The right judgment on Michael Jackson’s career, argues Daniel Finkelstein, is that he was “a magnificent entertainer, but not someone who shaped pop history.” But why then did his death attract more attention than those of Elvis and John Lennon, “undeniably more culturally important?"

The answer, Finkelstein maintains, is that in the decades since Lennon’s death society has changed radically. The culture war fought out since the sixties is ended. “And pop culture has won.” Politicians like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, “the first political tribunes of the post-1960s generation to reach the highest office” were instrumental in this change, bringing “liberal values, egalitarian assumptions, democratic accents and low culture hipness to the mainstream.” The fact, however, that across racial and class divides, an “essentially innocuous showman” like Michael Jackson can be big news is just one little sign that “(we’re) all pop fans now.”