Those performers and others of their era had broad cultural currency; they had meaning for people who did not like or even listen to their music. Is there any figure who has emerged recently in popular music of whom that can be said? This is not meant to be one of those laments about artistic decline, in which the younger generation is compared unfavorably to the great achievements of past ones. I have no doubt that more recent generations of performers may be more skilled and at least as talented as their musical forebears. Rather, my point is that the cultural position of popular music and its stars has diminished.
This is related to a point that I made a few months back, though my analysis led to a different conclusion.
Where Have All the Rock Stars Gone?