Sonny & Cher - Biography
By Nick Castro
Sonny & Cher have created some of the most enduring, and high selling, music of 60's pop rock scene. Their classic songs, like "I Got You Babe" and "The Beat Goes On" are still played regularly on the radio. Both, Sonny Bono and Cherilyn Sarkisian, known just as Cher, have managed to go on to enormous careers after their musical relationship came to an end. As famous as they are for their music, they are almost as famous for their tumultuous relationship. Those who grew up in the 70s also remember their variety television show. Bono was born in 1935, in Detroit, Michigan and Cher was born in 1946, in El Centro, California. The two met in a Los Angeles coffeedshop when Cher was still 16 and the two quickly became a couple. Cher was already datng Warren Beatty at the time. Sonny was working at Gold Star Studio, in Hollywood, for record producer Phil Spector. Bono used to get work for Cher at the studio, as a background singer, on many famous songs like "You've Lost That Loving Feeling", by The Righteous Brothers, and "Be My Baby", by The Ronettes. Soon the two were married.
Sonny and Cher began as a duo called Caesar & Cleo and released singles like "Love is Strange" and "The Letter". Neither of these records sold very well and the duo began to rethink their approach. They soon reemerged as Sonny & Cher and released the single "Baby Don't Go", which became a regional hit in Los Angeles for them. it also earned them a spot on the television show, Shindig!. They followed with the single "Sing C'est La Vie". Shortly after, their song "I Got You Babe" was supposed to be the b-side to the song "It's Gonna Rain", but Ahmet Ertugen, of Atlantic Records, preferred the b-side. This led to the release of their album Look at Us (1965 - Atlantic), which has now become one of the most iconic records of the sixties. They are joined by legendary studio musicians Hal Blaine and Barney Kessel. This record became a huge seller for the group, selling at a rate of 200,000 a week. The two became worldwide stars and started touring often and widely.
Cher began getting offers for solo records and would have some early success as a solo artist as well. She released records like All I Really Want to Do (1965 - Imperial), Backstage (1968 - Imperial) and The Sonny Side of Cher (1966 - Imperial), both of which did well for her.
Sonny & Cher followed up with the record Wonderous World of Sonny & Cher (1966 - Atlantic), which still has the stamp of Spector's influence on the duo. The album opens with the song "Summertime", by George Gershwin. They soon followed that with the album In Case You're in Love (1967 - Atlantic), which produced one of their biggest hits, "The Beat Goes On". This album would mark the beginning of the duo's difficulties with keeping their sound current. The whole of the music scene seemed to be consumed the psychedelic trend that seemed to appear overnight. When this record was released, the two were still huge stars but soon, their popularity would begin to wane. Though the album still sold very, it was not their best musically. One can hear them struggling to keep up with the times.
In 1967 the duo made their first film, Good Times, which they starred in. The movie was a musical comedy and helped to establish the two in this format. The film was directed by William Friedkin, who later directed The Exorcist. The film did terribly in the theaters and soon their record sales began to suffer as well. Ultimately though, they were having a hard time connecting with the hippie youth, who largely saw them duo as trite pop music. This was largely in part due to the fact that Bono was trapped in the old Spector school of thought and could not break free of that. the soundtrack, Good Times (1967 - One Way).
By 1968, Sonny and Cher's careers had seemed to come to a screeching halt. The fickle music scene now saw them as square, and was no longer interested in their brand of campy pop. The next year the couple had their child, Chastity Bono. Their career was not over though. They began getting regular work in the dinner clubs of Las Vegas and soon they starred in their first television special, The Sonny and Cher Nitty Gritty Hour. It was a huge payoff for them as the audiences loved them more as television personalities than they had recently been for their music. They had a blend of sketch comedy and live bands. They also developed a dynamic where Bono played a sort of fall guy as Cher would cut him down. Soon, Fred Silverman, head of CBS, saw the duo and wanted them for his network. Soon they had a regular show, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, which started in January of 1972. They also released the albums Sonny & Cher Live (1971 - MCA) and All I Ever Need is You (1972 - Kapp). All of this came just in time too, as they were facing nearly $200,000 in back taxes. There newfound success was a huge financial relief, but by 1974, their marriage had disintegrated.
There divorce was ugly and in all of the tabloids. Bono made an attempt at a solo television show, The Sonny Comedy Revue, but it was a failure and cancelled after only a few weeks. Cher, on the other hand, had a big hit with her show, which focused on live music performances. The two reunited as friends in 1976 and returned to the screen with another round of The Sonny and Cher Show. They soon dropped the show as well as their wave had passed and the audiences were no longer there for them. bono pursued acting before going into politics in the Palm Springs, California. Cher has become one of the most successful female singers to ever grace the stage, especially making a huge name for herself in Las Vegas.