Cher is an American singer and actress who began her career in the 1960s as part of Sonny and Cher's duo. She has now achieved worldwide acclaim with a string of Top 10 singles and film appearances, including an Academy Award for her performance in 'Moonstruck.'
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Cher achieved fame in the 1960s as a member of a singing duo with husband Sonny Bono, reaching No. 1 with the tune "I Got You, Babe," before co-starring on The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour. Cher also launched a solo career, with chart-topping singles such as "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves," "Half-Breed," and "Dark Lady." In the 1980s, she pursued acting, appearing in films such as Silkwood and Mask and obtaining an Academy Award nomination for her work in Moonstruck. Cher also had success in music in the 1980s with rock-oriented compositions and a late-'90s global dance smash with "Believe." Following her Caesars Palace Las Vegas performance series, the musician released Closer to the Truth in 2013, her first studio album in 12 years. She made a triumphant comeback to the big screen in 2018 with Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again!
Cherilyn Sarkisian was born in El Centro, California, on May 20, 1946. She was raised by her mother Georgia, a model and actress, and spent her formative years in Los Angeles County's San Fernando Valley with her younger half-sister Georganne. The family struggled financially, with Cher being placed in an orphanage while her mother sought work at one point. Nonetheless, she recognized early on that the worlds of arts and entertainment spoke to her and pursued acting as an extracurricular activity.
Cher dropped out of high school at the age of sixteen and relocated to Hollywood. She allegedly met Salvatore "Sonny" Bono at a coffee shop, a protégé of legendary producer Phil Spector. (Cher actually sang backup on some of Spector's most famous songs, including the Ronettes' "Be My Baby.") Though Sonny originally had no romantic interest in Cher, the two began a love connection and married on October 27, 1964.
For a period, the pair developed their act and were known as Sonny and Cher. The duet had a huge chart-topper in 1965 with "I Got You Babe" on the Atco label. Sonny and Cher maintained a countercultural image with distinct bohemian stylings and continued to deliver chart-topping songs, as seen by "Baby Don't Go," the socially conscious "The Beat Goes On," and "Little Man," and "What Now My Love." Cher has also inked a solo deal with Imperial. Following collaborations with Bob Dylan on "All I Really Want to Do" and "Where Do You Go," she charted her first solo song, "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)."
Yet by the decade's close, Sonny and Cher's chart success had ceased, and the two-faced serious financial troubles as a result of IRS debt. They so devised a cabaret performance, having previously adopted more mature sensibilities in terms of their appearance. Their performance, which featured plenty of comic banter, earned the duo the opportunity to host a CBS summer replacement telecast. This resulted in their own variety show, the Emmy-nominated The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, which aired from 1971 to 1974. The program also resurrected Sonny and Cher's music career, with "All I Ever Need Is You" and "A Cowboy's Work Is Never Done" becoming further top ten successes.
However, tensions were intense behind the scenes, and Cher subsequently described Sonny as a strict, dominating person when it came to business. The couple split the next year, and Cher went on to star in her own Emmy-nominated television show, Cher, which aired from 1975 to 1976.
Cher began her career as a solo performer in the 1960s. Initially, she was recognized for songs with provocative sensibilities that alluded to her perceived status as an outcast, a manner she would eventually embrace. She achieved a top ten success with "You Better Sit Down Kids," in which she sang from the perspective of a parent explaining to his children the reality of a divorce.
Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves (formerly titled Cher) was her first solo No. 1 with the title single, which depicted a "travelin' show" family and teen pregnancy. Cher's other top ten songs, "The Way of Love," saw her singing to a lover who had abandoned her in favor of a male. And she topped the charts once more with the title single from 1974's Half-Breed, which chronicled the continued persecution of a half-Native American narrator caught between two cultures.
Cher was unable to work as a performer immediately following her divorce from Sonny due to contractual obligations arising from their business partnerships and took up assignments as a model. She subsequently thanked David Geffen, the CEO, for assisting her in navigating financial difficulties and reclaiming control of her career.
Cher returned to the pop top ten before the decade's close with the string-laden disco single "Take Me Home," from the Casablanca label's 1979 album of the same name.
Cher pursued an acting career professionally in the 1980s after appearing in a handful of movie ventures earlier. She made her Broadway debut in 1982 with the play Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean and repeated her role as Sissy in the film adaptation. She earned the admiration of reviewers and fans alike with a string of excellent big-screen performances, most notably as Meryl Streep's lesbian roommate Dolly Pelliker in the 1983 thriller Silkwood. Cher was nominated for an Academy Award for supporting actress and won a Golden Globe for the performance. Then, in 1985, she acted in Peter Bogdanovich's film Mask as the rebellious, emotionally distraught mother of a kid who suffers from craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, a condition that significantly affects his facial structure.
Cher had a banner year in 1987, starring in three films: the suspense thriller Suspect (co-starring Dennis Quaid), the mischievous supernatural romp The Witches of Eastwick (co-starring Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Jack Nicholson), and the textured romantic comedy Moonstruck (co-starring Olympia Dukakis and Vincent Gardenia). Cher portrayed Loretta Castorini, an Italian New Yorker who rediscovers her sexuality and defies convention after being chased by her fiancé's passionate brother (Nicolas Cage) (Danny Aiello). Cher earned her first Academy Award for Best Actress for her internationally lauded portrayal in what has become a film classic.
Cher returned to the music business despite her acting honors. She released a self-titled album the same year as Moonstruck, which contained the pop/rock chart-topping comeback single "I Found Someone," an emotive testament to new love. More power rock ensued with 1989's Heart of Stone, which produced two further top ten singles — "If I Could Turn Back Time" and "Just Like Jesse James." The music video for "If I Could Turn Back Time" garnered widespread attention, with the singer appearing in a leather jacket and transparent body stocking serenading a mob of delighted sailors aboard a Navy carrier. The attire was deemed so contentious that MTV decided to play the video only at night.
Cher has pushed perceptions over the years not only with her music but also with her expensive, odd outfits and barely-there accouterments. She has collaborated on several occasions throughout the decades with designer Bob Mackie, who has designed a succession of dramatic and unapologetically entertaining ensembles for the celebrity. Cher has often used her clothing to make a message, such as when she purposefully wore a legendary black chain-link halter and matching feather headpiece to the 1986 Academy Awards ceremony in protest of not being nominated for her role in Mask. Fast forward to the 1989 Academy Awards, when she opted for a more subtle look with Mackie, donning a sleek mini-dress with frills.
By the late 1980s, Cher had developed symptoms consistent with chronic fatigue syndrome. She continued to work in film on a part-time basis, as evidenced by the drama/comedy Mermaids (1990), co-starring Winona Ryder and Christina Ricci, the HBO film If These Walls Could Talk (1996), and the historical comedy/drama Tea With Mussolini, co-starring Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, and Lily Tomlin. She also acted alongside pop diva Christina Aguilera in 2010's Burlesque, albeit the film was a box office flop, with Cher also praising the final result.
While Cher demonstrated her rock abilities in the 1980s and early 1990s, she had another top 40 success with her mainstream pop interpretation of "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss)" from the Mermaids album. And the singer returned to the clubs with her hit "One by One," from the 1996 album It's a Man's World. Believe established the vocalist firmly in the dance/electronica genre, with the album's uptempo title single being a massive global smash and selling millions of copies. "Believe" also sparked a long-lasting trend of music producers utilizing vocoders, earning a Grammy for Best Dance Recording, alongside the empowerment hymn "Strong Enough," which topped the dance charts.
Cher released her follow-up studio album, Living Proof, in the United States in 2002, after its European release the year before. The album included the chart-topping hit "(This Is) A Song for the Lonely," which was composed in tribute to those affected by the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "Alive Again" and "A Different Kind of Love Song" were also featured on the album. Following the release of Living Proof, Cher announced her retirement from live performance with a 325-date farewell tour that stretched from 2002 to 2005.
Cher: The Farewell Tour was a 2003 NBC special that included one of Cher's live performances. The show was nominated for six Emmy Awards in 2003 and won three, including Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Special; Outstanding Camerawork, Video for a Miniseries, Movie, or a Special; and Outstanding Costumes for a Variety or Music Program.
Cher sold furniture, paintings, and ornamental pieces from her Malibu, California, home in 2006, as well as a variety of personal things, including souvenirs, jewelry, and stage costumes. The auction raised $3.5 million, with revenues benefitting the Cher Charitable Foundation.
Cher returned to the stage two years later, after having started her intention to retire from live engagements. On May 6, 2008, she premiered a performance named Cher at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. By the end of the series in February 2011, she had performed 192 concerts.
In September 2013, Cher released her first album in 12 years. According to Reuters, Closer to the Truth is "my greatest attempt yet," which she is pleased with. With the album hits "Woman's World," "Take It Like a Man," and "I Walk Alone," she achieved more dance chart success. Cher resumed touring in March 2014 in support of Closer but was forced to postpone concerts owing to a kidney ailment.
On February 8, 2017, the music legend returned to the stage with the debut of her Classic Cher concert at the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino's Park Theater. Her tour de force performance featured some of her best hits and was dressed in Bob Mackie's outfits.
In May 2017, following a high-voltage performance of her classics "Believe" and "If I Could Turn Back Time," the music queen earned the Billboard Icon Award. She commented on the longevity of her music career in her acceptance speech: "As a result, I've desired a career in this field since I was four years old. And it's something I've been doing for 53 years. That is not a request for applause; I turned 71 yesterday. And I am capable of performing a five-minute plank, correct? Simply stating the obvious."
Cher returned to the big screen in 2018 with Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!, the sequel to 2008's Mamma Mia!, which reunited her with former co-star Meryl Streep. In addition to the tribute CD, Dancing Queen, the artist embarked on the Here We Go Again Tour in September.
That year also saw the premiere of The Cher Show, a jukebox musical that began in Chicago before traveling to Broadway. The legend initially gave the play a mixed assessment, stating that it "needs work," but by April 2019, she was enthused enough to perform on The Tonight Show alongside the show's ensemble.
Cher is well-known for being candid about her opinions and experiences, with Streep remarking that the fellow singer/actress eschews the typical professional façade. Cher was romantically related to Geffen, actors Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, singer Richie Sambora, and actor/pilot Robert Camilletti throughout her adolescent years.
Cher has two children from two marriages: her son, Chaz Bono, who was initially called Chastity and transitioned from female to male in 2008, is from her first marriage to Bono, who died in a skiing accident in January 5, 1998. Elijah Blue Allman, born in 1976, is the result of her brief marriage to singer Gregg Allman.
The singer/actress released her memoir The First Time in 1998, as a collection of short essays. Cher, her mother, and her sister were also featured in Lifetime's 2013 documentary Dear Mom, Love Cher, which delves into their family history.