Sonny & Cher

  • Pop/Folk rock singers formed in 1964, from Los Angeles California. The husband and wife duo was Sonny (Salvatore) Bono and Cher…well…Cher (born Cherilyn Sarkisian).
  • Cher met Sonny in 1962 at a coffee shop in LA – she was 16 years old and he was 27. Sonny worked as a songwriter, promoter and session artist for record producer Phil Spector, and he got Cher a job as a session singer in 1963. In 1964, they unofficially married in Mexico. Initially, Sonny wanted to support Cher as a solo artist, but she insisted that he perform with her because of her stage fright. In 1964, they covered 3 pop singles, calling themselves Caesar & Cleo. Their first release as Sonny & Cher was in September 1964, and Baby Don’t Go was a regional hit.
  • Meanwhile, Cher signed a recording contract as a solo artist, with Sonny as her producer. She released her debut solo album in 1965, and she continued to release solo albums from the mid-60s to today – she released 28 studio albums, with Sonny as producer on 7 of the early ones.
  • As Cher managed her solo career, she also furthered the recording career Sonny & Cher. In the summer of 1965, they released their debut album, Look At Us, with Sonny as the songwriter of 4 of the songs. The album peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200 album chart, driven by their only #1 hit, I Got You Babe, written by Sonny. The song is at #451 on Rolling Stone’s Greatest Songs list, and in 2017, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
  • Later in 1965, a compilation album of songs by Sonny & Cher, The Letterman, The Blendells, and Bill Medley was released. Titled Baby Don’t Go – Sonny & Cher and Friends, their song Baby Don’t Go was released nationally, and it reached #8 on the Hot 100 chart.
  • Two albums followed in 1966 and 1967. While they were not as popular as their first album, they managed to score 4 top 20 hits, with another song written by Sonny, The Beat Goes On, peaking at #6. The song was sung at Sonny Bono’s funeral, and his gravestone includes the inscription “And The Beat Goes On.”
  • The success of the couple took a downturn in 1968 and 1969. A film project that they starred in bombed, and album sales dried up as their easy listening pop sound was replaced by psychedelic music. They started to perform at Las Vegas resorts, where they refined their rapport with audiences, with Cher as the wise-cracking alpha and Sonny as the fall guy.
  • A television executive caught their act and felt that it could be successful on TV. In 1970, they starred in their first TV special, The Nitty Gritty Hour, a variety show that featured their singing and comedy skits. This led to many other TV guest spots, as well as a role in an episode of the animated show The New Scooby-Doo Movies.
  • After guest-hosting The Merv Griffin Show in 1971, they were offered their own variety show. The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour debuted in 1971 and ran for 3 seasons. It was a top 20 ratings hit every year, and ended only because their marriage was falling apart, leading to their divorce in 1975. The show also relaunched their musical career – albums were released in 1972 and 1973, and 2 songs made it into the top 10 – All I Ever Need Is You and A Cowboy’s Work Is Never Done. 
  • Their divorce ended their careers as a performing couple. In 1976, after the bitterness of their divorce had passed, they reunited for 1 more season of their variety show, now titled The Sonny & Cher Show. Low ratings ended that, and they went on their separate ways. They only sang together 2 more times – in 1979 on The Mike Douglas Show they sang a couple of songs, and in 1987, they sang I Got You Babe on Late Night With David Letterman. 
  • Sonny subsequently entered politics, eventually becoming a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He was killed in a skiing accident in 1998. Cher pursued her solo career in music and acting, winning a Grammy award for her single Believe in 1999, as well as an Academy award for acting for her role in Moonstruck.
  • The 60s culture definitely had a place for Sonny & Cher, and as 70s variety television shows go, theirs was one of the best. Here’s the clip of their last performance together, I Got You Babe, on Letterman’s show. You should watch this iconic moment of music history!

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