[ Wikimedia / Public Domain ]
|Born||May 20, 1946 (age 73)|
|Profession||Record producer, Singer, Actor, Songwriter, Fashion Designer, Entrepreneur, Model, Dancer, Film Prod|
|Parents||John Paul Sarkisian, Georgia Pelham, Gilbert Hartmann LaPiere|
Cher (born Cherilyn Sarkisian, May 20, 1946) is an American singer and actress. Recognized for having brought the sense of female autonomy and self-actualization into the entertainment industry, she is known for her distinctive contralto singing voice and for having worked in various areas of entertainment, as well as for continuously reinventing both her music and image which has led to her being called the Goddess of Pop.
Cher became prominent in 1965 as one-half of the folk rock husband–wife duo Sonny & Cher, who popularized a particular smooth sound that successfully competed with the dominant British Invasion and Motown sounds of the era. From 1965, she had established herself as a successful solo artist with million-selling singles such as "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)", "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves", "Half-Breed", and "Dark Lady", songs that deal with subjects rarely addressed in American popular music. Goldmine magazine's Phill Marder described her as the leader of an effort in the 1960s to "advance feminine rebellion in the rock world [and] the prototype of the female rock star, setting the standard for appearance [and] attitude". After the duo's drug-free lifestyle had lost its popular appeal in the United States owing to the drug culture of the 1960s, she returned to stardom in the 1970s as a television personality with her shows The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour and Cher, both of which attained immense popularity. She became a fashion trendsetter with her daring outfits. After Cher and Sonny divorced in 1975, Cher experimented with various musical styles, including disco and new wave, before becoming a top-earning live act in Las Vegas.
In the early 1980s, Cher made her Broadway debut and starred in the film Silkwood, which earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1983. In the following years, she starred in films such as Mask, The Witches of Eastwick, and Moonstruck, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1988. At the same time, she established herself as a "serious rock and roller" by releasing platinum albums such as Heart of Stone (1989) and successful singles such as "I Found Someone" and "If I Could Turn Back Time". In the 1990s, she made her directing debut in the film If These Walls Could Talk and released the biggest-selling single of her career, "Believe", which featured the pioneering use of Auto-Tune, also known as the "Cher effect". In the 2000s, she embarked on the successful Living Proof: The Farewell Tour and signed a $60 million per-year deal to headline the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas for three years.
Cher has won an Academy Award, a Grammy Award, an Emmy Award, three Golden Globe Awards, and the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival, among several other honors. Her other ventures have included fashion designing, writing books and managing the film production company Isis. Recognized as one of the best-selling music artists of all time, she has sold more than 100 million solo albums and over 40 million records as Sonny & Cher worldwide. She is the only artist to have a number-one single on a Billboard chart in each of the past six decades.
Cher was born Cherilyn Sarkisian in El Centro, California, on May 20, 1946. Her father, John Sarkisian, was an Armenian truck driver with drug and gambling problems, and her mother, Jackie Jean Crouch was an occasional model and bit-part actress with Irish, English, German, and Cherokee ancestry. Cher's father was rarely home when she was an infant, ultimately divorcing Crouch when Cher was ten months old. They would marry and divorce twice more. After the first divorce from Sarkisian, Crouch married another man. The third of Crouch's eight marriages was to actor John Southall, the father of Cher's half-sister, Georganne. By then they were living in Los Angeles, and Crouch was pursuing an acting career while working as a waitress. She changed her name to Georgia Holt and earned minor roles in films and on television. Holt secured acting parts for her daughters as extras on the television show The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Although her mother's romantic relationship with Southall ended when Cher was nine years old, she considers him her father and remembers him as a "good-natured man who turned belligerent when he drank too much". As Holt remarried and divorced, the family moved from place to place (including New York, Texas and California) and often had little money. Cher remembered using rubber bands at one time to hold her shoes together. At one point, Holt had to put Cher in an orphanage for several weeks. Although they met every day, both Holt and Cher found the experience traumatic.
Cher's family first noticed her creativity when in the fifth grade, she produced for her teacher and class a performance of the musical Oklahoma!. She organized a group of girls, directing and choreographing their dance routines. Since she could not convince boys to participate, Cher acted the male roles and sang their songs. By age nine, she had developed an unusually low voice. Fascinated by film stars, Cher's role model was Audrey Hepburn, particularly due to her role in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany's. Cher began to pattern her outfits and behavior after the eccentric, fast-living character portrayed by Hepburn. She was disappointed by the absence of dark-haired Hollywood actresses whom she could emulate then. Cher had wanted to be famous since childhood but felt unattractive and untalented, later commenting, "I couldn't think of anything that I could do ... I didn't think I'd be a singer or dancer. I just thought, well, I'll be famous. That was my goal."
In 1961, Holt married bank manager Gilbert LaPiere, who adopted Cher and her half-sister and enrolled them in a private school called Montclair Prep, in the prosperous community of Encino, Los Angeles. The students of Montclair Prep were from affluent families. The school's upper-class environment presented a challenge for Cher; biographer Connie Berman wrote, "[she] stood out from the others in both her striking appearance and outgoing personality." A former classmate commented, "I'll never forget seeing Cher for the first time. She was so special ... She was like a movie star, right then and there ... She said she was going to be a movie star and we knew she would." Despite not being an excellent student, Cher was intelligent and creative, according to Berman. She earned good grades, excelling in French and English classes. As an adult, she would discover that she had dyslexia. Cher achieved notoriety for her unconventional behavior: she performed songs for students during the lunch hours and surprised peers when she wore a midriff-baring top, being the first young woman in her social circle to do so. She later recalled, "I was never really in school. I was always thinking about when I was grown up and famous."
At age 16, Cher dropped out of school, left her mother's house, and moved with a friend into Los Angeles, where she took acting classes and worked to support herself. She danced in small clubs along Hollywood's Sunset Strip, introducing herself to performers, managers, and agents. According to biographer Connie Berman, "[Cher] did not hesitate to approach anyone she thought could help her get a break, make a new contact, or get an audition." During this period, she had an affair with actor Warren Beatty. Cher met American singer Sonny Bono, 11 years her senior, in November 1962 when he was working for record producer Phil Spector. Cher's friend moved out of their apartment, and Cher accepted Sonny's offer to be his housekeeper. Sonny introduced Cher to Spector, who used her as a backup singer on many recordings, including the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" and the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'". Spector produced her first single, the unsuccessful "Ringo, I Love You", issued under the name "Bonnie Jo Mason". Still finding her solo singing voice, Cher sang the song in a very low key; she commented, "I sounded too much like a boy. Everyone thought it was a faggot song." Sonny recalled, "I didn't notice her till I heard her sing. She was so good and I just had to know her better ... When I learned she was also an actress I thought ...'Now, there's another one of those cool, dedicated career types who is so bent on becoming a star. She wouldn't give the time of day to a guy like me.' I couldn't have been more wrong!" Cher and Sonny became close friends, eventual lovers, and performed their own wedding ceremony in a hotel room in Tijuana, Mexico, in October 1964. Although Sonny had wanted to launch Cher as a solo artist, she encouraged him to perform with her because she suffered from stage fright, and so he began joining her onstage, singing the harmonies. Cher disguised her nervousness by looking at Sonny; she later commented that she sang to the people through him. In late 1964, they emerged as a duo called Caesar & Cleo, releasing the poorly received singles "Do You Wanna Dance?", "Love Is Strange" and "Let the Good Times Roll".
By the end of 1964, Cher was signed to Liberty Records' Imperial imprint, and Sonny came along as her producer. Her second solo single, "Dream Baby", released under the name "Cherilyn", received airplay in Los Angeles. Encouraged by the song's regional success, Cher and Sonny worked together on her debut solo album, All I Really Want to Do (1965), later described by Allmusic's Tim Sendra as "one of the stronger folk-pop records of the era". The album reached the Billboard 200 top 20, remaining on the chart for six months. Its title track, a cover version of Bob Dylan's song, peaked at number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100. Meanwhile, the Byrds had released their own version of the same song. When competition on the singles charts started between Cher and the Byrds, the group's record label began to promote the B-side of the Byrds' single. Roger McGuinn of the Byrds commented, "We loved the Cher version ... We didn't want to hassle. So we just turned our record over."
By early 1965, Caesar and Cleo had begun calling themselves Sonny & Cher. Following the recording of "I Got You Babe", they travelled to England in July 1965 atthe Rolling Stones' advice; Cher recalled, "[they] had told us ... that Americans just didn't get us and that if we were going to make it big, we were going to have to go to England." According to writer Cintra Wilson, "English newspaper photographers showed up when S&C were thrown out of the London Hilton [because of their outfits] the night they arrived—literally overnight, they were stars. London went gaga for the heretofore-unseen S&C look, which was neither mod nor rocker." "I Got You Babe" topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart and became, according to Allmusic's Bruce Eder, "one of the biggest-selling and most beloved pop/rock hits of the mid-'60s". As the song knocked the Beatles off the top of the British charts, English teenagers began to emulate Sonny and Cher's fashion style, such as bell-bottoms, striped pants, ruffled shirts, industrial zippers and fur vests. Upon their return to the US, the duo made several appearances on the teen-pop showcases Hullabaloo and Shindig! and completed a tour of some of the largest arenas in the US. Their shows attracted Cher look-alikes—"girls who were ironing their hair straight and dying it black, to go with their vests and bell-bottoms." Cher expanded her creative range by designing a clothing line.
Sonny and Cher's first album, Look at Us, released for the Atco Records division of Atlantic Records, spent five weeks at number two on the Billboard 200 in 1965. Their smooth sound and warm harmonies became popular, and the duo successfully competed with the dominant British Invasion and Motown sounds of the era.
Cher has employed various musical styles, including folk, pop, punk and arena rock, power ballads, disco, new wave, and hip hop; she said she has done this to "remain relevant and do work that strikes a chord". Her early albums were based on the songbooks of writers such as Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Jackie DeShannon, and Sonny Bono, who produced much of her 1960s material using his Phil Spector-derived production skills. Goldmine magazine's Phill Marder credited Cher's almost perfect song selection as what made her a notorious rock singer; while several of her early hits were penned by or sung with Sonny, most of her solo hits, which outnumbered the duo's successes, were composed by independent songwriters, selected by Cher. Not.com.mercial (2000), Cher's first album mostly written by herself, presents a "1970s singer/songwriter feel" that proves "Cher adept in the role of storyteller", according to Allmusic's Jose F. Promis. Marder wrote that Cher's contributions to rock and roll have been overlooked because "she has transcended Rock" by becoming a show business icon.
Cher's enduring success in various areas of entertainment earned her the nickname "Goddess of Pop". She was crowned the "World's Number One Pop Icon" by AEG Live. Goldmine magazine's Phill Marder called her "[a] superstar of the highest order" who "has been and remains today one of the Rock Era's most dominant figures". He added that "no female has represented Rock & Roll with her music, appearance and attitude more than Cher." She was credited by Chicago Tribune as "the person who paved the way for Madonna, Lady Gaga and many more". Biographer Mark Bego wrote, "No one in the history of show business has had a career of the magnitude and scope of Cher's. She has been a teenage pop star, a television hostess, a fashion magazine model, a rock star, a pop singer, a Broadway actress, an Academy Award-winning movie star, a disco sensation, and the subject of a mountain of press coverage." Cher figured twice on "The 25 Most Intriguing People of the Year" list compiled by People magazine, in 1975 and 1987. In 1992, Madame Tussauds wax museum honored her with a life-size statue as one of the five most beautiful women of history. In a 2001 poll, A&E's Biography magazine ranked her as the third favorite leading actress of all time, behind Audrey Hepburn and Katharine Hepburn. She was featured on the "100 Greatest Movie Stars of our Time" list compiled by People. In 2010, she ranked 44th on the "75 Greatest Women of All Time" list compiled by Esquire magazine. In November 2010, Cher placed her handprints and footprints in cement in the courtyard in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Glamour magazine honored Cher with the Woman of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award.
Cher has won an Academy Award, a Grammy Award, an Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award and the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival, among several other honors. She was honored with special awards from World Music Awards and Billboard Music Awards for her "lifelong contribution to the music industry" and for having "helped redefine popular music through success on the Billboard charts", respectively. With the song "Believe", she became the oldest female artist (at the age of 52) to top the Billboard Hot 100. It gave her the distinction of having the longest span of number-one singles (33 years) and the longest gap between number-one singles (ten days short of 25 years) in the rock era of the Hot 100. Cher is the only woman to have a US top-ten single in every decade from the 1960s to the 1990s and the only act to have a number-one single on a Billboard chart in every decade from the 1960s to the 2010s. Although Cher's regular exposure on television in the 1970s allowed people to see and hear her without having to buy her records, she has sold over 100 million solo albums worldwide.
Cher and Sonny became close friends, eventual lovers, and performed their own wedding ceremony in a hotel room in Tijuana, Mexico, in October 1964. But due to Sonny's repeated cheating, by the end of the 1960s their relationship had begun to unravel. According to People magazine, "Bono tried desperately to win her back, telling her he wanted to marry and start a family." They married after she gave birth to Chaz Bono, who was born Chastity Bono on March 4, 1969.