‘I Got You Babe’ Was Sonny & Cher’s Biggest Song, And A Pledge
Music | September 26, 2017
Sonny Bono & Cher pose for a portrait session in October 1964. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Some pop-music success stories are really stories of survival — for Sonny & Cher, “I Got You Babe” and “The Beat Goes On” were more thanhit singles, they were also declarations of partnership and career resolve.
In 1962, Salvatore Bono met Cherilyn Sarkisian; he was 27 and she was 16. Sonny had already been working for Phil Spector at Gold Star Studios, singing back-up, writing, arranging and producing songs, when Cher joined the studio as a session singer. Sonny and Cher became fast friends and eventually, lovers, although that didn’t take long! By 1964, Cher was 18 years old and had become Sonny’s second wife.
The first single by Sonny & Cher, “I Got You Babe,” was released in 1965 and spent three weeks at the top of the pop chart.
Sonny & Cher’s First Hit Was Their Biggest
Early on, while they were recording back-up vocals for notable groups including The Ronettes and The Righteous Brothers, Sonny and Cher, each had their own unique sound and their vocals were easily spotted in these recordings. While setting out to make it on their own, they attempted to coin themselves as, Caesar and Cleo, but never really achieved any recognition using that name. It wasn’t long before they started recording songs under the name of Sonny & Cher and subsequently released their first successful album, Look at Us, in 1965. The No. 1 hit “I Got You Babe” was included in this album. Following their success, Sonny & Cher signed a deal with another recording studio, Atlantic Records, and released three albums in the late 1960’s.
Sonny & Cher’s Movie Career Was Unsuccessful
Having established themselves musically, Sonny and Cher decided to try their luck in Hollywood movies. The comedy Good Times (1967), directed by William Friedkin, found the duo spoofing various movie genres, and was a flop. Their next effort was Chastity (1969), Cher’s solo acting debut, for which Sonny had written the script. By this point in their career, their popularity had waned — Sonny & Cher had little appeal with the young counterculture music audience and were more or less considered square. Chastity was an attempt to reinvent Cher and reconnect with the young audience; she played a hippie runaway who is trying to find herself as she hitchhikes across the country. Sonny & Cher put up $500,000 of their own money to make Chastity, but it too was unsuccessful, and the couple ended up $270,000 in debt.
Sonny & Cher Went To Vegas To Reinvent Themselves
Sonny & Cher on the Ed Sullivan Show
There was little demand for new Sonny & Cher music, and their film career had been unsuccessful — but Sonny & Cher weren’t about to give up. They quickly regrouped and started performing in Las Vegas, where they honed a stage show that proved very entertaining. Cher was known as the wisecracking beauty, while Sonny was the plain, good-natured target of her insults. Their Vegas success brought Sonny & Cher back into demand, and they were soon regularly appearing on top rated television variety and talk shows. In 1970, Sonny and Cher starred in their first television special, The Nitty Gritty Hour.
Sonny & Cher Finally Found Their Rightful Home — On TV
The Sonny & Cher Show
Ready for the next adventure, Sonny & Cher jumped on the variety show bandwagon. The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour aired from 1971-74, and The Sonny & Cher Show from 1976-77. Much like variety shows, in general, they showcased a myriad of entertainment including music and singing, skits, comic relief as well as the promotion of new talent. Not unlike their Vegas gig, Cher played the wisecracking jokester famous for demeaning Sonny for everything from his singing voice to his height. Sonny always graciously accepted the insult without ever returning the sentiment.
With their career reinvigorated by TV, Sonny & Cher signed with MCA/Kapp Records and released two more albums. “All I Ever Need Is You” and “A Cowboy’s Work Is Never Done,” from the album All I Ever Need Is You, were top 10 hits in 1972.
Sonny & Cher Went On To Be Very Successful On Their Own
Although their relationship and marriage ended in the mid-’70s (they were no longer together when they collaborated on The Sonny & Cher Show), Sonny & Cher were a rare successful husband-and-wife act for over a decade in a business that is not always marriage-friendly. Through a few successful reinventions, they truly did look out for each other. Following the end of their success as a couple and subsequent parting, Sonny & Cher went on to forge names for themselves as individuals.
Cher continued to pursue her successful music career, and also became an acclaimed actress. Sonny, dabbled (again) in acting, ultimately landing in a political career prior to his death in 1998.