Sonny & Cher Biography

Although touted as the misunderstood young lovers of 1965 folk rock Sonny Bono (Salvatore Phillip Bono, 16 February 1935, Detroit, Michigan, USA, d. 5 January 1998, Lake Tahoe, California, USA) and Cher (b. Cherilyn Sarkisian La Pierre, 20 May 1946, El Centro, California, USA) were not as fresh and naïve as their image suggested. Bono already had a chequered history in the music business stretching back to the late 50s when he wrote and produced records by artists such as Larry Williams, Wynona Carr and Don And Dewey. He also recorded for several small labels under an array of aliases such as Don Christy, Sonny Christy and Ronny Sommers. In 1963, he came under the aegis of producer Phil Spector at the Philles label, working as a PR man and studio assistant at the Goldstar Studios. Teaming up with Spector’s engineer and arranger Jack Nitzsche, Bono co-wrote ‘Needles And Pins’, a UK number 1 for the Searchers in 1964. He also became romantically attached to Cher, who began session work for Spector as a backing singer.

Although the duo recorded a couple of singles under the exotic name Caesar And Cleo, it was as Sonny And Cher that they found fame with 1965’s transatlantic number 1, ‘I Got You Babe’. Arranged by the underrated Harold Battiste, the single was a majestic example of romanticized folk rock and one of the best-produced discs of its time. Bono’s carefree, bohemian image obscured the workings of a music business veteran and it was no coincidence that he took full advantage of the pair’s high profile. During late 1965, they dominated the charts as both a duo and soloists with such hits as ‘All I Really Want To Do’ (US number 15; UK number 9), ‘Laugh At Me’ (US number 10; UK number 9), ‘Baby Don’t Go’ (US number 8; UK number 11), ‘Just You’ (US number 20), and ‘But You’re Mine’ (US number 15; UK number 17). Although their excessive output resulted in diminishing returns, their lean periods were still punctuated by further hits, most notably ‘Little Man’ (UK number 4, September 1966) and ‘The Beat Goes On’ (US number 6, January 1967). By the late 60s they had fallen from critical grace, but starred in the low budget movie Good Times, while Cher appeared in Chastity. A brief resurgence as MOR entertainers in the 70s brought them their own television series, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, and hits with ‘All I Ever Need Is You’ (US number 7, October 1971; UK number 8, January 1972) and ‘A Cowboys Work Is Never Done’ (US number 8, February 1972), although by 1974 they had divorced. Extra-curricular acting activities ended their long-standing musical partnership.

While Cher went on to achieve a phenomenally successful acting and singing career, Bono also continued to work as an actor, but adopted a completely different role in 1988 when he was voted mayor of Palm Springs, California, and was later elected to the House of Representatives. He was killed in a skiing accident in January 1998.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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