We all know Sonny’s last name is Bono even though he didn’t use it for this song. Who knows Cher’s last name? She is one of just a handful of artists who are known by just one name. Madonna comes to mind and Reba. Can you think of others. All of the ones I can think of are women. Sonny was born Salvatore Phillip “Sonny” Bono in 1935 in Detroit, Michigan. He began his career as a songwriter, working for Specialty Records in Los Angeles. He wrote the song “Things You Do For Me” for Sam Cooke and “Needles and Pins” for the the Searchers. He went to work for Phil Spector in the Early Sixties and that was when he met Cher.
Cher was born Cherilyn Sarkisian in 1946 in El Centro, California. (Now, you know her last name.) Cher’s mother was a wanna-be actress who got work it several bit parts, but found it difficult to put food on the table. Cher knew she wanted to grow up in show business. She didn’t think she could sing or act, but she knew she wanted to be famous. Always the rebel, when she was sixteen, she dropped out of high school and went on the search for fame and fortune. In November 1962, she met Sonny Bono at a coffee shop in Hollywood and the two hit it off. Sonny introduced her to Phil Spector who put her to work as a backup singer. She sang backup on “Be My Baby,” by the Ronettes and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” by the Righteous Brothers.
Fame was slow in coming, however, until one day, Sonny borrowed $135 in order to hire a studio to record a song he wrote just for Cher. At the last minute, Cher got nervous and begged Sonny to sing along with her. Thus began the team of Sonny and Cher. That first song was “Baby Don’t Go” which was released in 1964 and was a regional hit in California. After “I Got You Babe,” which was also written by Sonny, was a huge hit for the pair, Spector re-released “Baby Don’t Go” and the second time, it went to number eight on the pop charts.
Sonny and Cher were married in 1964, although they say it was not a legal marriage. They got legally married after their daughter, Chastity was born. They went on to have a fantastic career. They recorded eleven Top 40 songs before they were divorced in 1975 and Cher, as a solo act, recorded 21 songs which hit the charts, including three number ones in the Seventies. The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour ran on CBS television from 1971 until 1974 when they divorced, then it returned in 1976 as just The Sonny and Cher Show for two more years.
Sonny served as the mayor of Palm Springs, California from 1988 until 1992 and was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1994. He died on January 5, 1998 of injuries he received when he hit a tree while skiing. Cher spoke at his funeral. On his tombstone is engraved, “And the Beat Goes On.”
“I Got You Babe” debuted on the pop charts on July 31, 1965 and stayed at number one for three weeks, It was the only number one the pair ever had.