Friday, February 7, 2014

Cher, The #22 Female Artist of the Rock Era

Cherilyn Sarkisian was born in El Centro, California.  Her mother divorced and remarried several times, moving the family to New York and Texas.  Cherilyn showed her flair for entertainment in the fifth grade when she produced a performance of the musical Oklahoma!    

In 1961, Cher's mother married Gilbert LaPiere, who adopted Cher under the name Cheryl LaPiere and enrolled her in Montclair College Preparatory School in Encino, California.  Cher dropped out of school, however, at the age of 16, and moved in with a friend in Los Angeles.

There, Cher took acting lessons, danced in small clubs and introduced herself to agents, performers and managers along Sunset Strip in Hollywood.  In 1962, Cher met Sonny Bono, who introduced her to producer Phil Spector.  Cher began singing backup on many songs, including "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" by the Righteous Brothers and "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes.  

Cher recorded the single "Ringo, I Love You" with Spector producing.  Cher and Sonny were married in 1965.  Sonny encouraged Cher to become a solo recording artist, but she wanted him to perform with her because she had stage fright.    

Cher signed a recording contract with Liberty Records, and had a #15 song in the United States and #9 in the U.K. with "All I Really Want To Do", the title song from her first solo album.

In 1965, Cher became well known as half of the duo Sonny & Cher.  The duo had a number of hits, including the classic "I Got You Babe", "The Beat Goes On" and "A Cowboys Work Is Never Done".   By the end of 1967, Sonny & Cher had sold over 40 million records worldwide.

It should be noted that Cher's work with Sonny does not count in these rankings.  Sonny & Cher were a separate act, recording from 1965-1973.  When Inside The Rock Era produces The Top 100 Women in Rock, which will take into account the lifetime work of each woman, Cher will be ranked higher.

Cher released the solo album The Sonny Side of Cher in 1966, which included the single "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down), a #2 smash.

Cher released six solo singles afterwards to no avail.  Then a song from her 1967 album With Love, Cher caught on.  "You Better Sit Down Kids" hit #9 in the U.S. and #7 in Canada.

Cher switched to Atco Records, but another period of inconsistency followed with her next seven solo releases all failing to gain much airplay.  In 1971, Cher signed with Kapp Records, a division of Decca, and released the album Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves.  The title song was the first single released on Kapp, and it became one of her biggest career hits, landing at #1 in the United States and Canada, #3 in Ireland, #4 in the U.K. and #5 in Australia.  Both the single and album went Gold.  Cher was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

The follow-up single, "The Way Of Love" gave Cher her a second consecutive Top 10 for the first time in her career.  It reached #2 on the Adult chart and #7 overall, while reaching #2 in Ireland and #5 in Canada.

Sonny & Cher began hosting their own television program on CBS, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.  The show was a big hit, with over 30 million weekly viewers during its three-year run; it received 12 Emmy Award nominations.  

Cher's "Living In A House Divided" was a #2 on the Easy Listening chart, but she had to wait for another big popular hit.  In 1973, Cher released the album Half-Breed.  The title song was written by lyricist Mary Dean with Cher in mind, and the single rocketed to #1 in the U.S., Canada and Ireland and peaked at #4 in Australia.  It gave Cher her second single to sell over a million copies, and her second Gold album.


"Dark Lady", from Cher's 1974 album of the same name, gave her two straight #1's in both the United States and Canada.

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.

Cher's marriage had already had problems and in effect, had been over since 1972.  In 1974, Cher made it official by filing for divorce, with the two battling in court over money for several years.

She enjoyed two hits on the Easy Listening chart, "Train Of Thought", which peaked at #9, and the #3 Easy Listening song "I Saw A Man And He Danced With His Wife".

Cher signed with Warner Brothers Records, and her self-titled television show debuted in 1975.  The show received 11 Emmy Award nominations that year.  Cher married Gregg Allman days after her divorce with Sonny was finalized.  As Allman and Woman, Cher & Allman released an album in 1977, Two the Hard Way.  

Cher's solo TV show lasted a year, while Sonny and Cher's TV reunion, The Sonny and Cher Show, was on air from 1976 to 1977.  Her attempts to regain her footing musically were unsuccessful, but she did continue to appear on television.  The special Cher...Special in 1978 was nominated for three Emmys, and she returned in 1979 with Cher and Other Fantasies.     

Cher signed a new recording contract with Casablanca Records.  She had not recorded a Gold album in six years, but that changed with Take Me Home.  The title song became a #8 hit in the U.S. and #10 in Canada.  

But she couldn't follow up her success and once again, Cher went another six singles without scoring a Top 40 hit.  She formed the group Black Rose which put out a self-titled album, but it did not do well.  However, Cher became a successful nightclub singer in Las Vegas, Nevada.

With her music career struggling, Cher decided to turn to acting.  She moved to New York in 1982 and was signed by director Robert Altman for the Broadway production Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.  Cher then starred in the movie version of the play, and earned a Golden Globe Award nomination.    

Director Mike Nichols, who saw Cher on Broadway, offered her a starring role opposite Meryl Streep in the movie Silkwood.  Cher was brilliant, and won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and was nominated for an Oscar in the same category.  

In 1985, Cher formed her own film production company Isis.  She starred in the movie Mask, a great success at the box office.  Two years later, Cher starred with Jack Nicholson, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer in the movie The Witches of Eastwick.

Later that year, Cher starred in the romantic comedy Moonstruck, and won both the Academy Award and the Golden Globe for Best Actress.  She also released the fragrance Uninhibited, which earned about $15 million in its first year.  

In 1987, Cher signed a contract with Geffen Records, and with the help of producers Michael Bolton, Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and Desmond Child, she released her self-titled album on Geffen.  With Geffen's help, Cher scored a big comeback, without which she would be ranked much lower than #22.  

Her new album featured the single "I Found Someone", her first Top 10 hit in over eight years.  It also was #2 in Canada, #3 on the Adult Contemporary chart and #10 overall in the U.S., #4 in Ireland, #5 in the U.K. and #8 in Australia.  Cher won a People's Choice Award for Favorite Female All-Around Star and she was nominated for Best Female Video at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Cher went Platinum, the first million-selling album of her solo career.  Two years later, Cher returned with the album Heart of Stone.  The single "If I Could Turn Back Time" became a smash hit:  #1 on the AC chart and #3 overall in the U.S., #1 in Australia, #2 in Canada, and #6 in the U.K. and Ireland.

Cher went on tour to promote the album.  The television special Cher at the Mirage was filmed during a concert in Las Vegas.  Heart of Stone has sold over three million copies in the United States and over 11 million worldwide.  Cher was nominated for Favorite All-Around Female Entertainer at the People's Choice Awards.   "Just Like Jesse James" was a great follow-up for Cher, reaching an underrated #8 in both the U.S. and Canada.

It was a great year for Cher, who also teamed up with Peter Cetera for the song "After All", a #1 AC smash and #6 overall.

Cher released three other singles from the album, with the title song leading the trio at #20.  Cher starred in the movie Mermaids in 1990, and one of two songs she recorded for the soundtrack became a huge hit--"The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)".  It was #1 in the U.K. for five weeks and also hit #1 in Ireland and Austria, #3 in Germany, #4 in Australia and #7 on the AC chart and #33 overall in the United States. 

Cher's last album for Geffen, Love Hurts, was released in 1991, which went Gold.  The first single, "Love And Understanding", shot up to #2 in the U.K., #3 in Ireland, #6 in Austria, #8 in Canada, and #3 on the AC chart and #17 overall in the U.S.

Cher released the album Cher's Greatest Hits:  1965-1992 in Europe, which became a #1 album for seven weeks.  In the early 1990's, Cher contracted the Epstein-Barr virus and also developed the devastating disease chronic fatigue syndrome, making it impossible to sustain her music and film careers.  But she soldiered on.  She signed a new recording contract with WEA.  In 1996, Cher released the album It's a Man's World, which yielded the hit single "One By One", a #7 hit in the U.K. and #9 on the AC chart in the United States.

Also that year, she starred in the movie Faithful and made her directing debut in the HBO movie If These Walls Could Talk.  She also starred in the latter movie, and earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film.

After Sonny Bono's death in 1998, Cher hosted a CBS special Sonny & Me:  Cher Remembers and the pair were awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Later in the year, Cher released her 22nd studio album Believe.  The title song was a worldwide smash, reaching #1 in 25 countries and the album sold over 11 million copies worldwide.  In the U.K., "Believe" was #1 for seven weeks, the biggest-selling single of all-time by a female artist in the U.K., and it went Platinum in the United States.

Cher captured the Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording, a Billboard Music Award for Single of the Year and she was nominated for Record of the Year at the Grammys.  The video was nominated for Best Dance Video at the MTV Video Music Awards.

"Believe" helped Cher achieve a remarkable feat--she became the only artist in music history to have a #1 song in each of six decades, counting her work as a duo with Sonny.  It also made her the oldest woman to score a #1 song, at 52 years of age.  And, Cher set another record for the longest gap between #1 hits (25 years), from "Dark Lady" in 1974 to "Believe" in 1999.
Cher's follow-up single was "Strong Enough" a #2 in Ireland, #3 in Germany, #4 in Austria, #5 in the U.K. and Canada, #6 in Australia and #11 on the Adult Contemporary chart in the U.S.

Cher received a World Music Award for Lifelong Contribution to the Music Industry, and she received a Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Female Artist--Pop.  Cher also received an American Music Award nomination for Favorite Adult Contemporary Artist and the album Believe was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album at the Grammys.  Cher had one more hit from Believe, the single "All Or Nothing", a #1 smash on the AC chart.

In 1999, Cher performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Super Bowl XXXIII and sang on the VH1 special Divas Live 2.  Cher's world tour was a huge success, selling out every location in the United States and drawing 1.5 million fans.  The television special Cher Live in Concert-From the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, was the highest-rated original HBO program in 1998-99 and received seven Emmy Award nominations.   

Two compilations (The Greatest Hits and If I Could Turn Back Time:  Cher's Greatest Hits) were released in 1999, and both were loved by fans.  Cher starred in the movie Tea with Mussolini, receiving critical accolades. 

Cher released the album Living Proof in 2002.  She won the Billboard Music Award for Dance/Club Play Artist of the Year, as well as a special Artist Achievement Award.  Cher was nominated for the Michael Jackson International Artist of the Year Award and Favorite Adult Contemporary Artist at the American Music Awards.  A collection of live recordings from her "farewell tour" in 2002 was released the following year as Live!  The Farewell Tour.  The NBC special of the same name attracted an audience of 17 million people and won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Special. 

Cher went on another "farewell tour" in 2005, with 325 dates, the highest-grossing music tour by a female artist ever at the time.  In 2008, Cher began a three-year residence at the Colosseum in Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.  

In 2010, Cher placed her handprints and footprints in cement in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.  She starred in the movie Burlesque that year, and one of two songs she recorded for the soundtrack, "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me", won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.

Cher received a World Music Award for her "lifelong contribution to the music industry", and a Billboard Music Award for having "helped redefine popular music through success on the Billboard charts".

In 2013, Cher released her 25th album, Closer to the Truth.  It entered the Album chart at #9.  This gave her a span of 48 years between her first Top 5 album and her last one, a record for a female artist.

Cher produced a Lifetime documentary about her mother called Dear Mom, Love Cher.    

Cher has won an Academy Award, a Grammy Award, an Emmy Award and three Golden Globe Awards.  She has sold over 100 million solo albums.  She has had 17 hits, with 10 reaching the Top 10 and four #1's.

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