Cherilyn Sarkisian La Pierre, 20 May 1946, El Centro, California, USA. Cher began working as a session singer in an attempt to finance an acting career. She recorded with producer
Phil Spector as a backing vocalist, having become romantically attached to his studio assistant and PR man Sonny Bono. After releasing two singles under the name Caesar And Cleo, the duo then achieved international acclaim as Sonny And Cher. Throughout this period Cher also sustained a solo career, initially singing a paean to Ringo Starr ("Ringo I Love You") under the pseudonym Bonnie Jo Mason. Thereafter, she secured several hits, including an opportunistic cover version of the Byrds' "All I Really Want To Do" (US number 15, July 1965; UK number 9, August 1965). The sultry "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)", with its gypsy beat and maudlin violins was a worldwide smash in March 1966 (US number 2; UK number 3), leading Cher to tackle more controversial themes in "I Feel Something In The Air" and "You Better Sit Down Kids" (US number 9, October 1967). Although her acting aspirations seemed long-forgotten, she did appear in two minor 60s movies, Good Times (1967) and Chastity (1969). In September 1971, the zestful, US chart-topping "Gypsies, Tramps And Thieves" and its attendant album saw her back in the ascendant. Two further US number 1 hits ("Half Breed" in August 1973, "Dark Lady" in January 1974) preceded her divorce from Sonny, though for a time the duo continued to appear together on stage and television. In 1975, she switched to Warner Brothers Records for the Jimmy Webb-produced Stars, while her on-off relationship with Gregg Allman (whom she divorced in 1979) resulted in one album, the punningly titled, Allman And Woman: Two The Hard Way.
By the late 70s, she became a regular fixture in gossip columns and fashion magazines, which lauded over her sartorial outrageousness and much publicized musical and personal relationships with Allman, Gene Simmons (of Kiss) and Les Dudek. In 1981, Cher appeared on Meat Loaf's "Dead Ringer For Love" but recording interests increasingly took a back seat to her first love: acting. 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), and an Oscar nomination. Appearances in Mask (1985), The Witches Of Eastwick (1987) and Suspect (1987) emphasized that her thespian aspirations were no mere sideline. For Moonstruck (1987), she won an Oscar for Best Actress and celebrated that honour with another musical comeback courtesy of Cher and "I Found Someone" (US number 10, November 1987; UK number 5, December 1987). In 1989, she enjoyed three US Top 10 singles courtesy of "After All", a duet with Peter Cetera that reached number 6 in March, "If I Could Turn Back Time" (number 3 in July; UK number 6 in September) and "Just Like Jesse James" (number 8 in October). 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 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". The same year she did a credible cover of Marc Cohn's "Walking In Memphis" which preceded It's A Man's World. In addition to the James Brown title track her voice admirably suited a reworking of the Walker Brothers classic, "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore". Her astonishing popularity was confirmed by the worldwide hit single "Believe", which topped the UK charts for seven weeks in late 1998. The attendant album featured notable contributions from dance gurus Junior Vasquez and Todd Terry. The next single to be lifted from the album, "Strong Enough", entered the UK charts at number 5 in March 1999, and in the same month "Believe" completed its long climb up the US Billboard Hot 100 to the top. Oddly enough, Cher's next album, Not.com.mercial, was only made available through her own website.
With her professional life as a singer and actress now scrutinized by the mass media, as well as the added intrigue of her love life and public fascination for her penchant for cosmetic surgery, Cher has become one of the great American icons of the modern age. Her powerful voice is often overlooked amidst the AOR glitz and perfect skin. It was no surprise that her "farewell" tour of 2002 grossed over $70 million, although fans refuse to accept the word farewell.