“Before there was Brittany and Madonna, there was Cher.” -- Gene Simmons (of KISS)
With a career lasting over 40 years and showing no signs of abating, Cher is an enduring pop culture icon and one of the most popular and biggest-selling artists in music history.
So how did this shy but ambitious teenager, a high school dropout, once one of Warren Beatty’s uncountable hook-ups, become The Diva of Rock? --- How – It was combination of: Sonny Bono, her unique deep contralto voice, her exotic beauty, and her Composer Artisan personality.
For better or worse, I never plan my life. I focus on today. I love spontaneity. That is what has put me in some strange and wonderful places in my life. -- Cher
She wasn’t interested in singing; she wanted to be an actress. But when she, at 17, drifted into Sonny Bono’s life – Sonny knew what to do. He could recognize singing talent and had a driving need to write songs – and most importantly -- he knew how to Promote: he was a Promoter Artisan. Wiggling himself into the Los Angeles music scene, he had paid his dues as a gofer and backup singer for Phil Spector’s record company. He knew Cherilyn Sarkissian was his ticket. He saw her talent when she and everybody else didn’t.
This dyad of a Promoter Artisan and a Composer Artisan, in this case, created a enduring phenomena that was part of American pop culture.
Sonny Bono had been hustling his songs in LA music scene for a couple of years, and soon was pushing his girlfriend to sing, having her start as a session and backup singer for Spector’s “wall of sound” recordings. Continuing with his songwriting, Sonny finally wrote the smash hit, I Got You Babe, which launched Sonny & Cher into the stratosphere of fame in Rock music in the early 60’s. Cher shined as a unique voice, which everybody loved and instantly recognized. Sonny created more hit songs. The Beat Goes On.
They were big -- very big – huge -- for a couple of years, but fame is fleeting in the entertainment industry. After some disasters in movie productions that Sonny initiated, there was a point where they were broke again, making Sonny to scramble to just keep up appearances. Sonny had to reinvent Sonny & Cher by creating a themselves as a comedy team: in effect a old time vaudeville team. He, the straight man, and her, the smart-aleck funny barb-throwing comedienne. Sonny was in charge of everything, Cher followed along. They honed their shtick in Las Vegas.
Their success was even bigger this time. CBS noticed and picked up their act, and Sonny created and ran the Sonny & Cher TV variety show. Cher went along as usual.
But Sonny was busy, working hard to keep on top -- he was everywhere – working all the time. Working while on vacation. By the third year of the Sonny & Cher show, Cher had had it. She felt like a prisoner. Sonny was telling her what to do, all the time. This had not changed since she wandered into Sonny’s life, but she was not having fun anymore. She was in a diamond cage.
Artisans do not like to be controlled, if they are not having fun. To quote Please Understand Me II, “To be happy and productive they [Composers] must choose free, variable actions and be rewarded for doing them.” Cher rebelled against Sonny’s control. They separated and the show was shattered. No longer in her cage, she felt free and happy. She married Greg Allman, a petal-to-the-metal, drug addicted rock star two days after her divorce. She had a child with Allman, but she divorced two years later because Allman was so impulsive and unreliable, even Cher couldn’t handle it. As Stephen Montgomery put it in People Patterns – “… If pressured, however, Artisans will sometimes simply walk from a relationship, asserting their freedom with few regrets.”
Sonny could not recover professionally from the split, his fame could not keep him in the entertainment business. He struggled for awhile, but eventually he switched to politics, being successful in that, until his tragic death.
Cher continued to be very successful, using her unique and distinctive singing voice and her outfits that pushed the envelop of social acceptability of the culture, but her fans loved. And she developed her acting talent, winning the Best Actress Oscar. She has been wandering through male relationships, ever since, never really settling down. When Sonny died in 1998, she realized what she missed and gave an unforgettable eulogy, noting that she wouldn’t have become “Cher” without him. She said of Sonny as “the most unforgettable character I've ever met.” Luckily, she probably has a few bits of diamonds from that shattered diamond cage.