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Music / Cher

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"I've always taken risks, and never worried what the world might really think of me."

Cher (born Cherilyn Sarkisian; May 20, 1946) is a prolific American entertainer who has gained fame as a singer, actor, presenter and philanthropist in the course of a career spanning over fifty years.

She is of Armenian, Cherokee, German, English, Irish and French descent. She originally entered the spotlight in The '60s as one half of Sonny & Cher, a pop/folk duo in which she performed with her then-husband Sonny Bono. They had a major hit with "I Got You Babe" and co-presented a successful television show with The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, and even had a few new hit songs, but eventually decided to go their separate ways both personally and professionally. In The '70s, Cher scored solo hits and became a popular figure in the disco genre, but when that scene collapsed, her attempts to switch to a more contemporary AOR sound fell flat.

She then spent The '80s primarily establishing herself as an actor, earning an Oscar nomination for her role in Silkwood (1983) and winning the Best Actress Oscar for her role in Moonstruck (1987). With her success in this field solidified, she returned to music, revisiting her earlier attempt at Arena Rock to great acclaim and achieving further success as a singer in The '90s with the number-one dance hit "Believe" (credited with making Auto-Tune mainstream).

Apart from the aforementioned Oscar, Cher's achievements include an Emmy Award, a Grammy Award, several Golden Globes, and four number-one singles on the American chart. She also holds a record as the artist with the longest gap between their first and most recent number-one hits.

Selected discography:

  • All I Really Want to Do (1965)
  • The Sonny Side of Cher (1966)
  • Cher (1966)
  • With Love, Cher (1967)
  • Backstage (1968)
  • 3614 Jackson Highway (1969)
  • Cher / Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves (1971)
  • Foxy Lady (1972)
  • Bittersweet White Light (1973)
  • Half-Breed (1973)
  • Dark Lady (1974)
  • Stars (1975)
  • I'd Rather Believe in You (1976)
  • Cherished (1977)
  • Two the Hard Way (as Allman and Woman with Gregg Allman; 1977)
  • Take Me Home (1979)
  • Prisoner (1979)
  • Black Rose (as Black Rose; 1980)
  • I Paralyze (1982)
  • Cher (1987)
  • Heart of Stone (1989)
  • Love Hurts (1991)
  • It's a Man's World (1995)
  • Believe (1999)
  • (2000)
  • Living Proof (2011)
  • Closer to the Truth (2013)
  • Dancing Queen (2018)

Selected filmography:

She provides examples of:

  • Auto-Tune:
    • Probably the first artist to use it in a successful mainstream recording ("Believe"); she wasn't going to use it, but when she heard it being applied to her recorded vocals she liked it and decided to keep it in. She also deconstructed this, because her decision faced some opposition from her recording company. Unlike many artists nowadays, she wasn't using it for corrections.
    • This was awesomely referenced in an appearance on The Graham Norton Show where Graham and then Dawn French sang a bit of the song into an autotune mic, followed by Cher herself with zero distortion.
  • Cover Version:
    • "A World Without Heroes" by KISS on her album Love Hurts, along with the title track by the Everly Brothers.
    • Reversed, as several of her songs with Sonny have become big country hits. These include "When You Say Love" (covered by Bob Luman in 1972, the same year it was a pop hit for Sonny and Cher) and "All I Ever Need is You" (a No. 1 country hit in 1979 by Kenny Rogers and Dottie West).
    • One oddball example was Dr. John's eerie Swamp Rock classic "I Walk on Guilded Splinters" on the 3614 Jackson Highway album in 1969, which many people think actually holds up pretty well against the original. Cher doing the song doesn't seem so strange after you learn that, before he adopted the Dr. John persona, Mac Rebennack had been part of Sonny & Cher's touring band.
    • "Walking in Memphis", originally by Marc Cohn on It's a Man's World
    • "I Found Someone" was originally written for and released by Laura Branigan. Michael Bolton, who wrote the song, would go on to record his own version for his 1995 album Greatest Hits (1985–1995).
  • Cowboys and Indians: Referenced in "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)":
    I was five and he was six
    We rode on horses made of sticks
    He wore black and I wore white
    He would always win the fight
  • Cross-Cast Role: Her 1967 solo hit "You Better Sit Down Kids" is narrated by a parent telling their children that they're separating from their spouse, but it's Cher singing the role of the father.
  • Didn't Think This Through: The title character in "Dark Lady" has an affair with the protagonist's lover... in her house. She recognizes the fortune teller's perfume, tracks them both down in her lair and shoots them.
  • The Fashionista: Cher's stylish ensembles are as much a part of her image as her singing and acting. She's best known for her longtime collaboration with Bob Mackie, the "Sultan of Sequins," who has personally designed her dresses and costumes for decades.
  • Hello, Sailor!: The video for "If I Could Turn Back Time" has her performing on the USS Missouri for some 500 sailors. One of them even briefly hugs her from behind before running back to his shipmates, who all high-five him.
  • Iconic Outfit: Cher's had a lot of stunning ensembles, but the most memorable by far is the the outfit she wore to the 1986 Oscars, created by her longtime friend and personal designer Bob Mackie. As The Other Wiki puts it, the look consisted of "black stretch pants, a bejeweled loincloth, knee-high boots, a black chainlink top, and a huge feathered Mohawk headdress that was one and half times taller than her head." If someone is lampooning Cher, odds are some element of that outfit will make an appearance.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The Melodrama-laden lyrics of "Gypsys, Tramps, and Thieves" are paired with bouncy music (with some vaguely exotic little flourishes). It clocks in 170 BPM, one of the fastest-paced songs to ever hit #1 (alot of Punk Rock and Heavy Metal songs don't ever hit that high of a BPM measure).
  • Mrs. Robinson: She briefly acquired this image in the late 1980s — when her career declined for the third time — as she dated several men (including a young Tom Cruise) who are all more than a decade younger than her. Years later, she poked fun at this in Stuck on You, where she appeared in bed with Frankie Muniz (who was 18 at the time of filming).
  • Ms. Fanservice: While her sex symbol status during the '70s and '80s has been firmly established, the cover photos of her on her 1979 album 'Prisoner', almost completely nude, cemented this status.
  • New Sound Album: In the past, she modified her sound to accommodate changing trends (Folk in the sixties, Disco in the seventies, Rock in the eighties and Contemporary R&B/Dance in the nineties).
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Another trait of hers. She recalled difficulties in emulating female artists growing up, as none of them had long black hair like hers.
  • Roguish Romani: "Gypsys, Tramps, and Thieves" is about a woman who has born in a traveling family. The chorus is about how other people would call her family "gypsies, tramps, and thieves".
  • Stripperiffic: Her infamous leather-and-fishnets outfit from the video for "If I Could Turn Back Time."
  • Trope Codifier: Auto-Tune existed before "Believe," mostly being used for its original intention of minor pitch correction; however, she liked the otherworldly sound it gave to the song and decided to keep it. After that, it spread like wildfire.