Friday, July 13, 2018

Sonny and Cher

Sonny and Cher were Salvatore "Sonny" Bono (1935- 1998), a songwriter and protégé of producer Phil Specter and his wife, Cherilyn Sarkisian a young Californian. Sonny introduced her to Spector and she worked for him as a backup singer. At first Sonny produced her solo efforts, some of which were minor hits, then they performed together (Caesar and Cleo) as a couple around San Francisco and built a popular following.

They recorded “I got you babe,” as Sonny and Cher, and it was an instant success, became was one of the biggest-selling and most beloved pop hits of the mid-'60s. West Coast Rock had arrived and for the first time the world saw San Francisco hippies with their wide colourful pants (loons), skimpy tops, and shaggy hair and fur vests. Sonny and Cher were the first hippies with mainstream appeal, although Bono's hippiedom was more for promotional purposes.

Despite their obvious success as a pop duo Cher continued to record solo with Sonny writing and producing her works. Cher’s solo career grew but the couple remained popular and hosted a number of television series and specials, including The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, which ran from 1971 to 1974, and The Sonny & Cher Show in 1976. Their on-stage wisecracking repartee provided counterpoint to a series of adoring hit duets added to their audience appeal, with Sonny's eagerness and Cher's putdowns in the same fashion as George Burns and Gracie Allan, albeit the roles were reversed, very much in keeping with the sexual revolution.

The television exposure brought them to the centre of American and international popular culture. The image of a new more confident and powerful Cher emerged as Cher’s solo success continued. By the end of the 1960s, Sonny & Cher were no longer selling records. Atlantic reassigned a new producer to Cher and promoted her as a solo artist.

Mounting tax bills meant the duo had to work the clubs and with dwindling sales and a change in popular music taste Sonny and Cher’s days were numbered. The marriage and the musical duo ended in 1974, when Bono and Cher were divorced. They had a bitter divorce and resented each other for years. However they did become friends again before he died. To Sonny’s credit he wrote a handful of successful songs with the most notably "Needles and Pins" in collaboration with Jack Nitzsche. In the US it became a success for Jackie DeShannon and a huge international hit for the Searchers.

Dusty Springfield may not have had many commercial successes in the States but she did leave an indelible impression with songwriters and female singers especially with "Son of a Preacher Man.” Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” was a tribute to her singing style and was produced by Snuff Garrett.

Cher was severely affected by the breakdown with Sonny and the failing ratings of their television show, family problems and a battle royal with the paparazzi all came to a head. By the 80s, she embarked somewhat sheepishly on an acting career and proved herself to be a consummate actor. Cher took lead roles in Mike Nichols' Silkwood (1983), Peter Bogdanovich's Mask (1985) and George Miller's The Witches of Eastwick (1987). In the same year she won the Award for Best Actress for her performance in Norman Jewison's 1987 romantic comedy Moonstruck.

Aged 41 and after twenty-five years in show biz, Cher was at last on top and with a little help from the surgeon's knife she remained one of the most beautiful stars in Hollywood. Throughout the 80s and 90s the singer continued to release stunning recordings and even more risqué videos which kept her very much in the public eye. The singer was clearly moved at the death of Sonny and credited him as being an influence on her musical career. Bono died after he skied into a tree.

Concerned at the limitations of her plastic surgeon to “nip and tuck’ forever she started an international tour - entitled The Farewell Tour (Never Can Say Goodbye) to promote her twenty-fourth studio album, Living Proof and her 7th official compilation album, The Very Best of Cher. It began on June 14, 2002 in Toronto, Canada and was originally planned as a 59-date tour in North America. Due to the popularity of the tour, Cher decided to extend it by 100 more shows in North America then, after the tour concluded in 2004, she announced plans of playing in Europe, Oceania and Asia to play in territories she either had never been to or had not played for a long time. The final show took place at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles after a record-breaking 325 dates. When she came to Australia (last year), The Village People were the support act.

Worth a listen:
I got you babe (1965)
The Beat Goes On (1967)

Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)
Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves (1971)

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