Best-selling albums of all time in the U.S.

The top selling album of all time in the United States based on certified unit sales is currently the Eagles’ Greatest Hits, with 38 million copies sold. Michael Jackson's 1982 album, 'Thriller', ranked second with 33 million sales, and the Eagles also held third place in the ranking with 'Hotel California', which had 26 million certified unit sales as of September 2019.

Also featuring in the ranking were several world-famous rock bands: AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Guns N’ Roses, Fleetwood Mac, and Boston.

Eagles: a short history

The Eagles were founded in Los Angeles in 1971 by Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Randy Meisner, and Bernie Leadon. In 1975, Bernie Leadon left and was replaced by Joe Walsh, and two years later Meisner left and made way for Timothy B. Schmit.

The group specializes in folk, country, and soft rock, and are most famous for 1977 number one single ‘Hotel California’, which is 6 and a half minutes long and is still popular today. After the band broke up in 1980, the Eagles were on hiatus until 1994 and pursued their own individual musical projects.

Glenn Frey almost topped the charts with Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack hit ‘The Heat Is On’, and worked on the soundtracks for ‘Thelma & Louise’ and ‘Ghostbusters II’. Joe Walsh released his own album ‘There Goes the Neighborhood’ and did session work for Steve Winwood and Emerson, Lake & Palmer among others. Schmit sang backup vocals for Toto and toured with Walsh as part of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr band. Don Henley’s released album ‘No Fun Aloud’ and achieved commercial success with famous songs ‘The Boys of Summer’ and ‘The Heart of the Matter’, as well as a song with Fleetwood Mac singer-songwriter Stevie Nicks. Henley began dating Nicks in the late 1970s and the two went on to collaborate musically, releasing ‘Leather and Lace’ in 1981.

Today, the Eagles are not only some of the highest paid musicians in the U.S. but are one of the most active and well-known rock bands in the world and are frequently on tour. In fact, the American rockers famous for ‘Hotel California’ had one of the most successful music tours in the world in 2018, which generated gross revenue of 166 million U.S. dollars – that’s almost as much as the Foo Fighters’ and Sam Smith’s tour revenue combined.

All time top selling albums in the United States as of September 2019

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Release date

September 2019


United States

Survey time period

data accessed on September 10, 2019

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Statistics on "Music in the U.S."

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