People do not simply "like" Cher. More than six decades of show business success demonstrate unequivocally that she is, and has always been, far more than "liked." Continually referenced, adored, and examined, Cher belongs in the exclusive pantheon of performers who have not only outlasted all of their peers but have, generation after generation, stubbornly navigated the transient whims of public taste and carved a permanent place for themselves in the hearts and minds of music, television, film, and pop culture enthusiasts worldwide.
Let us not ramble through the usual Cher litany here: the chart-topping records, the multiple hit TV series, the acclaimed acting career, the Academy Award, the endless covers of every magazine from Vanity Fair and Vogue to Time and Newsweek. No. Instead, let us contemplate this extraordinary woman's ongoing status as an empress of popular culture, the incarnation of so many millions of people's dreams and aspirations.
But we'll get to that. Here's the overview for those who may have been chained in a cave for the last six decades.
On May 20, 1946, Cher was born in the peaceful village of El Centro, California, to mother Georgia Holt and father John Sarkisian, with little indication that she would have a remarkable life and career. Despite this, the girl whose birth name was "Cherilyn" believed she was destined for greatness. "I didn't know how or what I would do, but I just knew I wanted to be famous." She wouldn't have to sit around for long.
It's the dawn of the '60s. Shy, winsome 16-year-old Cherilyn Sarkisian LaPiere meets LA songwriter Sonny Bono, an associate of legendary record producer Phil Spector. Soon, Cher is singing backup on some of Spector's most indelible classics: The Crystal's "Da Doo Ron Ron," The Ronettes' epochal "Be My Baby," The Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," and the still-revered Yuletide album A Christmas Gift for You. (Cher's voice is so powerful, even at this youthful point, that she continually finds herself being shunted farther and farther back from the microphone.)
Sonny and Cher become... well, Sonny & Cher, scoring soundtrack-of-the-'60s hits like "Baby Don't Go," "The Beat Goes On," and the #1 smash "I Got You Babe." (Many years later, the good-humored Cher will duet on this last tune with MTV's snotty cartoon duo, Beavis and Butt-Head.) She also notches up solo hits, including the unprecedented-at-the-time divorce lament "You Better Sit Down Kids" and the million-selling "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" (the latter later covered by Frank Sinatra!).
Sonny & Cher launch a wise-cracking TV show, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. Bob Mackie does Cher's way-over-the-top costumes; regulars include the young Steve Martin and Teri Garr; guests range from The Jackson 5 to Ronald Reagan. The show is a big 1971-to-1974 hit. During the show's run, Cher charts three #1s on her own: "Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves," "Half-Breed," and "Dark Lady," and becomes the female artist with the most number-one singles in US history at the time with four.
When The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour goes off the air and the couple parts ways, both personally and professionally, Cher returns to television in her own variety series entitled, what else—Cher. Cher's solo hits continue with her whole disco-bop comeback album Take Me Home (1979) and her first Las Vegas residency at the Circus Maximus at Caesars Palace from 1979 to 1982.
Cher does Broadway in Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, and then signs up for director Robert Altman's film version of the play. She makes her big breakthrough in Mike Nichols' 1983 nuke-scare thriller Silkwood (for which she's nominated for an Academy Award).
Following the similarly acclaimed Mask (Best Actress Award, Cannes Film Festival), she finally wins an Oscar in 1988 for her ultra-lovable performance in the great romantic comedy Moonstruck. She jousts with Jack Nicholson in The Witches of Eastwick and stars as a footloose mom in the 1990 comedy Mermaids, which spins off a major European hit single with "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)."