Sonny & Cher
Cherilyn Sarkisian first met Salvatore Bono in a Los Angeles coffee
shop in November 1962, when she was sixteen. The older Bono (11 years her senior) was working for record
producer Phil Spector at Gold Star Studios in Hollywood. The two became fast friends, eventual lovers, and
later married. Through Bono, Cher started as a session singer, and sang backup on several of Spector’s classic
recordings, including "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes, "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" by The Righteous
Brothers and Darlene Love's "A Fine, Fine Boy". In the composition by Darlene Love, the listener can clearly
hear Cher and Sonny close to the mic (along with Love, who recorded her own backing vocals).
With Bono continuing to write, arrange and produce the songs, the
couple's first incarnation was as the duo "Caesar and Cleo". They received little attention, despite releasing some
singles in 1964: "The Letter", with Vault Records, and "The Letter", "Do You Wanna Dance" and "Love Is Strange",
with Reprise Records.
In September 1964, they released "Baby Don't Go" under the name of
Sonny & Cher, which became their first top ten US hit. The song was later included on the 1965 Reprise
compilation Baby Don't Go, which also included songs from artists such as Bill Medley, The Lettermen and The
The duo released their first album Look at Us in the summer of 1965. The album
contained the smash hit and eventual number-one single "I Got You Babe". Look at Us sold briskly, peaking at number two on
the Billboard chart for eight weeks in the later part of 1965.
The couple soon appeared on many of the top television shows of
the era including The Ed Sullivan Show, American
Bandstand, Where The Action Is, Hollywood A Go-Go, Hollywood
Palace, Hullabaloo, Beat Club, Shindig!, Ready Steady Go! and Top of the
Pops. They also appeared as themselves in the film Wild on the
Beach, singing "It's Gonna Rain". Bono in their first album
displayed also his political interest long before running for Congress, in the lyrics of "The Revolution
As the followup to the success of Look at Us, they released their second studio album in
April 1966, The Wondrous World of Sonny &
Cher, which peaked at number 34. The couple also traveled and
performed around the world, and tickets were some of the hottest at the time. Fans lined up to buy Sonny and
Cher tickets for their first tour, the Wondrous World
Tour. The two became a quick sensation, dressed in animal skins
with Bono wearing knee high caveman boots and Cher going barefoot.
During 1965, five of their songs were in US Billboard Top 20, a
record passed only by Elvis Presley and behind famous artists like The Beatles, The Rolling Stone and others.
Periodic solo releases By Cher continued during this period, including major successes with "Bang Bang (My Baby
Shot Me Down)", and Burt Bacharach & Hal David's "theme from Alfie" (as heard in the motion picture Alfie, as
well as a single release), both in 1966. They did become briefly controversial in Los Angeles for siding with the
young people being harassed on the Sunset Strip; as a result, they were removed from their promised position of
honor in the Tournament of Roses Parade in January 1967.
n 1967 Sonny and Cher released their third album,
In Case You're In Love. It peaked at
number 46 in the U.S. charts. It contained two hit singles, both written by Bono, "The Beat Goes On" (#6 on the
Billboard Hot 100) and "Little Man" (#21 on the Billboard Hot 100), that peaked at the number one in five European
In an attempt to capitalize on the duo’s initial success, Bono
speedily arranged a film project for the duo to star in. But the 1967 feature, Good Times, was a major bomb, despite the efforts of
fledgling director William Friedkin and co-star George Sanders. After Good
Times flopped in 1968, Columbia Pictures immediately sold rights to
their intended follow-up film Speedway to MGM. The couple were replaced by Elvis Presley and Nancy Sinatra.
Sonny and Cher's career had stalled by 1968 as album sales quickly
dried up. Their gentle, easy-listening pop sound and drug-free life had become unpopular in an era increasingly
consumed with the psychedelic rock of the evolving landscape of American pop culture during the late
Bono decided to forge ahead, carving a new career for the duo in
Las Vegas resorts, where they sharpened their public persona with Cher as the wise-cracking singer, and Bono as the
good-natured recipient of her insults. In reality, Bono controlled every aspect of their act, from the musical
arrangements to the joke-writing. While success was slow to come, their luck improved when network TV talent scouts
attended a show, noting their potential appeal for a variety series.
Sonny and Cher also welcomed their first child, Chastity Bono,
born on March 4, 1969.
In 1971 Sonny and Cher starred in their first television
special, The Nitty Gritty Hour.
A mixture of slapstick comedy, skits and live music, the appearance was a critical success, which led to numerous
guest spots on other television shows.
Sonny and Cher caught the eye of CBS head of programming Fred
Silverman while guest-hosting The Merv Griffin Show, and Silverman offered the duo their own variety show.
The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour debuted in 1971 as a summer replacement series. The show returned to prime time later that
year and was an immediate hit, quickly reaching the Top 10. The show received 15 Emmy Award nominations during its
run, winning one for direction, throughout its initial four seasons on CBS. The duo also revived their recording
career, releasing the album All I Ever Need Is
You, and charting two more top ten hits: "All I Ever Need Is You",
and "A Cowboy's Work Is Never Done" in 1972.
Sonny and Cher's dialogues were patterned after the successful
nightclub routines of Louis Prima and Keely Smith: the happy-go-lucky husband squelched by a tart remark from the
unamused wife. The show featured a stock company of zany comedians, including Freeman King, Ted Ziegler, and Murray
Langston (later The Unknown Comic on The Gong Show). One sketch satirizing CBS's detective show Cannon and its
portly star William Conrad was so successful that Sonny and Cher staged several follow-ups, with Tony Curtis as
"Detective Fat." Everybody in these sketches wore wide-waisted "fat suits" (similar to hoop skirts), so Detective
Fat and his clients and his suspects would spend most of the time bumping each other and bouncing across the
By the third season of the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, the marriage of Sonny and
Cher was falling apart; the duo separated later that year. The show imploded, while still in the top 10 of the
ratings. What followed was a nasty, very public divorce (finalized on June 27, 1975. Cher won a Golden Globe Award
for Best Performance By an Actress in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy for The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour in
Bono launched his own show, The Sonny Comedy Revue, in the fall of 1974, retaining
the "Sonny and Cher" troupe of comedians and writers. Cher also announced plans to star in a new variety series of
her own. Critics, surprisingly, predicted that Bono would be the big winner with a solo comedy vehicle, and didn't
hold much hope for Cher's more musical showcase. After only six weeks, however, Bono's show was abruptly
The Cher Show debuted as an elaborate, all-star television special on February 16, 1975 featuring Flip
Wilson, Bette Midler and special guest Elton John. Cloris Leachman and Jack Albertson both won Emmy Awards for
their appearances as guest-stars a few weeks later, and the series received four additional Emmy nominations that
year. The first season ranked in the Top 25 of the year-end ratings.
As a result of the divorce, Sonny and Cher went their separate
ways until Cher attended the opening of one of Bono's restaurants in something of a reconciliation. The Sonny &
Cher Show returned in 1976, even though they were no longer married (the duo "reunited" with a humorous handshake).
After struggling with low ratings through 1977, Sonny and Cher finally parted ways for good. In 1976, Mego Toys
also released a line of toys and dolls, in the likeness of Sonny & Cher. The release of these fashion dolls
coincided with the popularity of The Sonny & Cher Show.
Bono went on to an acting career and later entered politics,
eventually becoming a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Cher continued a successful
The couple made two surprise impromptu reunion performances: the
first on The Mike Douglas Show in the spring of 1979, singing a medley of "United We Stand" and "Without You", and
the second on November 13, 1987 on Late Night with David Letterman where her persuaded them to performed
their hit song "I Got You Babe".
On January 5, 1998 Bono died of injuries from hitting a tree at
Heavenly Ski Resort in Lake Tahoe. He was 62 years old. Bono's death came just days after Michael Kennedy died in a
similar accident. Bono's widow, Mary, was selected to fill the remainder Congressional term. She has since been
re-elected in her own right. She continues to champion many of her late husband's causes, including the ongoing
fight as how to best save the Salton Sea.
The funeral, unbeknownst to Cher, was broadcast live on CNN. Cher
gave a tearful eulogy at Bono's funeral, after which the attendees sang the song "The Beat Goes On". In front of
millions, Cher tearfully and effusively praised Bono, calling him "the most unforgettable character I've ever met".
His final resting place is Desert Memorial Park in nearby Cathedral City, California, the same cemetery in which
Frank Sinatra was laid to rest later that same year. The epitaph on Bono's headstone reads: "And The Beat Goes
In 1998, Sonny and Cher received a star on the Hollywood Walk of
Fame for Television. Cher appeared at the event with Mary Bono, who accepted the award on behalf of her late
husband. Cher paid tribute to Bono in the CBS special Sonny and Me: Cher Remembers, calling her grief "something I
never plan to get over". During this year, Cher also released her twenty-third album "Believe" that was highly
influenced by Bono's death, and in the booklet Cher wrote "IN MEMORY OF SON".
When Cher and Bono divorced, they agreed to split revenue from the
songs recorded together. When Bono died, one-third of his interest passed to wife Mary Bono-Mack, and one-sixth
interests were split amongst his kids. Bono-Mack, as well as Cher's daughter with Bono, Chastity Bono, are
plaintiffs in the case, as well as Bono children Christy Bono, Chianna Bono and son Chesare Bono.