Before They Were Famous: Cher

Do you believe in life after love?

Here at the Vulture nest, we give you the best stories on the most current music in the biz, but in this column, we can look back at the industry’s sweethearts and golden oldies. And Cher is the epitome of that. She holds the Guinness world record for the oldest female solo act to have a song hold the number one spot in the charts in over eighty different countries.

It’s not hard to see how Cher achieved success when her style was so unique at the time; the use of auto tune was never heard before, along with her clean but powerful lyrics about female empowerment. While she may not be the most sophisticated songwriter, she definitely knew how to create huge hits without being a one hit wonder.

Now, before the years following her hit single, ‘Believe’, and the Botox that made her look like a waxwork model of herself, Cher was an ordinary girl from California. She was born Cherilyn Sarkisian in 1946. Her mother was a model and her father was a truck driver, whom she rarely saw during her childhood. Much like Cher did in her adult life, her mother divorced her father and pursued an acting career, while also having the time to marry 8 different men.

Not unlike the current Cher, when she said:

“Men should be like Kleenex: soft, strong and disposable.”

Her mother sounds as if she were a little lost when she travelled over the US, changing waitressing jobs and having little money to feed her two children, to the point where she, for a few weeks, had to place Cher in an orphanage.
She was taken out of the orphanage and her mother, thankfully, could feed her and avoid living on the streets.
Cher went on to blossom as a performer in her early grade school, acting as a director for her own adaptation of the musical, Oklahoma!, at the age of 9. She sang all the male parts because no boys would participate, and also choreographed and directed all of her friends in the show.

While she did dream of being a performer, she felt she was not talented enough, but wanted to try for a career in film or television anyway, taking inspiration from Audrey Hepburn’s fashionable star quality in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

“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.”

When she was sixteen, she moved out of home and moved to LA to become an actor. She danced in clubs on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, while taking acting classes, and cozied up to producers and managers.

After a year of acting classes, Cher had a chance meeting with Sonny Bono in a Hollywood coffee shop. The meeting ended with Cher becoming Bono’s live-in housekeeper and Bono soon introduced Cher to record producer, Phil Spector (who is currently in gaol on two counts of murder).

Before Spector was accused of murder, he hired Cher as a backup singer and produced her first, and very unsuccessful, single, ‘Ringo, I Love You’. Cher and Bono fell in love and Bono felt the need to help her with her career, performing with her in clubs and supporting her through her stage fright. It became an eventual trademark between them as she would look at him, rather than the audience.

After 2 years of performing, Cher and Bono became a duo act called, Caesar and Cleo. Their singles, such as: ‘Let the Good Times Roll’ and ‘Do You Wanna Dance?’ were unsuccessful. After Cher was signed to Imperial Records and produced a hit with her cover of the Bob Dylan song, ‘All I Really Want to Do’. After the single hit number fifteen in the charts, Cher and Bono changed their duo’s name to Sonny and Cher. It was that fateful moment when Sonny and Cher were filmed on TV, singing the hit song, ‘I Got You Babe’, that sky rocketed their career.

Cher was finally famous and eventually went on to have her own show with Sonny, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, and after their separation (which they covered up for the sake of the show), she had her own show called, with so much originality, The Cher Show.

After her first success, Cher has had all kinds of run-ins with the media, including her daughter’s sex change, her divorces, her plastic surgery, her love affairs with young men, and her contraction of herpes (a major mood killer in the bedroom).

And after all this, Cher has a phenomenal legacy, inspiring singers all over the world, most notably Beyoncé. All from a girl who had no real direction, who just simply wanted to be “famous”.

Happy listening, Vultures.

Jacob Reid

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