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 Blendells.
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 Kind" song.
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 1960s.
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 crowded room.
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 canceled.]
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 career.
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
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 On".
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.