Cher (, born Cherilyn Sarkisian, May 20, 1946) is an American singer and actress. A significant popular culture figure for more than five decades, she has been called the Goddess of Pop. 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 for continuously reinventing both her music and image.
Cher became prominent in 1965 as one-half of the folk rock husband-and-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 top-earning 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. At the same time, she established herself as a "serious rock and roller" 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". In the 1990s, she made her directing debut in the film If These Walls Could Talk and released the biggest-selling single of her career, "Believe", which featured the pioneering use of Auto-Tune, also known as the "Cher effect". In the 2000s, she embarked on the successful Living Proof: The Farewell Tour and signed a $60 million per-year deal to headline the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas for three years.
The only person to have received each of these honors, 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. 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 would marry and divorce 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. Cher was disappointed by the absence of dark-haired actresses in Hollywood whom she could emulate then. Cher had wanted to become famous since childhood, but felt unattractive and untalented. She commented in an interview, "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 both 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 would discover that she suffers from dyslexia. She achieved notoriety for her unconventional behavior: she entertained other students during the lunch hours performing songs and surprising some 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 Loving Feeling". 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 five 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 her cover version of 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 would become her signature outfits.
1970s: Television and musical stardom and experiments
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. She earned her second number-one single that year with "Half-Breed", a song about the daughter of a Cherokee mother and a white father, from the album of the same name. Both the album and the single were certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Garrett commented, "I said from the lyrics it's a smash for Cher and for nobody else. And I didn't even have Cher at the time. To me, nobody else could do that song but Cher"that was Cher's story. So I held the song and then it worked out that we got Cher back, but the song sat in my desk for about three, four months." 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 sell 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 later commented about her schedule during this period: }}
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, three 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, which was later regarded by History as "the worst of either artist's respective career".
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." At the time Cher said, }}
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. 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. She made a brief return to prime time television, starring in 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 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: Musical missteps, Broadway, film stardom and return to musical success
In 1980, alongside Italian record producer Giorgio Moroder, Cher wrote her last Casablanca disco recording, "Bad Love", for the film Foxes. That year, she formed the rock band Black Rose 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, as 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?'" Black Rose broke up in 1981. During the band's active period, Cher was a successful nightclub singer in Las Vegas, earning $300,000 a week. In 1981, 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 lover and plant co-worker in the controversial film Silkwood. When it premiered in 1983, audiences questioned Cher's ability as an actress. According to biographer Connie Berman, "She has often repeated the story about the audience's reception at a preview that Cher attended. At the beginning of the film, when her name flashed across the screen in the credits, the audience laughed. Cher was devastated. Her sister, who was with her, began to cry. Cher didn't cry, but she was deeply hurt. The preview audience changed its attitude by the end of the film. Hollywood also took notice at last, and so did the critics." For her "intense, unvarnished performance", Cher received a nomination 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 conflicted 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, exhibionist fashion sense, and affairs with younger men. She starred in three films that year. 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, she had become one of the most acclaimed and bankable actresses of the decade, commanding $1 million per film. That year, Cher 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, and the Bon Jovi-penned song "We All Sleep Alone". Cher later recalled the reception of her comeback single:
Certified triple platinum by RIAA, Cher's twentieth studio album Heart of Stone (1989) has sold 11 million copies worldwide. The music video of the album's first single, "If I Could Turn Back Time", caused controversy due to Cher's performance on a Navy warship, straddling a canon, 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. Further hits from Heart of Stone were "Just Like Jesse James", "Heart of Stone", and a duet with Peter Cetera, "After All", used as the love theme from the movie Chances Are and nominated for Best Original Song at the 62nd Academy Awards. 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.
During the 1980s, Cher was involved in successive, well-publicized relationships with younger men, including 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 whom 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 following year.
1990s: Multimedia stardom, infomercial struggles, high-profile comeback and musical departure
In her first film in three years, Mermaids (1990), Cher played tribute to her mother as a woman who moves her two daughters, played by Winona Ryder and Christina Ricci, from town to town at the end of a love affair. She conflicted with the film's first two directors, Lasse Hallstrom and Frank Oz, until they were replaced by Richard Benjamin. As the producers believed that Cher would be the star attraction for the film, they allowed her creative control behind the scenes. Today, the film is considered a cult classic, according to biographer Connie Berman. Cher contributed two songs to the Mermaids' soundtrack: "Baby I'm Yours" and "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)". The latter topped the UK charts for five weeks and reached 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, most notably the UK top-ten hit "Love and Understanding". In later years, Cher commented that her Geffen label "hit years" had always 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!"</ref>}} 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: "Oh No Not My Baby", "Many Rivers to Cross", and "Whenever You're Near".
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, leaving her too exhausted to sustain her music and film careers. However, 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 spoofed on David Letterman's show and Saturday Night Live and Cher was attacked as a sellout by critics, with many of them suggesting that her movie 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 the fall of 1994, she started a mail-order catalogue business, Sanctuary, selling Gothic-themed products. That year, she collaborated with MTV's animated series Beavis and Butt-head for a rock version of "I Got You Babe". In 1995, she went to number one on the UK Singles Chart with the charity single "Love Can Build a Bridge", which also featured Chrissie Hynde, Neneh Cherry, and Eric Clapton. Later that year, she signed with Warner Music UK's label WEA Records 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. The album received generally positive reviews, with some critics commenting that Cher's voice sounded better than ever. It's a Man's World was released in Europe at the end of 1995 and in North America, under Reprise Records, in the summer of 1996, and sparked 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 hit man to murder her in the Chazz Palminteri-scripted dark comedy 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), with Demi Moore, Sissy Spacek, and Anne Heche, which drew the highest ratings for an original TV movie on HBO to that point. For her role as a doctor who is murdered by an anti-abortion fanatic, she received a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film. Cher's next film was Franco Zeffirelli's Tea with Mussolini (1998), with Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Joan Plowright, and Lily Tomlin. Although the movie got mixed reviews, Cher 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." Following the death of Sonny Bono in a skiing accident in 1998, Cher delivered a moving eulogy at his funeral. She tearfully praised him and called him "the most unforgettable character" she ever met. On May 20, 1998, Cher paid tribute to Sonny by hosting the affectionate CBS special Sonny & Me: Cher Remembers. That month, Sonny and Cher received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Television. That year, Cher published the book The First Time, a collection of autobiographical essays of "first-time" events in her life, which was praised by critics for revealing the singer to be down to earth and genuine. Although she had almost finished the manuscript when Sonny died, she was undecided about 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 ... I don't have to explain myself. I'd like for people to understand, but if they don't, well, that's the way things go."
Cher's twenty-third studio album Believe (1998) marked a musical departure for her, as it was a collection of dance-pop songs. Several tracks on the album captured the "disco-era essence", with Cher commenting, "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 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, as well as Cher's biggest hit to date. On the British charts, "Believe" claimed the number one slot for seven weeks and became the biggest-selling single of all time by a female artist in the UK. The song was also awarded the Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording.</ref>}} In January 1999, Cher performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the Super Bowl XXXIII. In March 1999, she performed on the television special VH1 Divas Live 2. According to VH1, it was the most popular, and most watched, program in the television network's history, with Cher's presence being "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 at the MGM Grand In Las Vegas, was the highest-rated original HBO program in the past two years and received seven Emmy Award nominations. Later in 1999, Cher released in Europe the compilation album The Greatest Hits, which reached number one on German and Australian charts. That year, Geffen Records in America compiled its own If I Could Turn Back Time: Cher's Greatest Hits, certified gold by RIAA.</ref>}}
2000s: Musical stardom, touring success and Vegas residency
In 2000, Cher released an independent album titled Not.com.mercial, which was written mostly by her after attending a songwriters' conference in 1994. Because the album was quickly rejected by her record label for being uncommercial, she chose to sell it only on her website. Full of personal revelations, painfully honest language and disturbing content, Not.com.mercial marked Cher's first attempt at writing an entire album. In the song "Sisters of Mercy", she called 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; that caused controversy among church leaders, who quickly issued denouncements.</ref> 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.}}
In 2001, Cher released the highly anticipated dance-oriented follow-up to Believe: Living Proof, which entered the Billboard 200 at number nine, making it her highest-charting album debut to date and extending her album chart span to 36 years and seven months. Slant Magazine proclaimed the album "the most life-affirming piece of pop art to emerge since 9/11". Living Proof's worldwide lead single, "The Music's No Good Without You", reached the top ten in the UK, Italy, Canada, and Portugal. The album's first American single, "Song for the Lonely", was dedicated to "the courageous people of New York" following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Several songs from the album, including their remixed versions, established Cher's presence on the American club scene. Living Proof was certified gold by RIAA for sales exceeding 500,000 copies in the US. In May 2002, Cher performed during the benefit concert VH1 Divas Las Vegas. That year, she won the Dance/Club Play Artist of the Year Award at the Billboard Music Awards. In 2002, her personal wealth was estimated at $600 million (£315 million).
In June 2002, Cher embarked on the Living Proof: The Farewell Tour, announced as the final live concert tour of her career, though she vowed to continue making more records and movies. The show paid homage to her 40 years in show business, featuring vintage performance and video clips from the 1960s onwards, highlighting her successes in music, television, and film, all set amongst an elaborate backdrop and stage set-up, complete with dancers, acrobats and backup singers. Initially scheduled for 49 shows, the tour was extended several times, covering much of the US, as well as cities in Europe, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Cher found success on television once again with Cher: The Farewell Tour, a NBC special taped in Miami on November 2002 and aired in April 2003, which attracted 17 million viewers. It was the highest-rated network-TV concert special of 2003 and earned Cher a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Special.</ref>}}
The Very Best of Cher, a greatest-hits collection that surveyed her entire career, was released in April 2003. The album peaked at number four on the Billboard 200 and was certified double platinum by RIAA. In September 2003, she signed a worldwide deal with the US division of Warner Bros. Records; she had left Warner UK the previous year. That year, Cher played herself in the Farrelly Brothers' comedy Stuck on You, with Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear. She spoofed her public image in the film, appearing in bed with a much younger boyfriend played by Frankie Muniz.</ref>}} In 2004, Cher received a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording for her song "Love One Another". Her three-year, 325-date Farewell Tour ended in April 2005 as the highest grossing music tour by a female artist at that 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. She commented, "I started in Vegas at Caesars, so I've come full circle. I'm back and I plan to give my fans the best experience yet. I think everybody knows I only do things in a big way." The show featured 16 dancers and aerialists, state-of-the-art video, special effects, and elaborate set designs.
2010s: Film return and upcoming projects
In 2010, Cher returned to film in the musical Burlesque, playing a nightclub impresario whom a young Hollywood hopeful, played by Christina Aguilera, is looking to impress. She contributed two songs for the film's soundtrack: "Welcome to Burlesque" and the Diane Warren-penned power ballad "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me". The latter won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song and received a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media. In November 2010, Cher placed her handprints and footprints in cement in the courtyard in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. The same month, Glamour magazine honored Cher with the "Woman of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award". In a 2010 interview with Architectural Digest magazine, she revealed that she became involved in Buddhism: "As corny as it sounds, the soul of the universe, everything that I need, I can find in its practice." In 2011, she lent her voice to the comedy Zookeeper.
Starting in 2012, Cher has been working on her first studio album since 2001's Living Proof. She also announced plans to embark on a concert tour, which she has dubbed the Never Can Say Goodbye Tour. In June 2012, Cher revealed that a Broadway musical based on her life and music was currently in development. She also said that she may play herself in the show. On November 22, 2012, Cher debuted "Woman's World", the lead track from her upcoming new studio album, due to be released in 2013.
Music and voice
Cher is known for her distinctive contralto singing voice which was described 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." Phill Marder from Goldmine magazine credited Cher's "nearly flawless" song selection as what made her "one of Rock's biggest superstars"; while several of her early hits were penned by and sung with Sonny Bono, most of her solo hits, which far outnumbered the duo's successes, were songs composed by independent songwriters, selected by Cher. Cher has worked in numerous music genres, such as folk, pop, punk and arena rock, power ballads, disco, New Wave, and hip hop, in order to "remain relevant and do work that strikes a chord." Instead of sticking to a catalog that "includes some of the most indelible pop anthems of all time", she "has kept [her] musical inclinations sounding fresh and vital when many of her contemporaries falter" through "[a] unique blend of panache and tenacity". Peter Fawthrop of Allmusic stated that despite its frequent changes, Cher's musical style always seems "just as sincere and just as much Cher as the previous change" and that "her personality is set in stone and shines through." According to Marder, Cher's contributions to rock and roll have been overlooked because "she has transcended Rock" by becoming a show business icon. Cher has been praised for her songwriting efforts. One of her self-penned songs, "My Song", co-written with musician Mark Hudson about her relationship with Gregg Allman, was described by Keith Tuber of Orange Coast Magazine as "revealing psychologically". He concluded, "While some of the lyrics are contrived and forced, their honesty and the feeling Cher puts into it more than compensates ... Poignant, tearful, tragic, true. And beautifully recorded."
| filename2 = If i could turn back time.ogg
| title2 = "If I Could Turn Back Time" (1989)
| description2 = Cher's "determined and chipper" vocals in pop/rock power ballad songs such as "If I Could Turn Back Time" were the main characteristic of her work in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
| filename3 = Believe - Cher.ogg
| title3 = "Believe" (1998)
| description3 = "Believe" is noted for its use of a sound effect on the vocals (using the then newly invented Auto-Tune software), which is referred to as the "Cher effect" today.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, Cher worked in music genres ranging from girl group ballads to Jackie Deshannon folk-influenced pop, to adult contemporary pop. Her first album, All I Really Want to Do, like most of her solo work in the 1960s, was based in the songbooks of writers like Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, DeShannon, and her musical partner Sonny Bono, who produced a large part of her 1960s material using his Phil Spector-derived production skills. The album With Love, Chér, according to Joe Viglione of Allmusic, "shows why the singer endeared herself to listeners and got to play in the same ballpark as Dusty [Springfield] and Petula [Clark]". A song from this album, "You Better Sit Down Kids", dealt with divorce, an unusual subject for a 1960s pop record, and was one of a series of releases on which Cher's music broached difficult areas such as prostitution, unplanned and underaged pregnancy and racism. While Cher's 1960s work was "expressive and radiant", her early-1970s material presented a more adult point of view and personality, as "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves". For Bruce Eder of Allmusic, "the song's subject matter, unusual tempo changes, and an incredibly memorable chorus-book became a vehicle for a transcendent performance by the singer, marking Cher's maturation as an artist". Despite having "a relatively narrow singing range" at the time, Cher was praised for her ability to meld the "tremendous intensity and passion" of her vocals with her acting skills, resulting in "dramatic, highly intense performances, almost as much 'acted' as sung". Another song from this period, "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"). Viglione wrote that she "never minded androgynous or neutral gender identity in her songs" and that "her solo material could soar to heights not possible in a partnership" because of her ability to carry both male and female ranges.
Cher incorporated the "loud, rhythmic, danceable" beats of disco music in her 1979 albums Take Me Home and Prisoner. The latter was a mix of autobiographical disco and rock songs. The songs "Take Me Home" and "Hell on Wheels" were later described as "timeless dance anthems". Black Rose (1980) contained all-male background singers, guitar work, multilayered keyboards, and an "ass-kicking attitude" in her vocals to cement her new rock and roll persona. It was followed by a series of rock albums that had revitalized her pop career in the late 1980s and early 1990s: Cher, Heart of Stone, and Love Hurts. Those albums shared a production style characterized by "stressing" power chords, numerous backup singers, resonant keyboard blasts, and a repertoire of pop/rock power ballad songs. Cher's "determined and chipper" vocals on this trilogy were noted for having highlighted her sexually autonomous persona. For the album It's a Man's World, Cher chose "steamy, torchy" ballads, Western-themed epics, and R&B influences to capitalize on the mid-1990s R&B/pop phenomenon. Her vocals were restrained, without vibrato, and she sang the songs in higher registers, revealing "vibrant and previously unheard colors of her voice", as well as a "surprisingly soulful falsetto" in the song "One by One". Believe (1998) was directed to her European audience, presenting uptempo pop beats while incorporating the American brand of downtempo funk. The title track had an electronic vocal effect suggested by Cher, called Auto-Tune. It became known as the "Cher effect" and later received credit for having "revolutionized record-making." Not.com.mercial (2000) was the first album of her career with most of the songs written by herself. Jose F. Promis of Allmusic wrote that the album presents a "1970s singer/songwriter feel" with "quite engaging lyrics" that proves "Cher adept in the role of storyteller." Living Proof (2001) included heavy, electronic beats and lyrics about heartbreak, loneliness, and survival. It was also marked by the use of Auto-Tune, which gave Cher's voice a "canned electronic robot" sound.
Movies, music videos and live performances
In her early career, Cher was presented as "an ideal site for the meaning of others" and as "a body that could showcase male creativity"; however, she came under her own ownership and control in her later career. Cher's star image, according to author Yvonne Tasker, "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." Throughout the 1980s, Cher appeared in film roles where she served as a social intermediary to disenfranchised male characters. 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), she showcased her status as "an emancipated and assimilated body" and was credited with powerful speeches on behalf of others. Mermaids (1990) made use of her "strong, sexually assertive" image ("A real woman is never too old", her character says). According to Jeff Yarbrough of The Advocate, by making the decision of playing a lesbian in Silkwood (1983), Cher was "one of the first superstars to 'play gay' with compassion and without a hint of stereotyping."
Cher's "unruly" star persona also stems from her music videos and live performances, in which she "repeteadly comments on her own construction, on her search for perfection and on the performance of the female body." Cher's "Hell on Wheels" was one of the first music videos ever and involved "almost as many intricate techniques as a feature film". The video of "If I Could Turn Back Time" (a title that relates to her "ageless" body) was the first banned by MTV. Tasker noted that while other music video and stage acts like Janet Jackson, Madonna and Tina Turner feature usually female backers who mimic and frame the star's performance, the 1992 concert video Cher Live at the Mirage "features a male dancer dressed in one of Cher's glamorous, revealing ... costumes during a number in which Cher sings 'all my life I've been dreaming by perfection'. As the 'real' Cher comes on stage ... to confront her impersonator, 'she' stops singing: the two then 'perform' together as the 'fake' Cher poses, is photographed and pursued by dancers with an oversized contract." According to author Diane Negra, "In authorizing her own quotation, Cher acknowledges herself as a fictionalized production, and proffers to her audience a pleasurable plurality." 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."
Cher's live performances were described as "more of a revue than a concert." Her 1979 stage act featured elaborate choreography, many costume changes, a film biography of the singer's career and two female impersonators dressed up as Diana Ross and Bette Midler. This model was improved in her later concert tours. The New York Times called her 1999 concert show a "high-energy circus". In her 2002 concert show, Cher "outdid her own penchant for spectacle", according to Clea Simons of Boston Phoenix. The "grand 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)". According to James Sullivan of San Francisco Chronicle, "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 the modeling industry discovered her. 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 magazine, 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 belly button. She was noted as the first woman to expose her belly button on television. Cher is also known for wearing wigs ever 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. She's a great influence on both adults and teenagers. It's never happened before. She can stand there in the wildest garb and get away with it. It's fun to watch a performer who is so connected with fashion."
In May 1999, after Cher was honored by the Council of Fashion Designers of America with a special 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." Los Angeles Times fashion critic Booth Moore wrote that "they don't make style icons like Cher anymore. From the beginning of her career ... she understood that cultivating a look was as important as cultivating a sound ... She was the world's Barbie doll, a living fashion fantasy week after week on TV, who landed simultaneously on best"and worst"dressed lists. Love her or hate her, she always keeps us guessing."
Throughout her career Cher has repeatedly reinvented herself through a series of "whole new" personas, for which she was called "the ultimate pop chameleon" by professor Richard Aquila from Ball State University. 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 "[f]rom top to bottom, Cher was the prototype of the female rock star, setting 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 "schticky as near dominatrix" 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. O'Brien, in her book She Bop II: The Definitive History of Women in Rock, Pop and Soul, discussed Cher's late-1980s rock persona: "The Queen of 1980s Rock Chicks had to be Cher ... With her cascading hair, rear-end tattoo, fish-net stockings, black leather jackets and well-publicized romances with young heavy metal heroes ... it was as if she was playing the role of rock star."
Cher's 1988 Oscar win, according to biographer Connie Berman, signaled an important change in Hollywood. He wrote, "Not only did Cher appear in a negligeelike outfit, but she also danced onstage"and was applauded for her daring." As Douglas Brode documented in his book The Films of the Eighties, "In the early eighties, her [Cher's] personal style and off-camera antics may have been too much to accept ... But by decade's end, the old guard had passed and the hip new Hollywood perceived in Cher"see-through, bare-nearly-all outfits, frizzed hair, frankly stated and unbleeped opinions"a person quite appropriate to them." 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 demands of cultural marketplace. 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 herself has stated, "This is my life"and I get to do everything I want to do. I don't really care what anybody thinks."
Cher has attracted media attention for her physical appearance"particularly her youthful looks and her many tattoos. She has often been called 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' (i.e. Anglo-Saxon) and ever-youthful version of female beauty ... Cher admits to having had her breasts 'done', her nose bobbed and her teeth straightened; reportedly she has also had a rib removed, her buttocks reshaped, and cheek implants ... Her normalised image ... now acts as a standard against which other women will measure, judge, discipline and 'correct' themselves." Cher denies most of the rumors about her plastic surgery, and has stated, "I've had the same cheeks my entire life. No butt lifts. No ribs removed ... If I want to put my tits on my back, it's nobody's business but my own."
Cher has six tattoos, including, as she revealed in an interview, "a garden on my butt." 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. I got a tattoo right after I left Sonny and I was feeling real independent. That was my badge."
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. Cher 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.
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.
Cher is the only person to have received an Academy Award, a Grammy Award, an Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award and the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival. 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 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.
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 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.
Main article: Cher albums discography
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)
Main article: Cher filmography
Good Times (1967)
Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982)