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Sonny & Cher

Salvatore “Sonny” Bono met Cherilyn Sarkisian in Los Angeles in 1962. He was 27 and she was 16.

Bono was working for record producer Phil Spector at Gold Star Studios in Hollywood where he arranged for work for Cher as a backing singer on many of Spector’s records, including The Righteous Brothers‘ You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,  The Crystals‘ Da Doo Ron Ron and The Ronettes‘ Be My Baby.  

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She recorded her first (unsuccessful) solo single – Ringo, I Love You – as Bonnie Jo Mason, at the age of seventeen.

Sonny and Cher married in 1964. They divorced in 1975, although they continued to work together throughout the 70s in popular television variety show, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, which ran on CBS from 1971 to 1974.

The first big hit for Sonny & Cher as a duo was I Got You Babe, but their first single was actually a version of The Box Tops hit The Letter, which they recorded under the moniker, Caesar & Cleo.

Bono wrote, arranged, and produced a number of hit records for the duo (including The Beat Goes On) although Cher received more attention as a performer.

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He also played a major part in Cher’s early solo career with recordings such as Bang Bang and You Better Sit Down Kids.

Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves, a massive hit in 1971, may just be Cher’s best solo single.

Dismissed at the time as pop schlock it has since been recognised as a classic, with Cher’s vocal driving the unusual lyrics and nailing the key line “but every night the men would come around and throw their money down”.

The album of the same name (originally released as Cher) may be her most coherent solo album, with the hit matched by The Way Of Love, which is either about a woman’s love for another woman or about a woman saying goodbye to a gay man.

In 1980 (at the age of 34) Cher formed a hard rock group called Black Rose with her current boyfriend, guitarist Les Dudek (ex-Boz Scaggs and Steve Miller).

The band played small clubs and when Casablanca released their eponymous debut album, Cher’s name never appeared on the cover and she appeared only in a band shot on the back cover.

Cher’s involvement still drew publicity and Black Rose appeared on the Tonight Show With Johnny Carson. The album was a flop and the band split in 1981.

In later years Cher became a talented Oscar-winning actress who spent half her public life trying to be taken seriously, yet starred in a video for her 1989 hit If I Could Turn Back Time with half the US Navy and without half her underwear.

Her longevity would probably have astonished Sonny Bono and Phil Spector.

And although there were times when the musical pickings have been lean – at which times she retreated to Hollywood – every few years she released a classic performance, with Believe (1998) earning the honour of being the biggest-selling single ever by a female artist in the UK.

sonny&cher_013Bono entered politics in the 80s after experiencing great frustration with local government bureaucracy in trying to open a restaurant in Palm Springs, California.

With conservative talk radio host Marshall Gilbert as his campaign manager, Bono placed a successful bid to become the new mayor of Palm Springs.

He served four years between 1988 and 1992. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1994.

Sonny Bono died on 5 January 1998. The official report states that he died from injuries sustained when he struck a tree while skiing on the Nevada side of Heavenly Ski Resort near South Lake Tahoe, California.

This report is disputed by a former FBI agent and a number of forensic experts who believe that Bono was the victim of a politically motivated assassination. His death came less than a week after Michael Kennedy (a son of Robert F. Kennedy) died in a similar skiing accident in Aspen, Colorado.