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Chris Martin, 44, is the lead singer of Coldplay and one of the richest people in music. The band opened this year’s Brit Awards. Their songs have been streamed 16 billion times on Spotify, making them the second most popular British act behind Ed Sheeran (28 billion).
How many records have they sold? About 100 million. Since releasing their debut album in 2000, they’ve notched up eight No 1 albums and 18 Top 10 singles, including two No 1s. They’re also one of the few British acts to crack America. Their last worldwide tour, in 2016-17, was the fifth highest-grossing of all time, pulling in $523m in ticket sales. Martin is worth an estimated £125m, according to the latest Sunday Times Rich List.
Hasn’t he been unusually generous about splitting royalties? Indeed. Despite being the primary songwriter, he has chosen to share copyright credits with the other three band members, handing them money they wouldn’t otherwise get. As a result, they’re all worth more than £100m. Martin is the biggest earner because of his extracurricular collaborations with artists including Nelly Furtado, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Avicii, the Chainsmokers and Dua Lipa.
Does he have musical parents? His mother, Alison, is a music teacher. Martin has business in his blood as well: his father, Anthony, is a retired accountant and magistrate who inherited a caravan retail business from his father, who served as mayor of Exeter in 1968. The company was sold for £250,000 in 1999. And Martin’s great-great grandfather, William Willett, invented daylight saving time. The eldest of five children, Martin was raised in a “very religious” household – he was bullied for being a “zealot” when he attended Sherborne school.
That doesn’t sound very rock’n’roll. How did he transform himself into a pop star? At University College London, he met future bandmates Jonny Buckland, Will Champion and Guy Berryman. Martin went on to get a first-class honours degree in Greek and Latin before forming Coldplay in 1996. They were originally called Pectoralz. You’ll be unsurprised to learn that he didn’t lose his virginity until he was 22. Six years later, in 2005, he was named the world’s sexiest vegetarian by the animal rights group Peta.
What’s he like in person? Coldplay’s bass guitarist, Guy Berryman, told The Sunday Times last month: “Chris Martin’s brain is wired up in an even more extreme manner than mine. He literally never stops.” And Berryman is a guy who rises at 5.30am, does an hour in the gym, takes cold showers and runs a fashion label on the side that sells £2,140 coats. Martin certainly loves to perform – he has played himself in several movies and TV shows, including Brüno, Shaun of the Dead, Modern Family and The Simpsons. He was in a high-profile marriage to Gwyneth Paltrow for 13 years and they have two children, Apple and Moses. Paltrow, who founded the online wellness retailer Goop in 2008, is thought to be worth £11m less than her ex. Which just goes to show that selling jade eggs and £350 sweaters is slightly less profitable than making hit music.
What does he spend his money on? Mostly property. The New York Post reported that last October he bought a $12.5m Cape Cod-style estate in Malibu, with a pool, a hot tub and a home theatre. He lives there with his girlfriend of nearly four years, actress Dakota Johnson. In 2018 he shelled out $4.45m for a 99-seat professional theatre set in 6½ acres, though his plans for it are unknown. He and Johnson often drive from Malibu to LA for Sunday dinner with Paltrow and her new husband, Brad Falchuk.
How civilised – but didn’t The Guardian once call him “square as a chessboard”? He seems finally to have embraced his role as pop’s figure of fun. He recently said: “I get it. I think it’s important to have figures of ridicule and I don’t mind being one of them.” He doesn’t drink or smoke, and he’s first in the queue for any charity concerts. Since 2000 Coldplay have donated 10% of their earnings to charity, and Martin is a vocal supporter of the fair-trade movement, travelling to Mexico, Haiti and Ghana with Oxfam to meet farmers. He told The Times in 2019: “I want to love everyone.” He’s so nice, he even phoned failed UK Eurovision contestant James Newman last month to commiserate and tell him he was “amazing”.