Sonny and Cher





Sonny and Cher proved to be one of the most magical musical combinations of the mid-'60s and one of the better Rock-influenced acts of the early '70s, their wisecracking repartee providing counterpoint to a series of adoring hit duets. Salvatore 'Sonny' Bono (born Feb. 16th, 1935) started out at Los Angeles-based Specialty Records as a songwriter in the late '50s, responsible for "Koko Joe" by Don And Dewey and "She Said Yeah" for Larry Williams, which was later covered by The Rolling Stones and The Righteous Brothers. Bono became a protege of Phil Spector, managing to write a handful of successful songs, most notably "Needles and Pins" in collaboration with his apprentice Jack Nitzsche, which became a success for Jackie DeShannon and a huge international hit for The Searchers.

In 1963, while working on sessions with Phil Spector, Sonny met a 16-year-old, would-be singer named Cherilyn Sarkasian Lapierre (born May 20, 1946), at a coffee shop next to a Los Angeles radio station. She had earlier recorded the Spector-produced single "Ringo, I Love You", released under the name Bonnie Jo Mason. Although Sonny was married to Donna Rankin, with whom he had a daughter, his interest in Cher grew until he eventually ended his marriage. Sonny and Cher were later wed and although she was reluctant, the pair formed a professional duet, initially known as Caesar And Cleo. They released the singles "The Letter", "Do You Wanna Dance" and "Love Is Strange", with little effect. It was only after they were signed to Atlantic Records as Sonny And Cher that success came their way. The couple embarked on parallel careers, with Cher later signed to Liberty/Imperial Records as a solo act.

They were a strange team in the sense that in the early days neither had a great voice and, indeed, their voices were so similar that Atlantic's president Ahmet Ertegun was convinced that Sonny had come close to breaking his contract by singing with Cher on her #15 solo hit "All I Really Want to Do". That song, however, also demonstrated their ability to spot a hit, as well as good material for themselves. They'd heard The Byrds performing the Dylan song at a club in Los Angeles and got Cher's recording out before the Byrds' own rendition was in stores, beating the Folk-Rock group at its own game of popularizing Dylan songs. Cher's 1965 debut album, "All I Really Want to Do" reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 200. She subsequently hit with "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" (#2) while Sonny charted at #10 with "Laugh at Me" on Atco, but their biggest success was as a duet on Atco with "I Got You Babe", which reached #1 in the Summer of 1965. The hits came fast and often for the next year and a half with "Baby Don't Go" (#8), "Just You" (#20), "But You're Mine" (#13), "What Now My Love" (#14), "Little Man" (#23) and "The Beat Goes On" (#1). For a time they were Rock 'n' Roll's hottest couple, so much so that in some conservative communities they were considered almost morally subversive. They were popular enough and sufficiently well-known in their images that The Rolling Stones impersonated them on the British television music showcase Ready, Steady, Go!, miming to "I Got You Babe" with Brian Jones subbing for Sonny.

Then, as quickly as they started, the hits stopped coming, and the couple made some daringly creative but unsuccessful commercial missteps, even a movie (Good Times, directed by William Friedkin in his debut) that was, like The Monkees' Head, too far ahead of its time for critics or all but the most advanced fans to appreciate. A further film effort, Chastity, a name shared by their daughter, also bombed, and the sudden confrontation of a $200,000 income tax debt forced the couple to continue touring. Further, they were unable to record because of a dispute with Atlantic over Sonny's objections to the way that Cher's solo career was being handled. They were reduced to playing supper clubs and Las Vegas nightclubs, opening for people like Pat Boone, when Johnny Musso, a friend of the couple, was jumping from an executive position at Atlantic to run Decca Records' Kapp label subsidiary, and brought the duo with him. At around the same time, their stage act, which had evolved into a kind of a domestic comedy routine nearly as prominent as the music, with the tall, wry-witted Cher cutting up on the seemingly dim-witted Sonny, was spotted by Fred Silverman, who was then the head of programming for CBS. They ended up with a Summer replacement try-out show in August of 1971 that did so well that Sonny and Cher were given a regular spot in the CBS line-up in January 1972 with a comedy-variety series.

The couple's recording career was revived initially by a live album, cut in one night at Las Vegas, featuring new versions of their early hits as well as parts of their current repertoire. The album went Gold. The next couple of singles by Cher, and Sonny And Cher failed, but producer Snuff Garrett, who had been at Liberty when Cher was there but had never worked with her, was brought in, and the result was "Gypsies, Tramps And Thieves", a career-reviving number one hit. After that, "The Way of Love" (#7), "All I Ever Need Is You" (#7), "A Cowboy's Work Is Never Done" (#8), "Half Breed" (#1), and "Dark Lady" (#1) kept either Cher or the couple in the Top Ten at various times through 1974. By then, however, their marriage had fallen apart, and with it, the success of their TV show.

Cher's new musical direction coincided with her split from her husband and mentor. As evidenced throughout her solo career, Cher had a darker side than Sonny was willing to explore in music and the inherent differences between the two eventually drove them apart. Although it was Sonny whose knowledge of the industry had gotten them as far as they'd come, there was no denying that there was no Sonny And Cher without Cher. With her larger-than-life personality and over-the-top Bob Mackie costumes, Cher continued to sell out shows in Vegas and produce albums as she'd done with Sonny. Now in control of her own destiny, Cher decided to pursue a life-long dream of acting. Surprisingly though, her Mae West attitude and relationship with what was seen by some as the svengali-like Bono, prevented her immediate transition to the silver screen. Not one to give up, Cher headed to New York, where she landed a supporting role in Come Back To The Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. Her impressive performance led to a co-starring role in Mike Nichols' Silkwood. While roles in 1985's Mask and 1987's The Witches Of Eastwick helped to establish her as a serious actress, it wasn't until 1987's Moonstruck that she received an Oscar for best actress.

As Cher's acting career soared, her singing career fell by the wayside and her personal life became a wild ride of equal parts tabloid exploitation and personal revelation. Romantically linked with David Geffen and Gene Simmons, Cher's second marriage was to rocker Greg Allman in June, 1975. To say that the union was shaky would be an understatement. The pair separated after just nine days, reconciled, and later divorced in 1977. The birth of her son Elija Blue in 1976 and a handful of highly-publicized relationships with younger men forced Cher into the spotlight more often than her music, making it harder and harder for her to remember what it was she hoped to be getting from her career.

In 1996, Cher was back on the charts with "One By One", a thumping dance track that was particularly well received by her large gay male following. Throughout her time in show business, Cher could take solace in the presence of a large gay audience. With such a large homosexual following, it should have been easy for Cher to take daughter Chastity's coming out as a lesbian in stride, but such was not the case. In both Chastity's book, Family Outing and Cher's autobiography, My First Time, it was revealed that the singer was initially saddened and worried by her daughter's revelation. It wasn't long though before maternal instincts kicked in, returning Cher to the role of her daughter's biggest advocate.

Meanwhile, Sonny Bono was in the restaurant business when his outrage at the bureaucracy of the government in Palm Springs, California caused him to declare his candidacy for mayor. He won the election, and subsequently was elected to Congress during the 1994 Republican sweep of the House of Representatives. He continued to represent Cher's business interests (the name Sonny And Cher is trademarked), and was beginning to make a mark as a conservative Republican member of the California House delegation when he died in a skiing accident in 1998. Bono's fourth wife, Mary, succeeded him to the same House seat in a special election and the general election in 1998.

In 1998, Cher released the LP "Believe", the title track of which would prove to be her final Billboard Hot 100 chart entry when it topped out at #1. The song had already become England's biggest-selling single ever, and paved the way for the second cut, "Strong Enough", which had mediocre success on the Hot 100, where it peaked at #57, but did top the Hot Dance Club Play chart. A completely dance-driven album, "Believe" covers Amy Grant's "The Power" and the singer's own '80s hit "We All Sleep Alone". Perhaps the most laudable aspect of the album was the way in which it made use of the industry's latest technological achievements to support the artist's vocals, rather than to obviate them. With such an indelible spirit and commanding presence, it was no wonder that Cher was asked to co-headline vh1's Divas Live 99, with such musical luminaries as Tina Turner and Whitney Houston.

In 2002, Cher set out on long series of concerts that she said would be her farewell tour. The next year, Warner Brothers released a compilation album, "The Very Best of Cher", which debuted in the Top Ten and peaked at #4 on the Billboard album chart. It included "I Got You Babe", "The Beat Goes On", "Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves", "Half-Breed", "Song For The Lonely," and "Believe". Cher was also the author of several beauty and fitness books, and was also active in social and philanthropic causes such as AIDS, gay rights and the Children's Craniofacial Association.

On May 2nd, 2005, Cher, now 58, played to a sold-out crowd at the Hollywood Bowl and insisted that this final concert on her 325-stop tour really was the end. However, she continued to crank out the hits and in 2011, as her latest release, "Haven't Seen the Last of Me" raced up Billboard's Dance Club Song chart, Cher was poised to mark the sixth decade in which she had a #1 hit. Her track record of achieving chart topping records includes: The 1960s - "I Got You Babe". The 1970s - "Gypsys, Tramps And Thieves", "Half Breed", "Dark Lady" and "All I Ever Need Is You." The 1980s - "If I Could Turn Back Time" and "After All" (with Peter Cetera) The 1990s - "Believe", "Strong Enough" and "All or Nothing". The 2000s - "Song For The Lonely", "A Different Kind of Love Song" and "When The Money's Gone".

In February, 2012, Cher announced that she would embark on a tour that September, marking her first extended road trip since 2005. A new album called "Closer To The Truth" was also in the works, and a new single, "Woman's World", was debuted on November 22nd. In May, 2013, Cher's mother, 86-year-old Georgia Holt, made her Billboard chart debut with an LP entitled "Honky Tonk Women". The collection consisted of resurrected tracks that Holt originally recorded in her garage in 1980 with some former members of Elvis Preley's band. The album, which included covers and original material written by Holt, arrived at #13 on Heatseekers Albums and #43 on Top Country Albums. During its release week, Cher and her mom were making the rounds on American talk shows, including The Tonight Show With Jay Leno", Good Morning America and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. In June of 2013, Cher performed "Woman's World" on the TV show The Voice. On the 24th of September, she appeared on The Late Show With David Letterman, making a spectacular entrance by being lowered to the stage on a swing. After an interview with Letterman, Cher performed a beautiful ballad called "I Hope You Find It", using her own band as back-up.

In the Spring of 2014, Cher appeared on two tracks of the hip-hop troupe Wu-Tang Clan's album "Once Upon a Time in Shaolin". According to one of her representatives, 'She recorded her parts separately, so I don't believe there was direct interaction.' Meanwhile, her 2014 tour, Dressed To Kill, proved to be extremely lucrative, grossing a reported $54.9 million by mid-July. Unfortunately that tour was cut short by 29 dates in mid-November after doctors advised a 68-year-old Cher that she needed more time to recover from an ongoing viral infection. During the next two years she kept busy by vacationing in the South of France, making personal appearances and campaigning for Hillary Clinton. In August, 2016, a spokesperson refuted a tabloid magazine story that said Cher was suffering from a debilitating illness and was close to death by calling the report 'dog shit.'

In January, 2017, Cher was set to star in a TV movie about the water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan, playing the role of a resident whose family was seriously impacted by the poison water crisis that arose in 2014. Following that, she was slated to perform a series of thirty live concerts in the newly built Park Theater at the Monte Carlo Resort at MGM National Harbor. Opening night was scheduled for February 8th, 2017. In early June, Cher announced on her Twitter page that a Broadway musical based on her life would hit the stage in 2018.

CLASSIC TRIVIA:
Cher's half-sister, Georganna La Pere was a regular on the TV show, General Hospital.