Cher's Life In Photos: From Backup Singer To Life After Love
Cher Makes Her Debut in the 1960s.
Cher is one of the world's most iconic singers and actresses, with a seven-decade career full of hits, bangers, and dance floor anthems - she's a true icon. Known just as much for her distinct and unique singing voice as she is her personal life, Cher is considered the "Goddess of Pop" for good reason.
Cher emerged onto the scene in 1965 as one half of the sunshine pop husband-wife pair Sonny & Cher, best known for their song "I Got You Babe" and an immensely popular TV show, but it wasn't long before she broke free and became a superstar in her own right.
Cher's origin story begins in El Centro, California, where she was born Cherilyn Sarkisian on May 20, 1946. 16 years later she dropped out of high school and moved to Los Angeles.
Her father, John Sarkisian, was a truck driver with a history of drug and gambling addiction. Her mother, Georgia Holt (born Jackie Jean Crouch) was a model and occasional actress. Cher's father was rarely present as a child, and her parents split when she was only ten months old.
Sonny and Cher 1960.
Sonny and Cher were an iconic couple in the '60s and '70s. They had such great chemistry both onstage and off, with each other and their audience! They were one of the most iconic duos in music history.
The couple met while working for record producer Phil Spector in November 1962 when they were both singing backup as a part of Spector's famous wall of sound. During this period of time the two became fast friends, then lovers, and then they began performing together.
Bono's initial plan was to launch Cher as a solo artist, but due to her stage fright she asked him to perform with her, so he joined her onstage to help out with the melodies. Originally known as Caesar and Cleo, were a big success in the charts thanks to their hit "I Got You Babe," which led to their massive primetime variety series.
Cher's Solo Career Began in 1968.
Despite the success of her work with Bono, Cher kept her eye on the prize and continued working on her solo career even while riding high as part of one of the most well known duos on television.
Many of her early albums, including "All I Really Want to Do," "The Sonny Side of Cher," and simply "Cher," are made up of mostly covers of songs, though her song (penned by Bono) "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" from her second album earned her her first No. 2 single.
She had her first No. 1 hit in 1971 with the title track from her album, "Gypsys, Tramps, and Thieves."
The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour debuted in 1972
Sonny and Cher had huge success in the 1960s with songs like "The Beat Goes On" and "Little Man," but by the conclusion of the decade their career as a duo was stalling out. The duo did what many artists do today and took off for Las Vegas where they began performing a variety show, which evolved into The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. The couple received four Emmy nominations for the show.
Following the birth of their child, Chaz Bono, in 1969, the couple married but the union didn't last long. Cher later said:
[Bono] was like the father. You know how you can be frightened of your father even if he doesn’t ever do anything? It wasn’t like, I mean, he never hit me, never really yelled at me. He could be tough, though... When I was young it didn’t make any difference because I was so crazy about him on so many levels. He was really everything to me, and after I had Chaz I started to grow up and he wouldn’t allow it, and I was starting to really … He was starting to kill my spirit.
Despite their divorce in 1974, the singers reunited for the series in 1976, making them the first divorced stars of such a show. In 1977, the show went off the air for good.
Cher and Sonny Bono at the Academy Awards in 1973.
In 1973, Cher released her tenth studio album in 1973, "Half-Breed," which became her second number one hit. In the same year, Cher wore a truly iconic outfit to the Academy Awards. This gold, midriff baring out that's since become a drag staple.
Cher flies like a butterfly at the Grammy's in 1974
Cher is no stranger to the awards circuit, in 1966 she and Sonny were up for the best new artist Grammy, and in 1972 she was nominated for best female pop vocal performance for "Gypsys, Tramps, and Thieves," as well as a best pop performance by a pair or group for "All I Ever Need, Is You," once again alongside Sonny.
Even with all of these nominations under her belt she didn't win a Grammy until 2000, when she won best dance recording for "Believe," along with nominations for record of the year and best pop vocal album.
Cher's Relationship with Greg Allman in 1975.
Just days after her divorce from Bono was made official in 1975, Cher married Greg Allman of The Allman Brothers Band. The happy union didn't last for long, Cher filed for divorce nine days later citing Allman's drug and alcohol dependency.
That wasn't the end for the couple. The two reconciled about a month later, and in July 1976 Cher gave birth to their first child, Elijah Blue. Aside from teaming up for a brief relationship and a child, the couple worked on the album "Two the Hard Way" by their new group Allman and Woman.
Cher Goes Her Own Way in 1975.
Cher received an Emmy nomination in 1975 for her return to television with her variety show, Cher. While audiences may think that Cher's variety show was just a lark, the show had numerous nominations and even a win for guest actress Cloris Leachman. After accepting her Emmy (her second of the evening), Leachman said:
It was a la Shakespeare. It had far-out words in it. [Cher] didn’t want to do it, so she had me do it.
Divorce Filing in 1974.
1974 was a tough year for Cher. One week after winning her first Golden Globe for The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, Bono filed for divorce from the ageless, iconic performer. A week after Bono's filing, Cher filed for divorce, citing "involuntary servitude" as the reason for the split. Cher later said of the divorce:
[Bono] was crushed because he wasn’t going to be Sonny of Sonny and Cher anymore. That’s what hurt him. That’s what really hurt him, and that was sad because he loved it more than I did, really, but he wouldn’t give me my freedom.
Cher appears in Silkwood in 1983.
Silkwood, in which Cher co-starred with Meryl Streep and Kurt Russell, was yet another step into the stratosphere for our illustrious multi-hyphenate. She won a best supporting actress Golden Globe for her acting skills, and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. If this was a surprise to the audience, it was definitely a surprise to Cher. The musical icon told Vice in 2017 that she assumed that she'd aged out of being a star:
I think Silkwood and The Mask were before I was 40. I can't remember. But I was old. I was old for what I thought I was going to be. As it turned out, I wasn't.
Cher in Mask, 1985
Cher landed her next major film role in 1985, playing the part of "Rusty" Dennis in Mask, a film about a young man afflicted with a cranial disorder that causes structural enlargements. Cher explained that she completely understood her character as a mother with a child experiencing medical difficulties. She explained:
My son was born tongue-tied and I watched them give him this operation. And they asked me to leave the room, and I said, 'You haven’t got a snowflake’s chance in hell. If you’re going to cut his tongue apart, I’m going to stand there and watch it.' And I remembered thinking while I was watching, 'Oh, I wish this didn’t have to happen to him.' And I know that that’s what Ricky’s mother [in Mask] thought about her child: Oh, I wish this didn’t have to happen to him. And yet she made the best out of it and she made him a great human being.
Cher Drops Jaws at the Oscars in 1986
When it came time to walk the red carpet at the 1986 Oscars Cher did the most Cher thing possible and showed up in a feathered headdress, bare midriff, and a Vegas showgirl inspired costume that was dreamt up as an act of revenge against the Academy. You see, Cher won best actress for Mask at the prestigious Cannes film festival but didn't even receive a nomination at the Oscars. Designer Bob Mackie told Vanity Fair in 2022:
She was pissed off, because she didn’t get nominated for Mask. There were a lot of people who said, ‘That’s not fashion!’ And I said, ‘Of course it’s not fashion. It’s a crazy getup for attention.’ And it did get attention—people talk about it still. She said, ‘I don’t want to look like a housewife in an evening gown.' We never have to worry about that.
Cher Activated Cougar-Mode in 1988
Cher has never disappointed when it comes to capital D drama. When she was a hot 40-years-old, the singer-actress-fashionista began datingRob Camilletti, a 22-year-old himbo whom she referred to as her "young boyfriend."
The two dated for three years, and even though she and "the bagel boy" broke up in 1989 Cher has said that he remains her "one true love," and that he's a mainstay at Christmas dinner.
Cher appears in Moonstruck in 1987.
Cher co-starred with Nicolas Cage in Moonstruck, a romantic comedy about a woman who, after losing her husband, plans to remarry, only to fall in love with her fiancé's emotionally distant younger brother. Cher gives the kind of performance in this film that proves she's a one of a kind talent who's more than just the gal who sang "I Got You Babe" with her ex-husband. While speaking about the film in 1988, Cher explained that Moonstruck should be viewed through a lens of getting back to a moment in society where people were actually nice to one another. She said:
I think if you look at Moonstruck, it’s a different set of values. And if everybody was like that maybe we would still be able to unlock our doors or not have, you know, some ass hole push a pregnant woman under a subway. Or that people might care if they have to step over someone who’s frozen in a doorway. I think that’s one thing that’s kind of a thread in my characters: they’re all very old fashioned in their morals.
Cher receives her Academy Award in 1988.
Cher was already a huge star when she entered the film industry, making her big screen debut in the 1983 film Silkwood. While some questioned Cher's acting ability at first, it became blatantly obvious after the film's release that she was a talented performer.
Cher appeared in Mask and The Witches of Eastwick in the years that followed, both of which are now considered classics.
Cher starred as Loretta Castorini in Moonstruck, a romantic comedy starring Nicolas Cage as Cher's love interest. While Moonstruck initially went unnoticed, it quickly became a critical and commercial success, garnering six Emmy Nominations, including one for Best Actress for Cher.
Cher 'Turned Back Time' In 1989
Cher's 18th studio album, Cher, was released in 1987 and was a huge success, going platinum and including hits like "I Found Someone."
In 1989, she decided to release Heart of Stone, which included one of her most well-known hits, "If I Could Turn Back Time."
The music video for the song, filmed on the USS Missouri, was the first to be banned from MTV because the superstar straddled a cannon on the battleship while also wearing a barely-there, now-iconic leotard.
Cher earned an entirely new generation of fans with Mermaids in 1990/
Mermaids is a coming-of-age story with a twist. It narrates the story of the Flax family: young single mother Rachel (Cher), nine-year-old water-baby Kate (Christina Ricci), and 15-year-old Charlotte (Winona Ryder), who is wrestling with the things teenagers grapple with - identity, sexuality, shoes - as she searches for herself and her place in the world.
In a novel twist, Rachel, who was already 16 when she had Charlotte, is gradually coming to terms with her own enlightenment as she matures alongside her daughter throughout the film. Ryder later said that working with Cher was intense, both because of the subject matter and their relationship to one another as performers:
Both of us were insecure being told that our instincts weren’t on target. Noni was battling insomnia and chewing her nails up to her elbow. If I wasn’t so strong and she so trusting we would never have gotten through it. I literally took her by the hand and said ‘jump’–and she did. We were like sisters. We lived together, hung out a lot, and got a lot of strength from each other.
Cher Suffered From Major Health Problems in the 1990s
Cher contracted the chronic Epstein-Barr virus (CEBV) in the early '90s and developed chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), which was complicated by pneumonia as she got older. This led Cher to the realization that she needed to slow down and take care of herself. After all, she hadn't had a real break since she was 16-years-old.
Her illness led her to take a two-year break from her music and film careers because she was too exhausted to continue.
Cher Mourned The Loss Of Sonny Bono In 1998
In a tragic circumstance that no one could have foreseen, Cher's ex-husband, Sonny Bono, died in a skiing accident in 1998 at the Heavenly Mountain Resort in South Lake Tahoe, California.
Sonny and Cher were honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame after his death, which Cher accepted with her family and Sonny's wife, Mary Bono.
Cher Made Audiences Believe In Life After Love In 1998
The comeback queen did it again in 1998 with the release of "Believe" an absolute dance floor banger that remains undeniable to this day. The album went quadruple platinum, it was nominated for Best Pop Album at the Grammys and the single, "Believe" won the award for Best Dance Track, giving Cher the first Grammy win of her career.
She followed the success of the album with the release of "Living Proof" in 2001, as well as a farewell tour called Living Proof: The Farewell Tour which stayed on the road from 2002 to 2005.
Cher Stars in Burlesque in 2010.
Even though Cher remains a musical goddess, she hasn't actually been in a lot of musicals. In 1967, she appeared in Good Times, but 2010's Burlesque was the next musical film on her lengthy resume. The film sees Cher take on the role of a nightclub impresario. It's campy. It's over the top. It's everything audiences want from Cher.
Cher Reaches Icon Status in 2017
Cher, who was already regarded as an icon, received the Icon Award at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards and performed her biggest hits on stage. She even wore the notorious "If I Could Turn Back Time" leotard three decades after it was released in the music video, which is truly brave of someone in their 60s. But of course, Cher looked flawless as always.
If you're still doubting Cher's icon status, keep in mind that she's the sole artist to have had a No. 1 single on the Billboard chart throughout every decade from the 1960s to the 2010s.
Mamma Mia! It's Cher in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again in 2018
Cher was back on the big screen in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again playing Ruby Sheridan, a famous singer with a shaky relationship with her daughter thanks to the fact that she's on tour all the time. It wasn't much of a stretch for the singer but she absolutely crushes in this film, but we don't expect anything less from her.
Cher Can't Stay Away From Her Fans
When Cher announced her retirement from touring everyone knew it was only a matter of time before she made her way back to the stage Cher's Here We Go Again Tour kicked off on January 17, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Unfortunately for everyone hoping to turn back time, the tour was rescheduled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Kennedy Awards Center Finally Came To Their Senses And Honored Cher In 2018
The Cher Show Cements Cher's Legacy As The Ultimate Camp Performer
In 2018, a jukebox musical about Cher, made up of her extensive discography premiered in Chicago featuring three actresses playing different versions of the artist during her career. The show features pretty much every song a Cher completist would want to hear while taking the audience on a ride through her career and most famous wardrobe choices. The original Broadway run of the show received multiple Tony Awards, and it had a super successful UK run in 2022.