Greatest Hits” album was released two years after his death. In addition, half a dozen 2Pac studio albums have come out posthumously. He was also posthumously inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, in 2017.

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44. Backstreet Boys
> Certified units: 37 million
> Most popular album: Backstreet Boys (1997)

The Backstreet Boys, a boy band from Orlando, Florida, initially found success on international music charts. But once they released their debut album, “Backstreet Boys,” in the United States, there was no stopping them. They have sold more than 100 million albums worldwide.

43. Rod Stewart
> Certified units: 38 million
> Most popular album: Rod Stewart’s Greatest Hits, Volume I (1979)

Crooner Rod Stewart started his career as a busker, went on to sell more than 250 million records worldwide, and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. At age 76, he is touring this fall. Stewart has had four No. 1 albums in the U.S., ranging from “Every Picture Tells a Story” (1971) to “Still the Same…Great Rock Classics of Our Time” (2006). Though his “Greatest Hits Vol. 1” only reached No. 22 on the U.S. charts, it went triple Platinum. Stewart is a double honoree in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame — on his own (1994) and as a member of the Faces (2012).

42. Tim McGraw
> Certified units: 38 million
> Most popular album: Not A Moment Too Soon (1994)

In 1994, country singer Tim McGraw hit the bullseye with his second studio album, “Not a Moment Too Soon.” It went to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, and the Academy of Country Music named it Album of the Year. Five of the songs on the album hit the top 10 on Billboard’s country charts.

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41. Foreigner
> Certified units: 38 million
> Most popular album: Double Vision (1985)

Formed in New York City in 1976, the British-American rock band Foreigner came up with its name because three of the original five members were British. The group named their first album “Foreigner,” but they could have just as easily named it “Hit the Ground Running.” Their first four albums, including “Double Vision,” each sold at least five million copies in the United States.

40. Simon & Garfunkel
> Certified units: 39 million
> Most popular album: Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits (1972)

Although they met in elementary school in Queens, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel never became best friends — but when singing, they could harmonize with the best of them. The folk rock duo captured the mood of the 1960s with such songs as “The Sound of Silence,” “The Boxer,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “America,” “Cecilia,” and “Mrs. Robinson” — all of them among the 14 tracks on their 1972 “Greatest Hits” album. The duo broke up in 1970, but have had multiple brief reunions over the decades. They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

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39. Chicago
> Certified units: 39 million
> Most popular album: Chicago 17 (1984)

The rock band Chicago doesn’t waste any time thinking up names for its albums. Most of them are just “Chicago” followed by a number. “Chicago 17” included “Hard Habit to Break” and “You’re the Inspiration.” “Chicago 5” has “Saturday in the Park.” And even just plain “Chicago” (no number) has “25 or 6 to 4.” The band is touring this year even though founding member Walter Parazaider has announced that he has Alzheimer’s disease. In 2016, they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

38. Eric Clapton
> Certified units: 40 million
> Most popular album: Unplugged (1992)

One of the top guitarists in the world, the English rock and blues musician is the only person who has been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame three times. He was inducted in 1992 with The Yardbirds, in 1993 with Cream, and in 2000 as a solo act. His “Unplugged” album includes his most heartbreaking song, “Tears in Heaven,” which he wrote after the accidental death of his son, Conor, at the age of 4.

37. Reba McEntire
> Certified units: 41 million
> Most popular album: Greatest Hits, Volume II (1993)

A triple threat as a singer, songwriter, and actress, Reba McEntire has become a performer who can go by her first name only. She built her success on such hits as “Fancy,” “Does He Love You,” “I’m a Survivor” and “Whoever’s in New England” — the first two of which appear on her “Greatest Hits Volume II,” which went quintuple-Platinum. She has also shown resilience, coming back after eight members of her band were killed in a plane crash while she was touring in 1980.

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35. Queen
> Certified units: 43 million
> Most popular album: Greatest Hits (1981)

Anyone who has watched a major sporting event is undoubtedly familiar with three of Queen’s hits, “We Will Rock You,” “We Are the Champions,” and “Another One Bites the Dust.” The rock band with operatic harmonies delivered other hits, like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Don’t Stop Me Now,” “Killer Queen,” “Somebody to Love” and “You’re My Best Friend” — all included on the band’s 1981 “Greatest Hits” — before Freddie Mercury’s death in 1991. Queen was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

35. Santana
> Certified units: 44 million
> Most popular album: Supernatural (1999)

Founded in 1966, Santana has had a variety of different configurations but Mexican-American guitarist and songwriter Carlos Santana has always been the central ingredient in the mix. The rock band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. Santana has won 10 Grammy Awards, including a record nine Grammys in 2000 for the album “Supernatural.” The album also won three Latin Grammy Awards.

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34. Alan Jackson
> Certified units: 44 million
> Most popular album: Greatest Hits Collection (1995)

A member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1991, country singer/songwriter Alan Jackson has hit No. 1 on Billboard’s country chart with 26 of his 66 singles. His 1995 “Greatest Hits Collection” includes such favorites as “Chattahoochee,” “Don’t Rock the Jukebox,” “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow,” “Here in the Real World,” and “Gone Country.” Since that album came out, he has released nine other compilation albums. Jackson was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2017.

33. Guns N’ Roses
> Certified units: 45 million
> Most popular album: Appetite For Destruction (1987)

Heavy metal band Guns N’ Roses scored big with its first album, “Appetite for Destruction,” released in 1987. Three of its singles — “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Paradise City,” and “Sweet Child o’ Mine” — hit the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and catapulted the album to No. 1. Guns N’ Roses is touring this summer in the United States. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted them in 2012.

32. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
> Certified units: 45 million
> Most popular album: Greatest Hits (1994)

Over six decades, raspy-voiced Bob Seger has sold more than 75 million records worldwide. In 1974, the singer/songwriter formed The Silver Bullet Band. Their 1994 “Greatest Hits” album was certified diamond in 2017, indicating that it had sold more than 10 million copies. It includes such favorites as “Turn the Page,” “Night Moves,” “Against the Wind,” “Roll Me Away,” and “Main Street.” Seger was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012.

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31. Taylor Swift
> Certified units: 46 million
> Most popular album: Fearless (2008)

After starting out as a young phenom in country music, Taylor Swift has become a pop icon with a legion of devoted fans who call themselves Swifties. Only 16 when her first album, “Taylor Swift,” was released, she became the youngest performer to single-handedly write and sing a No. 1 entry on the Hot Country Songs chart. Her second studio album, “Fearless,” won Album of the Year at the Grammys, making the then-20-year-old Swift the youngest artist to take home the award up to that time. She released a re-recording of the album in 2021 after a rights dispute over the master of the original.

30. Eminem
> Certified units: 47 million
> Most popular album: The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)

One of the early white performers to break through in rap, Eminem drew all kinds of attention with his third studio album, “The Marshall Mathers LP.” The album, whose title reveals Eminem’s real name, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and settled in for an eight-week run. It also drew criticism from Lynne Cheney, the wife of then-Vice-President Cheney, who testified before the U.S. Senate, criticizing the lyrics. Rolling Stone named it the best album of 2000.

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29. Alabama
> Certified units: 47 million
> Most popular album: Mountain Music (1982)

Formed in Alabama in 1969 under the name Wildcountry, the Southern rock band took on the name of its home state in 1977 after seeing some success with a couple of singles. Their sixth studio album, “Mountain Music,” climbed both the country and pop charts on the strength of the singles “Mountain Music,” “Take Me Down,” and “Close Enough to Perfect.” It was the top country album of the year and landed at No. 14 for the year on the pop charts.

28. Shania Twain
> Certified units: 48 million
> Most popular album: Come On Over (1997)

Canadian singer-songwriter Shania Twain has sold more than 100 million records, making her the best-selling female singer in country music. Her career exploded in 1997 with the release of her third studio album, “Come On Over.” It included the female anthems “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much.” In 1999, she was named Entertainer of the Year by both the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association.

27. Kenny G
> Certified units: 48 million
> Most popular album: Breathless (1992)

Sometimes the target of cheesy jokes, smooth-jazz saxophonist Kenny G is likely laughing all the way to the bank. He has sold more than 75 million records worldwide. His album “Breathless,” released in 1992, has alone sold more than 15 million. The Grammy-winning musician can be heard on the soundtracks of such movies as “The Bodyguard” and “Dying Young.”

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26. Journey
> Certified units: 48 million
> Most popular album: Greatest Hits (1988)

Founded in 1973 in San Francisco by some former members of Santana and Frumious Bandersnatch, Journey has had a rotating list of musicians. The rock band had its biggest success with Steve Perry as front man, from 1977 to 1987 and again from 1995 to 1998. Their first “Greatest Hits” album has songs from the Perry era, including “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Faithfully,” “Any Way You Want It,” and “Open Arms.” In 2017, they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

25. Kenny Rogers
> Certified units: 48
> Most popular album: Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits (1980)

Kenny Rogers, whose career produced many hits across various genres, is perhaps most associated with the song “The Gambler,” written by Don Schlitz. Although other artists recorded the song, Rogers took it to No. 1 on the country charts and crossed over to the pop charts as well. The song, which is the opening track on “Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits,” even inspired five TV movies starring Rogers.

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24. Neil Diamond
> Certified units: 50 million
> Most popular album: The Jazz Singer (Soundtrack) (1980)

Neil Diamond became devoted to singing and songwriting as a teenager when he saw Pete Seeger perform at a summer camp. In the 1960s, Jay and the Americans, The Monkees, and Elvis Presley, among others, recorded Diamond’s songs. But the Brooklyn singer broke through on his own with his recording of “Solitary Man” in 1966. He has had 10 No. 1 singles, including “America,” which is on “The Jazz Singer” soundtrack. Diamond was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. He was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2011 and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.

23. Celine Dion
> Certified units: 51 million
> Most popular album: Falling Into You (1996)

The best-selling Canadian recording artist, Celine Dion first gained attention in the 1980s when she won the Yamaha World Popular Song Festival and the Eurovision Song Contest. Her career took off in the 1990s with the albums “Falling Into You” and “Let’s Talk About Love,” which both sold more than a million copies. Dion has won five Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year and Best Pop Album for “Falling Into You” in 1997.

22. U2
> Certified units: 51 million
> Most popular album: The Joshua Tree (1987)

Fronted by Bono, the Irish rock band U2 is known for taking on sociopolitical issues in their music. “The Joshua Tree” was inspired by their experiences in America and includes the No. 1 singles “With or Without You” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” In 1988, the album won Grammy Awards for Album of the Year and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. Overall, the group has won 22 Grammys, more than any other band. U2 was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.

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21. Fleetwood Mac
> Certified units: 55 million
> Most popular album: Rumours (1977)

The British-American pop rock band featuring Mick Fleetwood, Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, John McVie, and Christine McVie hit a high mark with the 1977 album “Rumours.” It had four Top 10 singles: “Don’t Stop,” “Go Your Own Way,” “You Make Loving Fun,” and “Dreams” — the last of these being the group’s only song to hit No. 1. The album topped the charts for 31 weeks and won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1978. “Rumours” has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted Fleetwood Mac in 1998.

20. Van Halen
> Certified units: 57 million
> Most popular album: 1984 (MCMLXXXIV) (1984)

Formed in California in 1972, hard rock band Van Halen took its name from songwriter and lead guitarist Eddie Van Halen and his brother, drummer Alex Van Halen. Van Halen has sold more than 56 million albums in the United States. Two albums, the debut “Van Halen” and “1984” (whose title was stylized in Roman numerals on the cover) sold more than 10 million each. The single “Jump” from “1984” reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts and held the spot for five weeks. The band won one Grammy Award for the album “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” in 1991 and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

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19. Whitney Houston
> Certified units: 60 million
> Most popular album: The Bodyguard (Soundtrack) (1992)

Known as “The Voice,” six-time Grammy winner Whitney Houston is the only performer to have seven consecutive No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Her first two albums, “Whitney Houston” and “Whitney,” hit No. 1 on the album charts. The 1992 soundtrack from the movie “The Bodyguard,” in which she starred with Kevin Costner, is the best-selling movie soundtrack ever and won the Grammy for Best Album of the Year. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted Houston in 2020.

18. Metallica
> Certified units: 63 million
> Most popular album: Metallica (1991)

Formed in 1981 in Los Angeles, heavy metal band Metallica has won eight Grammy Awards. Known mainly as a thrash meta” band, Metallica used a slower, heavier style on its fifth studio album, “Metallica,” also known as “The Black Album.” Six of the band’s best-known songs — “Enter Sandman,” “The Unforgiven,” “Nothing Else Matters,” “Wherever I May Roam,” and “Sad but True” — are on the album. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted the band in 2009.

17. Madonna
> Certified units: 65 million
> Most popular album: The Immaculate Collection (1990)

The so-called “Queen of Pop,” Madonna has achieved the status of cultural icon by repeatedly changing with the times. Her work and her life have even spawned an academic discipline, “Madonna studies.” Her first greatest hits album, “The Immaculate Collection,” includes the hits “Justify My Love,” “Like a Virgin,” “Material Girl,” “Like a Prayer,” “Vogue,” “Express Yourself,” and “Crazy for You.” She has won seven Grammy Awards and a Golden Globe Award. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted her in 2008.

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16. Bruce Springsteen
> Certified units: 66 million
> Most popular album: Born In The U.S.A. (1984)

One of the originators of “heartland rock,” Bruce Springsteen has built a fiercely loyal fan base over five decades. His first two albums, “Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.” and “The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle,” were both released in 1973 but did not sell well. But by 1982, “The Boss” had found the magic and released “Born In The U.S.A.,” which has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. He has won 20 Grammy Awards and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted him in 1999.

15. Aerosmith
> Certified units: 67 million
> Most popular album: Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits (1980)

Aerosmith stands at the top of the list of best-selling hard rock bands, selling more than 150 million records worldwide. The group has four Grammy Awards. They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. The Songwriters Hall of Fame inducted Steven Tyler and Joe Perry in 2013. The 1980 release “Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits” includes “Dream On,” “Walk This Way,” “Back in the Saddle,” “Sweet Emotion,” and “Last Child.” It has sold more than 11 million copies.

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14. Mariah Carey
> Certified units: 67 million
> Most popular album: Music Box (1993)

With her five-octave vocal range, Mariah Carey found stardom with her eponymous debut album in 1990. Her first five singles reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, making her the only artist to achieve that feat. Carey has won five Grammy Awards and was announced as an inductee into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2020 — but the induction ceremony has been postponed until 2022 because of the pandemic. Her third studio album, “Music Box,” has sold more than 28 million copies worldwide. It includes “Hero,” which became an anthem for 9/11 first responders.

13. The Rolling Stones
> Certified units: 67 million
> Most popular album: Hot Rocks (1971)

Formed in London in 1962, the Rolling Stones had a grittier sound than The Beatles and other pop rock performers. The double album “Hot Rocks” holds a wealth of their iconic songs from 1964’s British Invasion through 1971. It includes “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Get Off of My Cloud,” “Ruby Tuesday,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Honky Tonk Woman,” and “Brown Sugar,” among others, and has sold more than six million copies in the United States. The band has won three Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. The Songwriters Hall of Fame inducted Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in 1993.

12. George Strait
> Certified units: 69 million
> Most popular album: Strait Out Of The Box (1995)

Known as the “King of Country,” singer-songwriter George Strait has stuck with traditional country music even as the genre has veered into pop and rock sounds. Strait has won only one Grammy, but has topped the Billboard country singles chart a record 44 times. His first box set, “Strait Out of the Box,” has sold more than 2 million copies. It includes “Amarillo by Morning,” “I Cross My Heart,” “Ocean Front Property,” “The Chair,” and “All My Ex’s Live in Texas.”

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11. Barbra Streisand
> Certified units: 69 million
> Most popular album: Greatest Hits Volume II (1978)

How big a deal is Barbra Streisand? At age 36 she was already releasing her second “Greatest Hits” album. The powerful vocalist, who first gained fame on Broadway, has blended her six-decade recording career with acting, directing, and political activism. “Greatest Hits Volume II” opens with “Evergreen,” which Streisand and Paul Williams wrote for the 1976 movie “A Star Is Born.” The song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and Streisand also took home the Oscar for Best Actress for her starring role in the film. Streisand has won eight Grammy Awards in addition to the 1992 Grammy Legend Award and the 1994 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

10. AC/DC
> Certified units: 75 million
> Most popular album: Back In Black (1980)

Australian rock band AC/DC was founded in 1973 by guitarists Malcolm and Angus Young. They eventually settled on Bon Scott as lead singer and their popularity grew, with the 1979 album “Highway to Hell” landing them on the U.S. charts. Scott died of alcohol poisoning in 1980 and after considering disbanding, the group brought in Brian Johnson as lead singer. That year AC/DC released “Back in Black,” which was an immediate commercial success. The band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.

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9. Pink Floyd
> Certified units: 75 million
> Most popular album: The Wall (1979)

Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Richard Wright, Nick Mason, and Bob Klose got together to form this pioneering — and highly influential — British psychedelic/prog rock band in 1965. Despite personnel changes (David Gilmour joined up in 1967; Barrett departed the following year, and both Wright and Waters later decamped), Pink Floyd had a successful run (in several increments), and by 2013, shortly before breaking up for the final time, had become one of the best-selling groups of all time. “The Wall,” which contains their only No. 1 single, “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2,” is considered one of the best concept albums ever released. Pink Floyd was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

8. Elton John
> Certified units: 79 million
> Most popular album: Greatest Hits (1974)

This celebrated British singer, pianist, and songwriter, born Reginald Dwight, has charted more than 50 Top 40 hits (including seven No. 1’s) in the UK and 57 in the U.S. (with nine hitting No. 1). He has also won two Academy Awards (for Best Original Song), received 34 Grammy nominations and taken home five Grammys, and scored a Tony for Best Original Score for “Aida.” Among his many hits are “Rocket Man,” “Honky Cat,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Bennie and the Jets,” and “Daniel” (all on his 1974 “Greatest Hits” LP), and “Candle in the Wind” — rewritten and re-recorded in 1997 as a tribute to Princess Diana. In 1994, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

7. Michael Jackson
> Certified units: 85 million
> Most popular album: Thriller (1982)

The “King of Pop” and an unforgettable icon of popular culture, Michael Jackson was famed not just for his singing but for his songwriting, his unique (and much-copied) dance moves, his pioneering music videos, his highly original fashion sense, and of course his troubled personal life. His seminal 1982 album “Thriller” gave the world “Beat It,” “Billie Jean,” and the title song — and until it was displaced by an Eagles greatest hits compilation (see below), it held the title of the best-selling album of all time, moving some 47.3 million certified copies. Jackson was also one of the rare artists to be admitted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame more than once, earning the honor in 1997 for his role in the family singing group The Jackson 5 and in 2001 on his own merits.

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6. Billy Joel
> Certified units: 85 million
> Most popular album: Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II (1985)

New York City-born Billy Joel, known as “Piano Man” after his first big hit (it was also the title of his second album), is one of the most successful musical artists of all time, with sales of over 150 million records. His 1985 greatest hits compilation won a rare Diamond certification from the RIAA (it went 23 times Platinum, meaning 23 million copies sold). It included not only “Piano Man,” but also such hits as “New York State of Mind,” “Just the Way You Are,” and “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” — speaking of which, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.

5. Led Zeppelin
> Certified units: 112 million
> Most popular album: Led Zeppelin IV (1971)

Hard rock with influences from British folk music and American blues characterized this highly influential quartet of virtuoso musicians — former Yardbirds guitarist Jimmy Page, multiinstrumentalist John Paul Jones, singer Robert Plant, and drummer John Bonham. Tracks of theirs like “Whole Lotta Love,” “Ramble On,” and “Good Times Bad Times” became FM radio standards. Their most famous song, “Stairway to Heaven,” which appears on “Led Zeppelin IV,” has arguably the best-known guitar intro in rock. Spurred by the popularity of “Stairway,” the album sold more than 37 million copies. The band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. Independently, Jimmy Page was also inducted in 1992 as a member of The Yardbirds.

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4. Eagles
> Certified units: 120 million
> Most popular album: Eagles/Their Greatest Hits 1971 – 1975 (1976)

One of the most successful American bands of the 1970s, this L.A.-based ensemble, going strong today after a couple of hiatuses, had No. 1 hits with “Best of My Love,” “One of These Nights,” “Tequila Sunrise,” and “Already Gone,” (all on their 1975 greatest hits offering), as well as such classics as “New Kid in Town,” “Hotel California,” and “Heartache Tonight.” Along the way they picked up six Grammys and five American Music Awards — and in 1999, the Recording Industry Association of America certified their 1976 greatest hits album as the Best-Selling Album of the Century. In 1998, they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

3. Elvis Presley
> Certified units: 139 million
> Most popular album: Elvis’ Christmas Album (1970)

Fans of “The King” — and who isn’t? — might be surprised to learn that his best-selling album was the 1970 release “Elvis’ Christmas Album” (at more than 20 million copies, it is also the best-selling Christmas album of all time by any artist). Of course what this legendary performer is best known for isn’t “Here Comes Santa Claus” or “Silent Night” but such iconic rockers as “Heartbreak Hotel,” “All Shook Up,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” and “Don’t Be Cruel.” Also a prolific actor and a larger-than-life personality reflected in virtually every area of popular culture, Elvis was a member of the first class of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees, in 1986.

2. Garth Brooks
> Certified units: 157 million
> Most popular album: Double Live (1998)

Country singer Garth Brooks has sold more records than almost anyone, in any genre — more than Eagles, Led Zeppelin, even Elvis. He is also the only recording artist in history to have won Diamond status (sometimes by many multiples) for nine of his albums — including “Double Live,” recorded during a 1996-1998 world tour. It includes versions of such Brooks standards as “Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up),” “Standing Outside the Fire,” “Friends in Low Places,” and “American Honky-Tonk Bar Association.”

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1. The Beatles
> Certified units: 183 million
> Most popular album: The Beatles (1968)

What is there to say about The Beatles, other than that their musical and cultural influence is incalculable and that they all but defined popular music in the 1960s? Considered by many to be one of the most original — and best — albums of all time, the two-disc set called simply “The Beatles” (known popularly as “the White Album” for its blank white cover), recorded the year before the band broke up, contains songs in many styles and moods. These range from the hard rock parody “Back in the U.S.S.R.” to the lyrical “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” to the novelty song “Rocky Raccoon” and the experimental “Revolution 9.” (“Hey Jude” isn’t on the album, but was recorded in the same sessions and released as a single a few months before the album came out.) It seems almost anticlimactic to note that The Beatles were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.

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