Few celebrity icons have fascinated America the way Cher has. While her love life and personal foibles have kept the tabloids busy for decades, the actress/singer has proven that being down doesn't have to mean being out. A huge success as both a recording artist and TV star as part of the Sonny & Cher (with first husband Sonny Bono) in the 60s, and as a solo artist in the 70s, Cher later became an Oscar winning actress before resurrecting her musical fortunes in the late 90s.
Cher was born Cherilyn Sarkisian in El Centro, California to an eight times married mother who was also a struggling actress. At 16, Cherilyn followed her dreams, moving to Hollywood and changing her name to Cher. She considered acting, but when she met a 28-year-old aspiring songwriter named Sonny Bono, she hitched herself to his star and began working as a backup singer for Phil Spector.
Sonny & Cher clicked as a performing team despite their obvious "odd couple" appearance. After playing a few bowling alley gigs as Caesar and Cleo, Sonny and Cher scored a huge hit with Sonny's "I Got You Babe." Overnight they were a singing sensation and Cher was a superstar. They had a string of hits throughout the late 60s, including "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" and "The Beat Goes On."
After a couple of years of recording success, Sonny and Cher's star had faded and they were doing the lounge circuit by 1969, the year their daughter Chastity was born. In 1971, they landed a deal with CBS for a musical variety show featuring plenty of Cher's patented barbed banter, and "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour" was an instant hit.
Sonny and Cher divorced in 1974 and ended their still popular TV gig the same year. Cher was enjoying a successful solo career at the time with the #1 hits "Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves" (1971), "Half Breed" (1973) and "Dark Lady" (1974). Cher enjoyed her freedom, dating Southern Rock God Gregg Allman, with whom she had a son, Elijah Blue.
But despite the romantic fireworks, Cher was approaching middle age and a career crisis. Although she was a solo act, playing casinos and supper clubs, she decided to pursue her girlhood dream of becoming a serious actress. A leading role in Come Back To The Five And Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982) was followed by a lucrative part in Silkwood (1983), which earned her an Oscar nomination. Appearances in Mask (1985), The Witches Of Eastwick (1987) and Suspect (1987) led to her Oscar winning performance in Moonstruck (1987).
At the height of her acting career, she had a musical comeback in the late 80s with Top Ten hits like "I Found Someone," "After All" (with Peter Cetera) and "If I Could Turn Back Time." Her April 1991 UK number 1 "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss)," a cover of the Betty Everett song, was the theme song to another screen appearance in the lackluster Mermaids.
In March 1995, in the company of Chrissie Hynde, Neneh Cherry and Eric Clapton, she topped the UK charts with the charity single "Love Can Build A Bridge." Her astonishing popularity was confirmed by the worldwide hit single "Believe", which topped the UK charts for seven weeks in late 1998 and hit #1 in the U.S. the following year. Few were surprised that her so called "farewell" tour of 2002 grossed over $70 million.