Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
SONNY and CHER
Vocal duo formed '63 by Sonny Bono (b Salvatore Bono, 16 Feb. '35, Detroit; d 5 Jan. '98 in a skiing accident) and Cher (b Cherilyn La Piere Sarkisian, 20 May '46, El Centro CA) Sonny worked in A&R for Specialty, graduating to house producer of acts like Don and Dewey, Roddy Jackson. Wrote songs incl. 'High School Dance', 'You Bug Me Baby', 'She Said Yeah' for Larry Williams, latter covered by Rolling Stones; co-wrote with Jack Nitzsche incl. Searchers' hit 'Needles And Pins'. Worked with Nitzsche again for Phil Spector, playing percussion and helping with arrangements; also formed shortlived Rush label. Met Cher in restaurant; they married '64; she got work backing Crystals and Ronnettes; as Caesar and Cleo they recorded 'The Letter' for Vault, 'Love Is Strange' for Reprise; she made novelty 'Ringo We Love You' prod. by Spector. First release as Sonny and Cher 'Baby Don't Go' won them contract as duo with Atco/Atlantic, solo for Cher with Reprise; 'I Got You Babe' was their first hit, innocent yet rebellious, catchy, impeccably arranged (with nagging oboe hook) by Harold Battiste: it was no. 1 both US/UK. Cher's cover of Bob Dylan's 'All I Really Want To Do' was no. 15 USA, 'Baby Don't Go' was transatlantic hit on re-release, Sonny had solo hit with gruff 'Laugh At Me'; duo's 'Just You' was top 20 USA, hookless 'But You're Mine', 'What Now My Love', 'Little Man', 'The Beat Goes On' were USA/UK hits through '67, but then they faded, folk-rock/harmony scene giving way to 'progressive' sounds: they seemed out of touch, an impression reinforced in that hippy time by their appearance in a government anti-drug film. Their films together Good Times '66, Chastity '68 (named after their daughter) sank without trace; TV brought them back to top ten with 'All I Ever Need Is You', 'A Cowboy's Work Is Never Done' '71--2; she modelled for Vogue, had no. ones 'Gypsies, Tramps And Thieves' (album Cher on Kapp was retitled), 'Half Breed', 'Dark Lady' '71--4.
They split personally and professionally '74; his TV show flopped and he became a West Coast politician, but hers was a success: she sent herself up in dated hippy togs, a figure of fun with belly-button showing, but her laid-back persona won favour. She recorded in a variety of styles, from Jim Webb-prod. pop (Stars '75) to Southern rock (Allman And Woman: Two The Hard Way '77 with short-term husband Gregg Allman), even a hard-rock band (Black Rose '80 with lover Les Dudek, guitar); she made cameo on Meat Loaf's 'Dead Ringer' '81 as female lead. After 16 chart albums through '79 (incl. two Cher Superpacks, two-LP sets on UA repackaging her Imperial tracks), she switched to Geffen for Cher '87, Hearts Of Stone '89 (her biggest at no. 10), Love Hurts '91 and It's A Man's World '96. She was a willing figure of fun for her plastic surgery and her love life; one TV comic joked about one of her daring costumes that her boyfriend wasn't allowed to stay up late to see her in it. Her music was of no importance, but she became a very good actress, highly praised on stage in Come Back To The Five And Dime, Jimmy Dean Jimmy Dean and in the '83 film of it, also films Silkwood '83, Mask '85; The Witches Of Eastwick, Suspect and romantic comedy Moonstruck, all '87 (Oscar for best actress in the last); plus Mermaids '90, The Player (cameo) '92.