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Cher (20 May 1946 – Present)

Actress and singer-songwriter from El Centro, California, whose mother supported her acting ambitions and paid for her to take formal lessons. Cher dropped out of high school when she was sixteen and pursued a career in show business.

She had a brief fling with Warren Beatty before meeting Sonny Bono , who was already on his way to realizing his musical ambitions. He hooked her up with Phil Spector and he utilized her alto voice on records such as “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes, “Da Doo Ron Ron” by The Crystals, and “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” by The Righteous Brothers.

Her solo debut was “Ringo, I Love You” which she recorded under the nom de plume, Bonnie Jo Mason. She followed this up with “Dream Baby”, this time billing herself as Cherilyn, her birth name.  ” Cher” was much more befitting of her exotic looks; she was a mixture of Armenian, Cherokee, English, and French; and after a short-lived and ill-fated turn as Caesar and Cleo, Sonny & Cher was born.

Their debut 45, “Baby Don’t Go”, was a hit in L.A. but the duo didn’t begin to achieve success until they label-hopped from Reprise to Atco, which was part of the Atlantic family. In 1965, they had a top-twenty hit in “Just You” and topped the charts with “I Got You Babe“. They re-released “Baby Don’t Go” and it went to #8. Sonny & Cher had arrived.

Cher also released her first solo LP, All I Really Want to Do, and it peaked at #16 on the Billboard Top 200. Its follow-up, The Sonny Side of Cher, reached #11 in the U.K. and #26 in the States. It yielded a pair of hits, “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” and “Where Do You Go”, which went to #2 and #25 on the Billboard chart, respectively. In 1966, she released a self-titled album, which did not enjoy similar success, but nevertheless yielded a top-ten hit in Europe, “Sunny”.  ” You Better Sit Down Kids” cracked the top ten stateside in 1967, a year that saw her switch record labels from Imperial to Atlantic, audition for the part of Bonnie in Bonnie and Clyde, and appear in the commercial flop, Good Times, as herself. She also won an acting role as Ramona in an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. entitled “The Hot Number Affair”.

Her next album, Backstage, was not so hot. It flopped. By 1968, Sonny & Cher’s records were no longer selling. Cher made another brief foray into film, appearing in Where the Girls Are. In 1969, she played the title role in Chastity, penned and produced by Sonny . It was the namesake of their child, who entered the world on 4th March. That was perhaps the only good thing about the film, which was another box-office bust. Between Chastity and Good Times, Sonny and Cher had lost millions of dollars. To make matters worse, the I.R.S. said they owed $200,000 in unpaid taxes. It was like a bad game of Monopoly.

In spite of their early success, Sonny & Cher once again found themselves singing for their supper. Undaunted, and always looking for an angle, Sonny conjured up a Las Vegas act for the pair, a mixture of cabaret and vaudeville, with Cher playing Gracie to Sonny’s George in between musical sets. The show drew the attention of a television talent scout who saw potential in the odd couple. It was Fred Silverman, then the head honcho at CBS, who helped revive their career by setting them up with their own variety show, a five-episode try-out called The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour. The show was an immediate success, and by January 1972, was a full-time member of the CBS family.

In the meantime, Cher had revitalized her solo career with the release of Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves, the title track of which became her first #1 hit as a solo artist.  ” The Way of Love” worked its way to #7 in the spring of 1972. In 1973, she topped the charts again with the title track of Half-Breed. She repeated the feat in 1974 with “Dark Lady”, another in a string of lucky title tracks. Cher was hot. Unfortunately, Sonny & Cher were not. Their marriage was on the rocks, and their separation coincided with the cancellation of their TV show. The divorce was long, drawn-out, and nasty, and was finally made official on 27th June 1975. Three days later, Cher married Gregg Allman.

Sonny and Cher both launched their own television shows. Sonny’s lasted all of six episodes. Cher’s lasted for a year, and garnered her an Emmy Award nomination. Then the couple inexplicably reunited for The Sonny & Cher Show. It also lasted for a year. The public wasn’t buying the amicably divorced act. On 10th July 1976, Cher gave birth to Elijah Blue Allman. The parents separated a year later, but not before releasing the collaborative effort, Two the Hard Way, under the mercurial moniker, Allman and Woman. Allman and Woman divorced in 1979.

In the meantime, Cher’s solo efforts weren’t doing much: Cherished, I’d Rather Believe in You, and Stars came and went. In 1978, Cher returned to TV in the simply titled Cher… Special, co-starring Dolly Parton , who received an Emmy nomination for her efforts. Cher… and other Fantasies aired in 1979 and featured the hostess doing a one-woman show version of West Side Story. Sonny & Cher also briefly reunited for a performance on The Mike Douglas Show, singing a strangely themed medley of “Without You ” and “United We Stand”. Later the same year, Cher hopped on the disco bandwagon, inking a deal with Casablanca, no less, and cracked the top ten with the title track from Take Me Home. (Title tracks were good to Cher.) The album went gold and Cher’s star was on the rise again. Its follow-up, Prisoner, yielded another hit in “Hell on Wheels”, which was subsequently used in the movie, Roller Boogie. Cher also contributed “Bad Love” to the soundtrack of Foxes.

In 1980, Cher and her boyfriend Les Dudek co-formed Black Rose and released an eponymous album. Its sales were thorny. Cher fared better teaming up with Meat Loaf on “Dead Ringer for Love”, which put her back in the top five in the U.K., at least. I Paralyze, released in 1982, failed to move. Cher re-committed herself to acting and landed a role on Broadway in Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, and appeared in the subsequent film. She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Golden Globes for her role as Sissy. In 1983, she appeared alongside Hollywood heavyweights Kurt Russell and Meryl Streep in Silkwood, garnering rave reviews for her portrayal of Streep’s lesbian flat-mate. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and the Golden Globes all acknowledged her performance with a nomination for Best Supporting Actress. In 1985, she was nominated for Best Actress by the Golden Globes for her role of the mother in Mask. The movie, which is about a boy who is disfigured, inspired her to become an Honorary Spokesperson and National Chairperson for the Children’s Craniofacial Association.

On 22nd May 1986, she made a notorious appearance on David Letterman’s Late Night show, during which she referred to the irreverent host as an unflattering orifice of the human body. In spite of this, David managed to re-unite her with Sonny for what would become their last performance of “I Got You Babe” on 13th November 1987. The late-night host has had her on as a guest many times since. Her appearance could not have hurt box-office returns and video sales of Moonstruck, for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress. She also resuscitated her music career by teaming up with John Kalodner, Artist & Repertory point man for Geffen Records. A self-titled album hit the shelves in 1987, and it reaped a pair of hits, “I Found Someone” and “We All Sleep Alone”, which peaked at #14 in 1988. The album went platinum three times over. Cher also launched her own scent, Uninhibited.  On her fortieth birthday, she received a phone call offering her a part in the black comedy, The Witches of Eastwick. The all-star cast included Angelica Huston, Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Susan Sarandon.

On 19th June 1989, Heart of Stone was released, and it was to become her biggest album at the time, topping sales of over four-and-a-half million globally. It yielded an armful of hits, including “After All”, which peaked at #6 and featured ex-Chicago front-man, Peter Cetera.  ” If I Could Turn Back Time” fared even better, reaching #1 in Australia, #3 in the States, and #6 in Great Britain. The subsequent video stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy on two fronts: 1.) The fact that Cher wasn’t wearing much on her front, or her back, for that matter; and. 2.) The fact that Cher wasn’t wearing much on the naval ship, U.S.S. Missouri. MTV originally banned the video, but caved to public consensus and eventually aired it after nine o’clock at night. Cher went on tour from 1989 to 1990 in support of the album.

She made a return to TV with Cher – Live at the Mirage, a portent of things to come in Las Vegas. In 1990, Cher returned to the big screen in Mermaids, which co-starred Bob Hoskins, Christina Ricci, and Winona Ryder. In addition to her acting duties, she recorded two songs which were used in the film, “Baby I’m Yours” and “It’s in His Kiss (The Shoop Shoop Song)”. The latter reached the top of the charts in Great Britain, #3 in France and Germany, #5 Down Under, and #33 in the States. It became her best-selling international hit, going platinum six times over.

In 1991, she was offered the role of Thelma in the buddy comedy, Thelma & Louise, but turned it down. Perhaps it was because she was busy in the recording studio, fulfilling her three-album contract with Geffen Records. Love Hurts was another international success, going multi-platinum and debuting at #1 in the U.K., staying there for six straight weeks.  ” Love and Understanding” peaked at #3 in the U.K. and cracked the top twenty in the U.S. The title track, “Could’ve Been You”, and “Save Up All Your Tears” charted in Europe. In 1992, again, she toured in support of the album. A best-of package, Greatest Hits: 1965-1992, also went #1 in the U.K. and top ten in a variety of other countries.

It is unsurprising, given her exhaustive touring schedule, that Cher was in dire need of a break. She took it easy for a while, re-charged her battery, and made the odd appearance on film or TV. When she did make a couple of forays in film, it was as herself in the Robert Altman gems, The Player and Pret-a-Porter. She also shilled artificial sweetener and hair products on TV. In between, she managed to squeeze in a humanitarian trip to Armenia. (Yes, this was Cher’s idea of a break.)

The mid-’90s featured a couple of eclectic collaborations: She did a cover of “I Got You Babe” with Beavis and Butt-Head; you read that right; and recorded “Love Can Build a Bridge” with Neneh Cherry, Eric Clapton, and Chrissie Hynde. The song, which was recorded for charity, topped the charts in the U.K. Her next solo album, It’s a Man’s World, was released in Europe in 1995 and in the U.S. in 1996.  ” One by One” and a cover version of “Walking in Memphis” charted in Europe, and the album went platinum three times.

In 1996, she did a pair of TV movies: Faithful, which co-starred Chazz Palminteri and Ryan O’Neal, and If These Walls Could Talk, with Anne Heche, Demi Moore, and Sissy Spacek. Cher received a Golden Globe nomination for the latter in the category of Best Supporting Actress in a made-for-TV movie. In 1997, she gave the keynote address at a convention held by Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

She was in London, England, when she got a call from Chastity telling her that Sonny Bono had died in what was reported to be a violent skiing accident. Cher was devastated by the news. Mary Bono asked her to delivery the eulogy at the funeral, which she did so tearfully. She also paid her respects by hosting the television retrospective, Sonny & Me: Cher Remembers. On 24th March 1998, Cher and Sonny & Cher – Greatest Hits was released on CD. Sonny & Cher were immortalized on the Hollywood Walk of Fame the same year. Mary accepted the posthumous award in her husband’s stead. It is hard to believe, but Cher squeezed in time to co-host the Cannes Film Festival Amfar AIDS benefit with screen legend Elizabeth Taylor.

She rounded out the year with another album, Believe, an atypical Cher album of dance music, and it was a huge success, going platinum four times over in the U.S. and selling over twenty million copies around the globe. The title track won a Grammy and topped the charts in twenty-three different countries. At 52 years of age, Cher became the oldest female artist to top the Billboard charts in the era of the Hot 100. She also gained the dubious distinction of most time in between chart-toppers, almost twenty-five years.  ” Believe” went platinum ten times on the global stage and is the most financially successful single in the U.K. recorded by a female artist. Other hits from the album seem pale in comparison to the title track, but are worthy of mention:  ” Dov’e L’Amore” and “All or Nothing” were hits in Europe and “Strong Enough” was strong enough to hit #3 in France and Germany and the top five in the U.K. As if 1998 weren’t busy enough, Cher found time to pen a memoir entitled The First Time.

She opened up 1999 in grand fashion, singing The National Anthem at Super Bowl XXXIII. On 9th March 1999, another best-of package was released, If I Could Turn Back Time: Cher’s Greatest Hits. A live concert video entitled; well, Live in Concert;was released on VHS. Cher was also one of the artists included on VH1 Divas Live 2, which featured an eclectic mix of artists including Mary J. Blige, Brandy, Faith Hill, Whitney Houston, Elton John , Chaka Khan, LeeAnn Rimes, Diana Ross , and Tina Turner. Once again, Cher hit the road in support of her album, Believe. Cher: Live at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas aired later that same year. On 16th November 1999, yet another best-of package, Cher – Greatest Hits, was released. It debuted at #1 in Germany and eked out 7th place on the U.K. chart.  Also in 1999, she returned to the big screen in the critically acclaimed Tea with Mussolini, which co-starred a bevy of big-time actresses, including Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith, and Lily Tomlin.

In the spring of 2000, the World Music Awards gave her a Lifelong Contribution to the Music Industry Award. The tour wound down, and Cher was back in the studio, this time venturing into alternative rock, with an experiment titled No record company would touch it because it was exactly what the title promised. Instead, Cher opted to sell the album on her web site. It was the first album to feature songs mostly penned by Cher. Many of them were written back in 1994 after a French songwriters retreat. Cher’s valentine to veterans, “Fit to Fly”, was especially lauded by Rolling Stone as their pick for favourite Cher song.

She returned to TV in the early 2000s with a couple of appearances on Will & Grace. In the 2002 episode, “A.I.: Artificial Insemination”, she was cast as God, arguably the biggest role of her career. On 26th February 2002, she released another dance album, Living Proof, which debuted at #9 on the Billboard Top 200, her highest LP debut in the States. It peaked at #13 in Germany, going gold there and stateside, and managed to yield a handful of hits on the Adult Contemporary, Club Play, Hot Dance, and Maxi-Single Sales charts. She even received a couple of Grammy award nominations for her efforts. Cher returned to the small screen for VH1 Divas Las Vegas, which featured another wide variety of artists, including Anastacia, Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion, The Dixie Chicks, Cyndi Lauper, and Shakira. Again, Cher went on tour in support of Living Proof, this time, she said, for the last time. Living Proof: The Farewell Tour was a multi-media extravaganza, featuring acrobats, dancers, and retrospective video clips. The tour was so successful, it was extended repeatedly, and did not close until April 2005. As of April 2005, it was the biggest-selling tour by a solo female artist, ever.

In recent years, she has been very active with Operation Helmet, an effort that gets helmet upgrades to soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, at no cost to the troops. She is also involved with the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, an organization that is committed to getting expert health care to veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq at facilities such as San Antonio’s Brooke Army Medical Center. That is by no means the end of her charity work: She has her own Cher Charitable Foundation that was a major benefactor of a July 2006 auction that raised over three million dollars. Her generous nature seems to have rubbed off on her fans, as well. Cher Expo debuted in 2007. It is basically a convention for fans of the actress-singer, and all of its proceeds are given to charity. In 2009, the charity du jour will be Keep a Child Alive.   Another event, the Cher Convention, began in Chicago, Illinois, in 2000, when “Believe” hit #1. The convention, which takes place once every two years, was held in 2008 in Las Vegas, fortuitously timed when the next step in Cher’s musical journey:

A 200-show contract with Caesar’s Palace.  ” Cher at the Colosseum” began its run on 6th May 2008 and was slated to run for two more years. The first forty-four performances sold out. She was also planning a long-awaited return to the big screen, with a pair of film projects in the works, Burlesque, with Christina Aguilera, and The Zookeeper, in which she was slated to provide the voice of an animal. Other voices will include Rosaria Dawson, Jon Favreau, Kevin James, Adam Sandler (who produced) and Sylvester Stallone.

In 2010 she appeared in the musical Burlesque, with “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me”, which she performed for the soundtrack, reaching No. 1 on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart in 2011.  This top spot made her the only artist to have a Billboard chart No. 1 song in every decade since the 1960s.  Also in 2010 she had her hand and footprints placed in the courtyard of Hollywood’s Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

A year later in 2011 she took part in Zookeeper where she was the voice of Janet the Lioness.  Moving forward another 2 years to 2013 she produced the documentary Dear Mom, Love Cher about her mother Georgia Holt and her album Closer to the Truth, which came 12 years after her last one, entered the Billboard 200 at No. 3, which is the highest she has ever achieved when entering that chart.  The following year in 2014 she performed in the Dressed to Kill Tour but cancelled the last few days due to a kidney infection.

In 2017 the series Classic Cher which comprised 30 live shows from different venues opened on 8th February.

Sonny & Cher recordings
A Beautiful Story (Sonny Bono)
Podunk (Sonny Bono)