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 continuously reinventing both her music and image, which has led to her being nicknamed 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 successful 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. She made her directing debut in the 1996 film If These Walls Could Talk. At the same time, she established herself as a rock singer 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".
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Cher continued to experiment with musical styles, including R&B and dance. She reached a new commercial peak in 1998 with the song "Believe", which featured the pioneering use of Auto-Tune, also known as the "Cher effect". She has not toured since the 2002"2005 Living Proof: The Farewell Tour. In 2008, she signed a $60 million per-year deal to headline the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas for three years. Cher's latest studio album, Closer to the Truth, was released in September 2013.
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.
Life and career
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 married and divorced 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 discovered 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."
1960s: Sonny and Cher's rise and fall from pop stardom
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 at the 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 eight consecutive 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. Several mid-level hits followed, before "The Beat Goes On" returned the duo to the US top ten in 1967. Sonny and Cher charted 11 Billboard top 40 singles between 1965 and 1972, including six top-ten hits. At one point, they had five songs in the top 20, a feat equaled only by Elvis Presley and the Beatles. By the end of 1967, they had sold 40 million records worldwide and had become, according to Time magazine's Ginia Bellafante, rock's "it" couple.
Cher's following releases kept her solo career fully competitive with her work with Sonny. The Sonny Side of Chér (1966) featured "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)", a song with exotic-sounding Gypsy violins and a dramatic vocal delivery, which reached number two in America and became her first solo million-seller. Chér, also released in 1966, contained the Burt Bacharach and Hal David composition "Alfie", which was added to the credits of the American version of the 1966 film of the same name and became the first stateside version of the popular song. With Love, Chér (1968) included songs described by biographer Mark Bego as "little soap-opera stories set to rock music" such as the US top-ten hit "You Better Sit Down Kids".
By the end of the 1960s, Sonny and Cher's music had ceased to chart. According to biographer Connie Berman, "the heavy, loud sound of groups like Jefferson Airplane and Cream made the folk-rock music of Sonny and Cher seem too bland." Cher later commented, "I loved the new sound of Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, the electric-guitar oriented bands. Left to myself, I would have changed with the times because the music really turned me on. But Son[ny] didn't like it"?and that was that." Their monogamous, anti-drug lifestyle had lost its popular appeal among American youths during the period of the sexual revolution and the rise of the drug culture. According to biographer Mark Bego, "in spite of their revolutionary unisex clothes, Sonny and Cher were quite 'square' when it came to sex and drugs." To recapture their young audience, the duo produced and starred in the film Good Times (1967), in which they were featured in childish skits. The movie was unsuccessful.
Cher's next album, Backstage (1968), ran in diverse musical directions, including Brazilian jazz and anti-war protest settings, but was not a success. In 1969, she was dropped from Imperial Records. Sonny and Cher had been dropped from Atco; however, the label wanted to sign Cher for a solo album. 3614 Jackson Highway (1969) was recorded without the guidance of Sonny and incorporated experiments in blue-eyed soul; Allmusic's Mark Deming proclaimed it "the finest album of her career". Displeased with the 3614 Jackson Highway album, Sonny prevented Cher from releasing more recordings for Atco.
Meanwhile, Sonny repeatedly cheated on Cher, and 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. That year, the duo spent $500,000 and mortgaged their home to make the film Chastity. Written and directed by Sonny, who did not appear in the movie, it tells the story of a young woman, played by Cher, searching for the meaning of life. The art film failed, putting the couple $190,000 in debt with back taxes. However, some critics noted that Cher showed signs of acting potential. At the lowest point of their career, Sonny and Cher put together a nightclub routine which relied on a more adult approach to sound and style. According to writer Cintra Wilson, "Their lounge act was so depressing, people started heckling them. Then Cher started heckling back. Sonny ... reprimanded her; then she'd heckle Sonny". The heckling became a highlight of the act and made it a success. Television executives took note, and the couple began making guest appearances on prime-time shows, in which they presented a "new, sophisticated, and mature" image. Cher adopted alluring, low-cut gowns that became her signature outfits.
1970s: Television and musical success, solo career
CBS head of programming Fred Silverman offered Sonny and Cher their own television program after he noticed them as guest-hosts on The Merv Griffin Show in 1971. The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour premiered as a summer replacement series on August 1, 1971, and had six episodes. Because it was a ratings success, the couple returned that December with a full-time show.
Watched by more than 30 million viewers weekly during its three-year run, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour received 12 Emmy Award nominations. Praised for their comedic timing, deadpan Cher mocked Sonny about his looks and short stature. According to biographer Connie Berman, they "exuded an aura of warmth, playfulness, and caring that only enhanced their appeal. Viewers were further enchanted when a young Chastity also appeared on the show. They seemed like a perfect family." Cher honed her acting skills in sketch comedy roles such as the brash housewife Laverne, the sardonic waitress Rosa, and historical vamps, including Cleopatra and Miss Sadie Thompson. The designer clothing Cher wore were part of the show's attraction, and her style influenced the fashion trends of the 1970s.
In 1971, Sonny and Cher signed with the Kapp Records division of Decca Records, and the latter singer released the single "Classified 1A", in which she sings from the point of view of a soldier who bleeds to death in Vietnam. Written by Sonny, who felt that her first solo single on the label had to be poignant and topical, radio station programmers quickly rejected the song as uncommercial. Since Sonny's first attempts at reviving their recording career as a duo had also been unsuccessful, Kapp Records recruited Snuff Garrett to work with them. He produced Cher's first solo number-one single, "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves", which "proved that ... Garrett knew more about Cher's voice and her persona as a singer than Sonny did", writes Cher biographer Mark Bego. It became the biggest-selling single in the history of MCA Records then and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Released in September 1971, the Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves album features cover versions of contemporary hits such as "The Way of Love", a US top-ten single that established Cher's more confident image as a recording artist. In 1972, Cher released the all-ballad set Foxy Lady, demonstrating the evolution of her vocal abilities. That year, Garrett quit as producer after disagreeing with Sonny about the kind of material Cher should record.
At Sonny's insistence, in 1973 Cher released an album of standards called Bittersweet White Light, which was unsuccessful. That year, Garrett wrote her second number-one single, "Half-Breed", a song about the daughter of a Cherokee mother and a white father, from the album of the same name. Despite not having Cher at the time he wrote the song, Garrett was convinced that "it's a smash for Cher and for nobody else", so he held the song for months until he got Cher back. Both the album and the single were certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Cher's third number-one single was "Dark Lady", in 1974, from the namesake album. Later that year, she released a Greatest Hits album that, according to Billboard magazine, proved her to be "one of the most consistent hitmakers of the past five years", as well as a "proven superstar who always sells records". Between 1971 and 1974, Sonny and Cher's career was revived with four albums released under Kapp Records and MCA Records, including the top-ten charting singles "All I Ever Need Is You" and "A Cowboy's Work Is Never Done". Cher commented on her hectic schedule during this period: "I could do a whole album ... in three days ... We were on the road ... and we were doing the Sonny & Cher Show".
By late 1972, Cher's marriage with Sonny was over, but appearances were maintained until 1974. "The public still thinks we are married," Sonny wrote in his diary at the time, "[and] that's the way it has to be." In February 1974, Sonny filed for a separation, citing "irreconcilable differences". A week later, Cher countered with a divorce suit and charged Sonny with "involuntary servitude", claiming that he withheld money from her and deprived her of her rightful share of their earnings. The couple battled in court over finances and the custody of Chastity, which was eventually granted to Cher. Their divorce was finalized on June 26, 1975. During the divorce proceedings, Cher had a two-year relationship with record executive David Geffen, who freed her from her business arrangement with Sonny Bono, under which she was required to work exclusively for Cher Enterprises, the company he ran. Geffen secured a $2.5 million deal for Cher with Warner Bros. Records and reunited her with Spector to record and release a test single to launch Warner-Spector Records, Spector's Warner specialty label. The resulting 1974 single, "A Woman's Story", and a follow-up duet with Harry Nilsson, "A Love Like Yours", were commercial failures. Both singles received late recognition; DMA magazine described the latter as having "one of the catchiest choral hooks ever recorded".
In 1974, Cher won the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Comedy or Musical for The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. Sonny went on without Cher and renamed the show The Sonny Comedy Revue. It was canceled after six weeks.
Cher returned to television with a solo show on February 16, 1975. Entitled Cher, it began as a highly rated special with guests Flip Wilson, Elton John, and Bette Midler. Cloris Leachman and Jack Albertson won Emmy Awards for their guest appearances, and the show received nine more Emmy Award nominations that year. The Cher show was produced by David Geffen and centered on Cher's songs, monologues, comedy performance, and her variation of clothing, which was the largest for a weekly TV show. Early critical reception was favorable; Los Angeles Times exclaimed that "Sonny without Cher was a disaster. Cher without Sonny, on the other hand, could be the best thing that's happened to weekly television this season."
Cher lasted for less than a year, replaced by a Sonny and Cher show; she said, "doing a show alone was more than I could handle." On June 30, 1975, days after finalizing her divorce from Sonny, Cher married rock musician Gregg Allman, co-founder of The Allman Brothers Band. She filed for divorce nine days later, citing his heroin and liquor problems, but they reconciled and remained married until 1979. They had one son, Elijah Blue, on July 10, 1976. Under the rubric "Allman and Woman", they released the 1977 duet album Two the Hard Way, later regarded by History as "the worst of either artist's respective career". Sonny and Cher's TV reunion, The Sonny and Cher Show, lasted from February 1976 to mid-1977. Cher's reportedly extravagant lifestyle, her troubled relationship with Allman, and Sonny and Cher's insult humour about their divorce caused a public backlash that contributed to the show's failure.
Encouraged by Geffen, Cher began work on her first album for Warner in 1975. According to biographer Mark Bego, "it was their intention that [this album] was going to make millions of fans around the world take her seriously as a rock star, and not just a pop singer." Despite Cher's efforts to develop her musical range by listening to artists such as Stevie Wonder, Elton John, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, and Bob Dylan, the resulting album, Stars, received negative reviews. Janet Maslin of The Village Voice wrote, "Cher is just no rock and roller ... Image, not music, is Cher Bono's main ingredient for both records and TV." The album has since become a cult classic and is generally considered among her best work. Cher's next albums, I'd Rather Believe in You (1976) and Cherished (1977), the latter a return to her pop style at Warner's producers insistence, were also unsuccessful. She returned to prime time television with the specials Cher... Special (1978), nominated for three Emmy Awards, and Cher and Other Fantasies (1979). In 1978, she legally changed her name from Cherilyn Sarkisian La Piere Bono Allman to Cher, to eliminate the use of four surnames.
A single mother with two children, Cher realized that she had to make a choice about the direction of her singing career. Deciding to temporarily abandon her desire to be a rock singer, she signed with Casablanca Records and made a major comeback with the single "Take Me Home" and the album of the same name, both of which capitalized on the disco craze. They became instant hits, remained bestsellers for more than half of 1979, and were certified gold by the RIAA. Sales of the album may have been boosted by the image of a scantily clad Cher in a Viking outfit on its cover. Despite her initial lack of enthusiasm with disco music, she changed her mind after the success, commenting, "I never thought I would want to do disco ... [but] it's terrific! It's great music to dance to. I think that danceable music is what everybody wants." Encouraged by the popularity of Take Me Home, Cher planned to return to rock music in her next album, Prisoner (1979). The album's cover featured Cher draped in chains as a "prisoner of the press", causing controversy among feminist groups for her perceived portrayal of a sex slave. Cher included rock songs, which made the disco release seem unfocused and thus a commercial failure. Prisoner produced the single "Hell on Wheels", featured on the soundtrack of the film Roller Boogie. The song exploited the late 1970s roller-skating fad and contributed to its popularity. During this time, she dated Gene Simmons of the rock group KISS.
1980s: Hit and misses, film success and return to musical stardom
In 1980, alongside Italian record producer Giorgio Moroder, Cher wrote her last Casablanca disco recording, "Bad Love", for the film Foxes. She formed the rock band Black Rose that year with her then-lover, guitarist Les Dudek. Although Cher was the lead singer, she did not receive top billing because she wanted to create the impression that all band members were equal. Since she was easily recognized when she performed with the band, she developed a punk look by cutting her hair and dyeing it bright yellow, green, and pink. Despite appearances on television, the band failed to earn concert dates. Their album Black Rose received unfavorable reviews; Cher told Rolling Stone magazine, "The critics panned us, and they didn't attack the record. They attacked me. It was like, 'How dare Cher sing rock & roll?'" During the band's active period, Cher was a successful nightclub singer in Las Vegas, earning $300,000 a week. Black Rose later broke up in 1981. That year, she released the UK top-five hit "Dead Ringer for Love", a duet with musician Meat Loaf, later described by Allmusic's Donald A. Guarisco as "one of the more inspired rock duets of the 1980's". In 1982, Columbia Records released the album I Paralyze, later deemed by biographer Mark Bego as Cher's "strongest and most consistent solo album in years" despite its disappointing sales.
With decreasing album sales and a lack of successful singles, Cher decided to further develop her acting career. Her earliest entertainment ambitions had been in film, as opposed to music; but she had no films to her credit except the poorly received Good Times and Chastity, and the Hollywood establishment did not take her seriously as an actor. She moved to New York in 1982 to take acting lessons with Lee Strasberg, founder of the Actors Studio, but never enrolled after her plans changed. She auditioned for and was signed by director Robert Altman (whose wife was a friend of Cher's mother) for the Broadway stage production Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. She played a member of a James Dean fan club holding a 20-year reunion. That year, Altman cast her in the film adaptation of the show, which earned her a Golden Globe Award nomination. Director Mike Nichols, who had seen Cher onstage in Jimmy Dean, offered her the part of Meryl Streep's lesbian roommate and plant co-worker in the controversial film Silkwood. When it premiered in 1983, audiences questioned Cher's ability as an actress. She recalls attending a film preview during which the audience laughed when they saw her name in the credits. For her engaging and nearly flawless performance, Cher was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and won a Golden Globe Award.
In 1985, Cher formed the film production company Isis. Her next film, Mask (1985), reached number two at the box office and was Cher's first critical and commercial success as a leading actress. For her role as a drug addict biker with a teenaged son who has a severe physical deformity, she won the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival. During the making of the film, Cher clashed with director Peter Bogdanovich, and her anti-establishment behavior caused her to be ignored in the Academy Award nominations. She attended the 58th Academy Awards in a tarantula-like costume "to show her scorn for the 'system'", according to authors James Parish and Michael Pitts. The incident was highly publicized.
In May 1986, Cher made her first guest appearance on the Late Night with David Letterman show. When asked by Letterman why she had been reluctant to be a guest on his program, Cher replied that she thought he was an "asshole". The audience clamored, and he felt offended and embarrassed. In 1987, she returned to the show with Sonny to sing "I Got You Babe" for the first time in ten years.
By 1987, Cher was receiving attention for her Jack LaLanne Health Clubs commercials and controversial lifestyle, including her tattoos, plastic surgeries, exhibitionist fashion sense, and affairs with younger men. She dated actors Val Kilmer, Eric Stoltz, and Tom Cruise, hockey player Ron Duguay, film producer Josh Donen, Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora, and Rob Camilletti, an 18-years-younger bagel baker she met in 1986. Dubbed "Bagel Boy" by the press, Camilletti made headlines after he was charged with assault in 1988 for ramming Cher's Ferrari into a paparazzo's car. The couple broke up the next year.
Cher starred in three films in 1987. In Suspect, she played a public defender who is both helped and romanced by one of the jurors in the homicide case she is handling. Along with Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer, she starred as one of three divorcees involved with a mysterious and wealthy visitor from hell who comes to a small New England town in the comedy horror The Witches of Eastwick. The film grossed $31.8 million in domestic film rentals. Cher accepted a lead role in Norman Jewison's romantic comedy Moonstruck, which grossed $34.3 million in domestic film rentals. For her performance as an Italian widow in love with her fiancée's younger brother, Cher won the Academy Award for Best Actress and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy. Received with a standing ovation during her Oscar acceptance, she said, "I don't think that this award means that I'm somebody, but maybe I'm on my way." By 1988, Cher had become one of the most acclaimed and bankable actresses of the decade, commanding $1 million per film. That year, she released the fragrance Uninhibited, which earned about $15 million in its first year sales, and the exercise book Forever Fit, which sold about 100,000 copies in 1988.
In 1987, Cher signed with Geffen Records and revived her musical career with what DMA magazine describes as "her most impressive string of hits to date", establishing her as a "serious rock and roller ... a crown that she'd worked long and hard to capture". Michael Bolton, Jon Bon Jovi, Desmond Child, and Richie Sambora produced her first Geffen album, the RIAA-certified platinum Cher. It features the rock ballad "I Found Someone", her first top-ten hit in more than eight years.
Certified triple platinum by the RIAA, Cher's 19th studio album Heart of Stone (1989) has sold 11 million copies worldwide. The music video for the album's first single, "If I Could Turn Back Time", caused controversy due to Cher's performance on a Navy warship, straddling a cannon, and wearing a see-through bodystocking that revealed her tattoed buttocks. Television networks initially refused to air the video because of its partial nudity. Responding to pressure from older viewers, MTV agreed to show the video from 9 pm to 6 am. The song was an international number-one hit and quickly became one of Cher's most successful singles. In 1989, Cher launched the Heart of Stone Tour (also known as The Cher Extravaganza), which continued until 1990. Most critics liked the tour's nostalgic nature and admired Cher's showmanship. Its parent television special Cher at the Mirage was filmed during a concert in Las Vegas.
1990s: Multimedia success, health and professional struggles, high-profile comeback
In her first film in three years, Mermaids (1990), Cher paid tribute to her mother as a woman who moves her two daughters from town to town at the end of a love affair. She conflicted with the film's first two directors, Lasse Hallström and Frank Oz, who were replaced by Richard Benjamin. Believing Cher would be the star attraction, the producers allowed her creative control for the film. Mermaids is considered a cult classic according to Berman. One of the two songs Cher recorded for the film's soundtrack, "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)", topped the UK charts for five weeks and reached the top five in most European countries. Cher's final studio album for Geffen Records, Love Hurts (1991), stayed at number one in the UK for six weeks and produced four hit singles, including the UK top-ten hit "Love and Understanding". In later years, Cher commented that her Geffen label "hit years" had been especially significant to her, "because I was getting to do songs that I really loved ... songs that really represented me, and they were popular!" In 1992, she embarked on the Love Hurts Tour and released two fitness videos, CherFitness: A New Attitude and CherFitness: Body Confidence, which became big sellers in the genre. That year, the compilation album Cher's Greatest Hits: 1965"1992, released in Europe, peaked at number one in the UK for seven weeks. It featured three new songs.</ref>}}
Partly because of her difficult experience with Mermaids, Cher turned down leading roles in the films The War of the Roses and Thelma & Louise. According to Berman, "After the success of Moonstruck, she was so worried about her next career move that she was overly cautious." In the early 1990s, Cher contracted the Epstein"Barr virus and developed chronic fatigue syndrome, which left her too exhausted to sustain her music and film careers. Because she needed to earn money and was not healthy enough to work on other projects, she starred in infomercials launching health, beauty, and diet products, which earned her close to $10 million in fees. The skits were parodied on David Letterman's show and Saturday Night Live and critics considered a sellout, many suggesting her film career was over. She later told Ladies' Home Journal, "Suddenly I became the Infomercial Queen and it didn't occur to me that people would focus on that and strip me of all my other things."
Cher made cameo appearances in the Robert Altman films The Player (1992) and Prêt-à-Porter (1994). In late 1994, she started a mail-order catalogue business, Sanctuary, selling Gothic-themed products. She contributed a rock version of "I Got You Babe" to MTV's animated series Beavis and Butt-head. Alongside Chrissie Hynde, Neneh Cherry, and Eric Clapton, in 1995 she topped the UK charts with the charity single "Love Can Build a Bridge". Later that year, she signed with Warner Music UK's label WEA and recorded an album titled It's a Man's World, which came out of her conceit of covering men's songs from a woman's point of view. In general, critics favored the album and its R&B influences, some saying her voice had improved. Released in Europe at the end of 1995 and in North America, under Reprise Records, in the summer of 1996, It's a Man's World spawned the UK top-ten singles "Walking in Memphis" and "One by One".
On December 24, 1995, Cher starred in the ITV special Christmas with Cher. In 1996, she played the wife of a businessman who hires a hitman to murder her in the Chazz Palminteri-scripted dark comedy film Faithful, which was poorly received by critics. Despite being praised for her role, she refused to promote the film, claiming it was "horrible". Cher achieved a comeback when she starred in and made her directing debut with a segment in the abortion-themed anthology If These Walls Could Talk (1996), which drew the highest ratings for an original HBO movie to that point. For her role as a doctor who is murdered by an anti-abortion fanatic, she was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film.
Following the death of Sonny Bono in a skiing accident in 1998, Cher delivered a moving eulogy at his funeral. She called him "the most unforgettable character" she had met. On May 20, 1998, she paid tribute to him by hosting the affectionate CBS special Sonny & Me: Cher Remembers. They received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Television. Later that year, Cher published the book The First Time, a collection of autobiographical essays of "first-time" events in her life, which critics praised for revealing the singer to be down to earth and genuine. Although the manuscript was almost finished when Sonny died, she could not decide whether to include his death in the book; she feared being criticized for capitalizing on the event. Cher later told Rolling Stone, "I couldn't ignore it, could I? I might have if I cared more about what people think than what I know is right for me."
Cher's 22nd studio album Believe (1998) marked a musical departure for her, as it comprised dance-pop songs, many of which captured the "disco-era essence"; Cher said, 'It's not that I think this is a '70s album ... but there's a thread, a consistency running through it that I love.'" Believe was certified quadruple platinum by the RIAA and went on to be certified gold or platinum in 39 countries. The album's title track reached number one in more than 25 countries and sold over 11 million copies worldwide. It became the best-selling recording of 1998 and 1999, and Cher's biggest hit to date. "Believe" topped the UK charts for seven weeks and became the biggest-selling single of all time by a female artist in the UK. The song won the Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording. In January 1999, Cher performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the Super Bowl XXXIII. She sang on the television special VH1 Divas Live 2, which aired in March 1999. According to VH1, it was the most popular, and most watched program in the television network's history, as Cher's presence was "a huge part of making it exactly that." The Do You Believe? Tour ran from 1999 to 2000 and was sold-out in every American city it was booked in, amassing a global audience of more than 1.5 million. Its companion television special, Cher: Live in Concert - From the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, was the highest rated original HBO program in 1998–99 and received seven Emmy Award nominations. Later in 1999, Cher released the compilation album The Greatest Hits, which reached number one on German and Australian charts. Geffen Records compiled its own If I Could Turn Back Time: Cher's Greatest Hits, certified gold by the RIAA.
Cher's next film was Franco Zeffirelli's Tea with Mussolini (1999). Although it got mixed reviews, she received critical accolades for her performance as a rich, flamboyant American socialite whose visit to Italy is not welcome among the Englishwomen; one reviewer from Film Comment wrote, "It is only after she appears that you realize how sorely she's been missed from movie screens! For Cher is a star. That is, she manages the movie star trick of being at once a character and at the same time never allowing you to forget: that's Cher."
2000s: Dance charts, touring success and Vegas residency
In 2000, Cher released an independent album titled Not.com.mercial, written mostly by her after she had attended a songwriters' conference in 1994; it marked Cher's first attempt at writing most of the tracks for an album. Because the album was rejected by her record label for being uncommercial, she chose to sell it only on her website. In the song "Sisters of Mercy", she calls the Catholic nuns who cared for her when she was a child "cruel, heartless and wicked" for keeping her in their orphanage long after her mother attempted to retrieve her. and she saw her mother every day.}} In November 2000, Cher's cameo appearance on the NBC sitcom Will & Grace in the episode "Gypsies, Tramps and Weed" earned the show its second-highest rating ever.</ref> That year, Cher received her second German Echo Award as "Best International Rock/Pop Female Artist".}}
Cher's highly anticipated dance-oriented follow-up to Believe, Living Proof (2001), entered the Billboard 200 at number nine, her highest-charting album debut to date. Tracks from Living Proof became club hits. The album's first American single, "Song for the Lonely", was dedicated to "the courageous people of New York" following the September 11 attacks. The song "Love One Another" was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording. Cher performed during the benefit concert VH1 Divas Las Vegas in May 2002. Later that year, she won the Dance/Club Play Artist of the Year Award at the Billboard Music Awards. Her wealth in 2002 was estimated at $600 million.
In June 2002, Cher embarked on the Living Proof: The Farewell Tour, announced as the final live concert tour of her career, although she vowed to continue making records and films. The show highlighted her successes in music, television, and film, featuring video clips from the 1960s onwards and an elaborate backdrop and stage set-up. Initially scheduled for 49 shows, the worldwide tour was extended several times. A collection of live tracks taken from the tour was released as the album Live! The Farewell Tour (2003). The NBC special Cher - The Farewell Tour (2003) attracted 17 million viewers. It was the highest rated network-TV concert special of 2003 and won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Special.
After leaving Warner UK in 2002, Cher signed a worldwide deal with the US division of Warner Bros. Records in September 2003. The Very Best of Cher (2003), a greatest-hits collection that surveys her entire career, peaked at number four on the Billboard 200 and was certified double platinum by the RIAA. Cher played herself in the Farrelly Brothers' comedy Stuck on You (2003), mocking her public image as she appears in bed with a much younger boyfriend.</ref>}} Her three-year, 325-date Farewell Tour ended in April 2005 as the highest-grossing music tour by a female artist at the time. In 2008, Cher began a three-year, 200-performance residency at the Colosseum in Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, for which she earned a reported $60 million per year. Cher at the Colosseum featured 16 dancers and aerialists, state-of-the-art video, special effects, and elaborate set designs.
2010s: Film, music and touring return, upcoming projects
Cher returned to film in the musical Burlesque (2010), playing a nightclub impresario whom a young Hollywood hopeful is looking to impress. One of the two songs she recorded for the film's soundtrack, the Diane Warren-penned power ballad "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me", won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. Cher lent her voice to the comedy Zookeeper in 2011. In June 2012, the singer revealed that a Broadway musical based on her life and music was currently in development. She said that she may play herself in the show.
Cher produced the Lifetime show Dear Mom, Love Cher, a documentary about her mother, Georgia Holt, which aired in May 2013. On June 30, 2013, the singer headlined the Gay Pride annual Dance on the Pier benefit. It became the event's first sellout in five years. Her highly anticipated 26th studio album Closer to the Truth, the first since 2001's Living Proof, was released in September 2013. Michael Andor Brodeur from The Boston Globe commented that "Cher's 'Goddess of Pop' sash remains in little danger of undue snatching; at 67, she sounds more convincing than J-Lo or Madonna reporting from 'the club'". The lead single "Woman's World" was premiered on the season finale of NBC's The Voice with Cher's first live TV performance in over a decade. The 2014 Dressed to Kill Tour in support of Closer to the Truth was announced on September 23, 2013.
Music and voice
| filename2 = If i could turn back time.ogg
| title2 = "If I Could Turn Back Time" (1989)
| description2 = Cher's aggressive, sharp vocals in songs such as "If I Could Turn Back Time" were the main characteristic of her 1980s and early-1990s work.
| filename3 = Believe - Cher.ogg
| title3 = "Believe" (1998)
| description3 = "Believe" is noted for its use of an electronic vocal effect (using the then newly invented Auto-Tune software), which is referred to as the "Cher effect".
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.
Some of Cher's early songs discuss controversial topics such as divorce, prostitution, unplanned and underaged pregnancy, and racism. The 1972 song "The Way of Love" is either about a woman expressing her love for another woman, or a woman breaking up with a gay male she loved ("What will you do/When he sets you free/Just the way that you/Said good-bye to me"). Her ability to carry both male and female ranges allowed her to sing solo in androgynous and gender-neutral-themed songs. Cher has a distinctive contralto singing voice, described by author Nicholas E. Tawa as "bold, deep, and with a spacious vibrato". Ann Powers of The New York Times called it "a quintessential rock voice: impure, quirky, a fine vehicle for projecting personality."
First heard in the 1980 record Black Rose, the aggressive, sharp vocals in her hard rock-oriented albums highlighted her sexually autonomous persona. For the album It's a Man's World (1995), she restrained her vocals, singing in higher registers and without vibrato. The 1998 song "Believe" has an electronic vocal effect proposed by Cher, and was the first commercial recording to feature Auto-Tune"?an audio processor originally intended to disguise or correct off-key inaccuracies in vocal music recordings"?as a deliberate creative effect. After the success of the song, the technique became known as the "Cher effect" and has since been widely used in popular music. Cher later used Auto-Tune on the albums Living Proof (2001) and Closer to the Truth (2013).
Films, music videos and live performances
According to author Diane Negra, Cher was presented in her early career as vehicle to showcase male creativity, but managed to take control of her later career. Cher's star image "operates in terms of a refusal of dependence on a man and the determination not only to forge a career (as an actor) on her own terms but to refuse the conventional role assigned to women over forty years old in a industry that fetishises youth", wrote author Yvonne Tasker. Throughout the 1980s, Cher appeared in film roles where she served as a social intermediary to disenfranchised male characters. She showcased her status as an independent woman by interacting with Eric Stoltz's elephantiasis victim in Mask (1985), Liam Neeson's mute homeless veteran in Suspect (1987), and Nicolas Cage's socially isolated baker with a wooden hand in Moonstruck (1987). Mermaids (1990) made use of her "strong, sexually assertive" image. According to Jeff Yarbrough of The Advocate, Cher was "one of the first superstars to 'play gay' with compassion and without a hint of stereotyping", as she portrayed a lesbian in the 1983 film Silkwood.
Cher's rebellious star persona also stems from her music videos and live performances, in which she "repeatedly comments on her own construction, on her search for perfection and on the performance of the female body", wrote Tasker. Cher's "Hell on Wheels" was one of the first music videos ever and involved cinematic techniques. The video for "If I Could Turn Back Time""?the title of which refers to her youthful body"?was the first banned by MTV. Unlike other 1980s music video and stage acts who usually feature female backers who mimic the star's performance, Cher used a male dancer dressed as her in the 1992 concert video Cher at the Mirage. Cher's performance of the song "After All" in the same concert video begins with a biographical montage of Cher, her ex-husbands and children, as well as posters from her films, "inviting a reading of the song as a reflection upon Cher's life, and thus putting into circulation a historical Cher and by extension cinematic, televisual, and popular music Chers as well", wrote Negra.
Billboard's Cary Darling described Cher's live act as "more of a revue than a concert." Her 1979 stage act featured elaborate choreography, many costume changes, a film biography of her career and two female impersonators dressed as Diana Ross and Bette Midler. In her 2002 concert, Cher "outdid her own penchant for spectacle", according to Clea Simons of Boston Phoenix. The show featured "Cirque du Soleil"style aerialists, dancers whipping across the stage in backflips ... Mongol-chic dancers swathed in fur ... Maori 'tattoos' that decorated leotards ... fire (projected) and an animal act (a life-sized puppet elephant)". James Sullivan of San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "Cher is well aware that her chameleonic glitz set the stage for the current era of stadium-size razzle-dazzle. She's comfortable enough to see such imitation as flattery, not theft."
Cher emerged as a fashion trendsetter in the 1960s, popularizing the jet black long hair, bell-bottoms, bare midriff, bandanas, and Cherokee-inspired tunics. She began working as a model in 1967 for photographer Richard Avedon after then-Vogue editor Diana Vreeland discovered her at a party for Jacqueline Kennedy that year. Avedon took the famous photo of Cher in a beaded and feathered nude gown for the cover of Time magazine in 1975. Cher has appeared five times on the cover of Vogue, between 1972 and 1975. Through her 1970s television shows, she became a sex symbol with her inventive and revealing Bob Mackie-designed outfits, and fought the network censors to bare her navel. She was noted as the first woman to expose her navel on television. Cher has also worn wigs since her 1970s TV shows. In 1972, after she was featured on the annual "Best Dressed Women" lists, Mackie stated: "There hasn't been a girl like Cher since [Marlene] Dietrich and [Greta] Garbo. She's a high-fashion star who appeals to people of all ages."
In May 1999, after the Council of Fashion Designers of America recognized Cher with an award for her influence in fashion, Robin Givhan of Los Angeles Times called her a "fashion visionary" for "striking just the right note of contemporary wretched excess". Givhan cited Tom Ford, Anna Sui and Dolce & Gabbana as "[i]nfluential designers [who] have evoked her name as a source of inspiration and guidance." She concluded that "Cher's Native American showgirl sexpot persona now seems to epitomize the fashion industry's rush to celebrate ethnicity, adornment and sex appeal."
Cher has repeatedly reinvented herself through various personas, for which Professor Richard Aquila from Ball State University called her "the ultimate pop chameleon". According to author Lucy O'Brien, "Cher adheres to the American Dream of reinvention of self: 'Getting old does not have to mean getting obsolete.'" Phill Marder from Goldmine wrote that as a female rock star, Cher had set "the standard for appearance, from her early hippie days to her later outlandish outfits, and her attitude"?the perfect female punk long before punk even was a rock term." He agreed that, with her dominant attitude over partner Sonny Bono and her stage costumes, she led the way to advance feminine rebellion in the rock world, with contemporaries Marianne Faithfull and Nancy Sinatra being her followers.
Cher's 1988 Oscar win, according to biographer Connie Berman, signaled an important change in Hollywood, as she appeared in a negligee outfit, danced onstage and was applauded for her daring. Author Craig Crawford called Cher "a model of flexible career management" and claimed that her "many and varied career victories" were based on constantly reshaping her image according to the evolving trends of popular culture. According to him, she billed "each dramatic turnaround of style as another example of rebellion"?an image that allowed her to make calculated changes while appearing to be consistent."
Cher has attracted media attention for her physical appearance"?particularly her youthful looks and her many tattoos. Journalists have often called her the "poster girl" of plastic surgery. Grant McCracken, in his book Transformations: Identity Construction in Contemporary Culture, drew a parallel between Cher's plastic surgeries and the transformations in her career: "There is no public record of when ... Cher chose to have her plastic surgery. But it does seem more or less consistent with the rest of her transformational career. Her plastic surgery is not merely cosmetic. It is hyperbolic, extreme, over the top ... Cher has engaged in a transformational technology that is dramatic and irreversible." Caroline Ramazanoglu, author of Up Against Foucault: Explorations of Some Tensions Between Foucault and Feminism, wrote that "Cher's operations have gradually replaced a strong, decidedly 'ethnic' look with a more symmetrical, delicate, 'conventional' ... and ever-youthful version of female beauty ... Her normalised image ... now acts as a standard against which other women will measure, judge, discipline and 'correct' themselves." Cher denies most rumors about her plastic surgery, and has stated, "I've had the same cheeks my entire life. No butt lifts. No ribs removed."
Cher has six tattoos, including one on her buttock. The Baltimore Sun called her the "Ms. Original Rose Tattoo". She got her first tattoo in 1972. According to Sonny Bono, "Calling her butterfly tattoos nothing was like ignoring a sandstorm in the Mojave. That was exactly the effect Cher wanted to create. She liked to do things for the shock they created. She still does. She'll create some controversy and then tell her critics to stick it." In the late 1990s, Cher began having laser treatments to remove her tattoos. The process was still underway in the 2000s. She commented, "When I got tattooed, only bad girls did it: me and Janis Joplin and biker chicks. Now it doesn't mean anything. No one's surprised."
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.
Biographer Mark Bego commented that despite not being the most talented actress or the most gifted vocalist, Cher has built a career of strength, longevity and superstar status based as much on her unpredictability as upon her talents. He described her as "an acknowledged pillar of self-determination". Biographer Connie Berman wrote that "Cher's life has been one of drama and inspiration as she rose from an often impoverished and disrupted childhood to stardom. No film Cher might ever star in could possibly be as fascinating as her own life story". According to author Nicholas E. Tawa, "Cher was determined to be a number-one singer and actress, and she achieved both ... Hers was a huge, if neon-lit personality that filled every stage she sang upon. Her followers were legion." Cher's "integrity" and "perseverance" were highlighted in the Reaching Your Goals book series of illustrated inspirational readers for children, in which her life was detailed emphasizing the importance of self-actualization: "For years, Cher worked hard to become a successful singer. Then she worked hard to become an actress. Even when she needed money, she turned down movie roles that weren't right for her. Her goal has always been to be a good actress, not just a rich and famous one."
Cher has drawn the attention from a number of feminist critics. She was featured in the 16th anniversary edition of Ms. magazine as an "authentic feminist hero" and "the quintessential woman of the '80s": "Cher, the straightforward, tattooed, dyslexic single mother, the first Oscar winner to have entered into matrimony with a known heroin addict and to have admitted to being a fashion victim by choice, has finally landed in an era that's not afraid to applaud real women." However, Kathleen Park of Orlando Sentinel felt that this choice was miserable, stating that despite being "a star of extraordinary proportions", Cher "hardly embodies, at least publicly, the qualities that earn one respect in this world". Park added that Cher "is praised for doing all the things most of us try so hard not to do in our efforts to grow". Stephanie Brush of The New York Times wrote that Cher "performs the function for women moviegoers that Jack Nicholson has always fulfilled for men. Free of the burden of ever having been America's sweetheart, she is the one who represents us [women] in our revenge fantasies, telling all the fatheads ... exactly where they can go. You need to be more than beautiful to get away with this. You need to have been Cher for 40 years."
Cher's multiple comebacks and career shifts has been long the subject of discussion. Record producer David Geffen declared Cher "the proverbial cat with nine lives" and stated that she remains "as relevant today as she was ... in the sixties". Biographer Mark Bego wrote, "Just when you think that she has done it all, Cher recreates herself and takes on a whole new persona." The New York Times proclaimed Cher the "Queen of the Comeback". Her 1998 dance music comeback inspired veteran recording artists such as Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, and Tina Turner, who tried to emulate her new sound and replicate its success. For her part, Cher has stated, "I feel like a bumper car. If I hit a wall, I'm backing up and going in another direction. And I've hit plenty of fucking walls in my career. But I'm not stopping. I think maybe that's my best quality: I just don't stop."
The reverence held for Cher by members of the gay community has been attributed to the accomplishments in her career, her sense of style and her longevity. Alec Mapa of The Advocate elaborates: "While the rest of us were sleeping, Cher's been out there for the last four decades living out every single one of our childhood fantasies ... Cher embodies an unapologetic freedom and fearlessness that some of us can only aspire to." According to Thomas Rogers of Salon magazine, she has often been imitated by drag queens because she "overcame insult and hardship on [her] path to success" and because her story "mirror[s] the pain that many gay men suffer on their way out of the closet".
Cher's primary philanthropic endeavors have included support of health research and patient quality of life, anti-poverty initiatives, veterans rights, and vulnerable children. Beginning in 1990, she served as a donor and the National Chairperson and Honorary Spokesperson of the Children's Craniofacial Association, whose mission is to "empower and give hope to facially disfigured children and their families". The annual Cher's Family Retreat is held each June to provide craniofacial patients, their siblings and parents an opportunity to interact with others who have endured similar experiences. She also supports and actively promotes Get A-Head Charitable Trust, which aims to improve the quality of life for people with head and neck diseases.
In 1993, Cher participated in a humanitarian effort in Armenia, taking food and medical supplies to the war-torn region. In 1996, she co-hosted the American Foundation for AIDS Research Benefit at the Cannes Film Festival. She is also the namesake of the Cher Charitable Foundation, which supports numerous causes.
Cher has been a vocal supporter of American soldiers and returning veterans. She has actively contributed resources to Operation Helmet, an organization that provides free helmet upgrade kits to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. She has also contributed to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which serves military personnel who have been disabled in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and those severely injured in other operations. She has engaged in the construction of houses with Habitat for Humanity and served as the Honorary National Chair of a Habitat's elimination of poverty housing initiative "Raise the Roof", an effort to engage artists in the organization's work while on tour. She is also a donor, fundraiser and international spokesperson for Keep a Child Alive, an organization that seeks to accelerate action to combat the global AIDS pandemic, including the provision of Antiretroviral medicine to children and their families with HIV/AIDS.
In 2007, Cher became the primary supporter of the Peace Village School (PVS) in Ukunda, Kenya, which "provides nutritious food, medical care, education and extracurricular activities for more than 300 orphans and vulnerable children, ages 2 to 13 years." Her support enabled the school to acquire land and build permanent housing and school facilities, and in partnership with Malaria No More and other organizations, she piloted an effort to eliminate malaria mortality and morbidity for the children, their caregivers and the surrounding community.
Cher's oldest child, Chaz Bono (born Chastity Bono), first came out as a lesbian at the age of 17, which caused Cher feelings of "guilt, fear and pain". However, Cher soon came to accept Chaz's sexual orientation, and came to the conclusion that LGBT people "didn't have the same rights as everyone else, [and she] thought that was unfair". She was the keynote speaker for the 1997 national Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) convention, and has since become one of the LGBT community's most vocal advocates. On June 11, 2009, Chaz came out as a transgender individual, and his transition to male was legally finalized on May 6, 2010.
Although Cher says she's not a registered Democrat, she has attended many Democratic conventions and events. Over the years, she has become known for her political views, having been an outspoken critic of the conservative movement. She has commented that she didn't understand why anyone would be a Republican because eight years under the administration of George W. Bush "almost killed me". During the 2000 United States presidential election, ABC News wrote that she was determined to do "whatever possible to keep him [Bush] out of office". She told the site, "If you're black in this country, if you're a woman in this country, if you are any minority in this country at all, what could possibly possess you to vote Republican? ... You won't have one f---ing right left." She also said of George W., "I don't like Bush. I don't trust him. I don't like his record. He's stupid. He's lazy."
On October 27, 2003, Cher anonymously called a C-SPAN phone-in program. She recounted a visit she had made to maimed soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and criticized the lack of media coverage and government attention given to injured servicemen. She also remarked that she watches C-SPAN every day. Though she simply identified herself as an unnamed entertainer, she was recognized by the C-SPAN host, who subsequently questioned her about her 1992 support for independent presidential candidate Ross Perot. She said, "When I heard him talk right in the beginning, I thought that he would bring some sort of common-sense business approach and also less partisianship, but then ... I was completely disappointed like everyone else when he just kind of cut and run and no one knew exactly why ... Maybe he couldn't have withstood all the investigation that goes on now". On Memorial Day weekend in 2006, she called into C-SPAN's Washington Journal endorsing Operation Helmet, a group that provides helmets to help soldiers avoid head injuries while in the war zone. On June 14, 2006, she made a guest appearance on C-SPAN with Dr. Bob Meaders, founder of Operation Helmet. That year, in an interview with Stars and Stripes newspaper, Cher explained her "against the war in Iraq but for the troops" position: "I don't have to be for this war to support the troops because these men and women do what they think is right. They do what they're told to do. They do it with a really good heart. They do the best they can. They don't ask for anything."
Cher supported Hillary Clinton in her Presidential campaign: "I like Hillary. I think she'd make the best president. I think [Barack Obama]'s a good man. I think he's altruistic. I think he's smart. I think at some point he can be a great leader. I just don't think it's now." After Obama won the Democratic nomination, she supported his candidacy on radio and TV programs. However, in a 2010 interview with Vanity Fair magazine, she commented that she "still thinks Hillary would have done a better job", although she "accepts the fact that Barack Obama inherited insurmountable problems". During the interview, she also stood against American politicians Sarah Palin ("Palin came on, and I thought, Oh, fuck, this is the end. Because a dumb woman is a dumb woman") and the then-Arizona governor Jan Brewer: "She was worse than Sarah Palin, if that is possible. This woman was like a deer in headlights. She's got a handle on the services of the state, and I would not let her handle the remote control." During the 2012 United States presidential election, Cher and comedian Kathy Griffin released a public service announcement titled "Don't Let Mitt [Romney] Turn Back Time on Women's Rights." In the PSA, the pair criticized Republican Party Presidential nominee Mitt Romney for his support of Richard Mourdock, the US Senate candidate who suggested that even pregnancies resulting from rape were "part of God's plan". Cher also denounced Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan for distinguishing between "forcible" and "non-forcible" rape.
In September 2013 Cher refused the opportunity to perform at the 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Russia due to the controversial anti-gay legislation that has overshadowed preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Main article: Cher albums discography
All I Really Want to Do (1965)
The Sonny Side of Chér (1966)
With Love, Chér (1968)
3614 Jackson Highway (1969)
Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves (1971)
Foxy Lady (1972)
Bittersweet White Light (1973)
Dark Lady (1974)
I'd Rather Believe in You (1976)
Take Me Home (1979)
I Paralyze (1982)
Heart of Stone (1989)
Love Hurts (1991)
It's a Man's World (1995)
Living Proof (2001)
Closer to the Truth (2013)
Tours and concerts
Main article: List of Cher concert tours
Take Me Home Tour (1979"1982)
Heart of Stone Tour (1989"1990)
Love Hurts Tour (1992)
Do You Believe? Tour (1999"2000)
Living Proof: The Farewell Tour (2002"2005)
Cher at the Colosseum (2008"2011)
Dressed to Kill Tour (2014)
Main article: Cher filmography
Good Times (1967)
Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982)