The Evolution Of Sonny And Cher’s Relationship And Plenty Of Cher Facts

Jackson Sawa | August 4, 2022 7:43 am

With a duo career in music and television spanning from the late 1960s into the mid-70s, Sonny Bono and Cher exploded in popularity for their fun-loving music and image of the perfect celebrity couple. However, behind the scenes, everything wasn’t as it seemed –although the public was convinced otherwise. Take a look to see what was actually going on in the former lovers’ relationship, what brought it to an end, and how it changed their lives afterward.

They Met In A Coffee Shop

In 1962, Sonny was 27 and Cher was just 16 when the two met in a Los Angeles coffee shop. Currently in the middle of a separation with his first wife, Donna Rankin, Sonny was working as a producer and promoter for the renowned Phil Spector.

Sonny and Cher at the Hilton in London
Douglas Miller/Keystone/Getty Images
Douglas Miller/Keystone/Getty Images

After meeting Cher, Sonny got her into contact with Spector and she went on to sing backup on a series of Spector-produced songs such as “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” by Righteous Brothers and “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes.

Their Relationship Started Off As Platonic

After the two started spending more time with each other, Sonny wasn’t actually interested in Cher, but instead, her friend. However, Cher felt a connection. In a 2018 interview, she noted, “Everyone just disappeared […] He was the most unusual person I’d ever seen.”

Sonny and Cher posing in Los Angeles
Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Not long after their first meeting, Cher moved into Sonny’s nearby apartment after she was kicked out of her current place. To avoid moving back in with her parents, she agreed to Sonny’s terms that she had to clean the place to be able to move in.

They Eventually Became Lovers

Supposedly, Sonny wasn’t even attracted to Cher when she first moved in, yet their friendship evolved to become romantic. According to Cher, “It wasn’t a fiery, sexy thing with us, but rather paternal, like we were bound together, two people who needed each other, almost for protection.”

Sonny and Cher during a photo shoot in 1964
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Then, on October 24, 1964, the couple had an unofficial wedding ceremony in a hotel room in Tijuana, Mexico. Although Sonny pushed Cher to become a solo artist, she suffered from stage fright and insisted that he join her on stage. That same year they, began working on music together as the duet Caesar and Cleo.

Becoming Sonny & Cher

In 1965, Caesar and Cleo transitioned to become Sonny & Cher. After recording what would be their most popular song, “I Got You Babe,” they were encouraged by the Rolling Stones to travel to England where they would receive more recognition than in the United States. As promised, the two became stars in England overnight.

Sonny and Cher sitting on a couch
Chris Walter/WireImage
Chris Walter/WireImage

“I Got You Babe” went on to reach No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the track is one of the most popular and best-selling of the mid-60s. At the same time, young audiences became obsessed with the couple, inspiring countless Sonny and Cher lookalikes.

On The Up And Up

After the success of “I Got You Babe” and their first album Look at Us, Sonny & Cher began appearing on some of the biggest televisions shows of the time such as The Ed Sullivan Show, American Bandstand, Hollywood A Go-Go, Beat Club, and more.

Sonny And Cher on the show Hullabaloo
Hullabaloo Archive/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Hullabaloo Archive/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In 1966, they released their second studio album The Wondrous World of Sonny & Cher and proceeded to do a world tour for the album. Unsurprisingly, the tour was immensely successful, and the couple was considered one of the biggest acts in the music industry.

They Experienced A Career Slump

Toward the end of the 1960s, the couple’s music career began sputtering out, as the public was no longer interested in their easy-listening music in the face of hard and psychedelic rock. So, the two turned to film, and Sonny arranged for them to star in the 1967 movie Good Times.

Sonny and Cher at a party
Frank Edwards/Fotos International/Getty Images
Frank Edwards/Fotos International/Getty Images

Unfortunately, the film bombed, and as a result, Columbia Pictures sold the rights to another film that was supposed to star them to MGM. Sonny and Cher were then replaced by Elvis Presley and Nancy Sinatra. Sonny even self-financed and produced Chastity in 1969, starring Cher, which was also a commercial flop.

They Had A Child

On March 4, 1969, Cher gave birth to their first and only child, Chastity Bono, who now goes by Chaz. Not long after welcoming their child into the world, the two were finally officially married. Now at the lowest point in their career, the duo began to perform a night club routine that had more personality than their typical performances.

Sonny and Cher with Chaz
Frank Edwards/Fotos International/Getty Images
Frank Edwards/Fotos International/Getty Images

They reinvented their image to be more mature, with their shows becoming famous for Cher heckling both the audience and Sonny. TV producers began to take notice and started to invite them onto primetime shows.

They Made A Comeback With Their Own TV Show

After seeing them as guest-hosts on The Merv Griffin Show in 1971, Fred Silverman, the head of programming at CBS, offered them their own show. It premiered on August 1, 1971, as a summer show with just six episodes.

Sonny and Cher on their show
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

However, after its success, the couple was offered a full-time show in December. Known for its deadpan comedy and playfulness, the show had more than 30 million viewers during its three-year run, with Cher’s clothing style noted for having a significant influence on the fashion trends of the 1970s.

Their Relationship Was Beginning To Fracture

Although they were perceived as a power couple and had the image of a perfect family on-screen, things weren’t all they seemed behind the scenes. Their career was going strong, but their relationship wasn’t. Sonny was unfaithful, with Cher later recalling, “One woman, or even five, was not enough for him.”

Close up of Sonny and Cher
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

In 1972, Cher informed Sonny she had become romantically involved with a guitarist on the show, but that didn’t put an end to her and Sonny’s relationship. At that point, they were too far deep in their careers as Sonny & Cher said divorce wasn’t an option.

Cher’s Solo Career Began To Take Off

Although Sonny & Cher had their own thing going with their television show, simultaneously, Cher’s solo career also began to blossom. In 1972, her song “Gypsys, Tramps, & Thieves” became her first US solo No.1 single and was named by Billboard as “one of the 20th century’s greatest songs.”

Cher posing with costume and jewelry
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

In 1973, lyricist Mary Dean presented Cher’s producer with the song “Half-Breed,” which was written specifically for her. The song went on to be Cher’s second U.S. solo No.1 single, with her Greatest Hits album solidifying her as a major solo artist.

The Duo’s Recording Career Had A Resurgence

Although Cher was finding success with music on her own, and the two were still involved with their TV show, they also revived their recording career between 1971 and 1973.

Sonny and Cher in matching red outfits
K & K Ulf Kruger OHG/Redferns
K & K Ulf Kruger OHG/Redferns

During that time, they had four studio albums released under Kapp Records and MCA Records. These were: Sonny & Cher Live, All I Ever Need is You, Mama Was a Rock and Roll Singer, and Papa Used to Write All Her Songs.

They Secretly Separated

According to a diary entry by Sonny on August 21, 1973, Sonny wrote, “Connie and I live together as husband and wife. But my public wife is still Cher in order to maintain all the things I want right now. That’s the way it has to be.”

Sonny and Cher at their home in California
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Considering what was happening between them, Cher didn’t really care what Sonny was up to, even saying, “We had a weird relationship. I don’t expect anybody to understand it.”

The Cat Got Out Of The Bag

Unsurprisingly, the former lovers couldn’t keep their falling out a secret from the public forever, and in 1994, Sonny filed for separation for “irreconcilable differences.” Cher then countered with a divorce suit in which she charged Sonny for “involuntary servitude.”

Sonny And Cher in the studio
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

She claimed that Sonny had withheld money from her after she learned that he owned 95% of Cher Enterprises with the other 5% being withheld by their lawyer. Previously, Cher had also signed a restrictive contract saying that she couldn’t take any jobs without Sonny. In order to get out of the contract, Cher took a deal that she would participate in more than $1 million of shows and appearances with him.

The Divorce Was Finalized

Sonny and Cher’s divorce was finalized on June 26, 1975, with custody of Chasity being granted to Cher. They went their separate ways and started with own television shows. Sonny starred in The Sonny Comedy Revenue and Cher had The Cher Show.

Cher in costume
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

There were conflicting opinions among critics as to whose show would be more successful, both shows ended up failing despite that Cher lasted longer than The Sonny Comedy Revenue. Realizing they needed each other to succeed, in 1976, they reunited for the first time on television with The Sonny And Cher Show.

Cher Was In Another Marriage Shortly After Her Divorce

Just four days after her divorce with Sonny was finalized, Cher was married rock musician Gregg Allman, the co-founder of the Allman Brothers Band. However, she filed for a divorce just nine days after their marriage due to Gregg’s substance abuse, although the two were back together in a month, and had a son, Elijah Blue, on July 10, 1976.

Cher and Gregg in a hammock
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

It was during this time that Cher was seriously struggling with her music career. In an attempt to get back in the limelight, she and Allmann started the project, Allman and Woman. They recorded the album Two the Hard Way, although they broke up after its release and were divorced in 1979.

Cher Had A Hard Time After Sonny

After divorcing Sonny and even while she was involved with Gregg Allman, Cher was struggling professionally and emotionally without her former partner. In a 2017 interview, Cher admitted, “He had made every decision for me. I knew how to sing and how to be a mother. I didn’t know anything else.”

Portrait of Cher
King Collection/Photoshot/Getty Images
King Collection/Photoshot/Getty Images

However, regardless that it took her some time, she still managed to have an extremely successful career in both music and film, winning numerous Grammys as well as an Academy Award.

They Didn’t Despise Each Other In Later Years

Although it was a messy breakup, the former couple admitted that they didn’t resent each other in the years following their divorce. In 1991, Sonny told People “I enjoyed the power of Sonny and Cher so much […] That took years and years to let go.” Cher also admitted that it was money that led to their demise more so than their actual relationship.

Sitting on a couch together
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

She told Vanity Fair, “If he had agreed just to disband Cher Enterprises and start all over again, I would have never ever left. Just split it down the middle, 50–50.” Even though they quarreled in public, Cher made sure to clarify they didn’t actually mean it and that they just knew each other too well.

Sonny Continued On As An Actor And A Politician

Following his almost-complete separation from Cher, Sonny began an acting career, appearing as a guest performer in television shows such as The Six Million Dollar Man, Charlie’s Angels, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, and more. He also acted in several films and television shows as well.

Sonny as a Congressman
J. DAVID AKE/AFP via Getty Images
J. DAVID AKE/AFP via Getty Images

After having trouble opening a restaurant in Palm Springs, he ran for mayor and won, serving four years from 1988 to 1992. He was also elected into the United States House of Representatives in 1994, becoming the only member of Congress to have a No.1 pop single on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.

He Died In A Mysterious Ski Accident

On January 5, 1998, Sonny died after hitting a tree while skiing at Heavenly Mountain Resort near South Lake Tahoe, California. His wife at the time, Mary Bono, later revealed that he was addicted to various prescriptions that may have caused the accident and resulted in his death.

Cher giving a eulogy
POOL/AFP via Getty Images
POOL/AFP via Getty Images

He was buried at Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California with Cher giving a eulogy. Later, in the 2000s, an allegation came to light that he might have been murdered on the orders of a dealer who was afraid Sonny was going to expose him.

They Share A Hollywood Walk Of Fame Star

The same year of Sonny’s death, Sonny and Cher were honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for their careers in television. Cher came to the event alongside Sonny’s widow, Mary, who accept the award on her late husband’s behalf.

Hollywood Walk of Fame star
Barry King/WireImage
Barry King/WireImage

The same year, Cher released her twenty-second album, Believe, which she says was inspired by Sonny’s untimely death. In the booklet, Cher wrote, “In memory of Son.” Mary also finished out Sonny’s congressional term and was re-elected in her own right until she was defeated in 2012.

Cher’s Life Story

Cher has been a legendary icon in music, television, and film for more than sixty years. She’s the only singer ever to have a song top the Billboard charts in every decade, she’s the so-called Goddess of Pop, and now she’s reinventing herself online to the joy of millennials.

Cher as she sits on a very fuzzy couch dressed in a sweatshirt, jeans, and high heels
Anthony Barboza/Getty Images
Anthony Barboza/Getty Images

It’s no surprise that living in the limelight since the age of 16 has left Cher with quite a few dark and interesting secrets. You might think you’re a die-hard Cher fan, but do you remember her infomercial from the 1990s? Read on and find out all the juicy details from Cher’s life.

She Didn’t Know She Had Dyslexia

Cher didn’t discover that she has dyslexia — the learning disability which makes it harder for someone to read, write, and spell — until she was an adult. Looking back, she realized how her learning disability made things difficult as a child.

young cher
King Collection/Photoshot/Getty Images
King Collection/Photoshot/Getty Images

Cher admitted she never really liked school and had to be creative to get good grades. At one point, her mother enrolled her in acting classes but her dyslexia made the coach think she’d never succeed.

There Weren’t Many Dark-Haired Icons For Her To Look Up To

Cher was known for her striking beauty. Being predominantly Armenian, Cher’s long dark hair and unique appearance stood out in the 1960s, but it meant she didn’t have many idols to try and emulate. She has said that not having any dark-haired role models made her feel “unattractive and untalented.”

Audrey Hepburn
Mondadori Portfolio/Getty Images
Mondadori Portfolio/Getty Images

One woman Cher found that she could look up to was Audrey Hepburn because she liked her unconventional outfits and darker hair.

Cher Suffered From Crippling Stage Fright

Despite her desire to be famous, Cher admitted that she suffered greatly from stage fright. Sonny originally wanted her to be a solo act, but she insisted he sing on stage with her because of her stage fright.

Sonny and Cher
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In fact, Cher originally disguised her nervousness by only looking at Sonny when she sang. Cher later said that she “sang to people through him.” Her coping mechanism worked in their favor, and soon people began to take notice of the duo.

She Follows A Strict Diet

A few years ago, the 73-year-old revealed that she can still do a five-minute plank, which is something most young and fit people struggle to do. That prompted people to wonder how she’s stayed so healthy and looks so young? In 2013, Cher told Closer that she is a strict vegetarian and just doesn’t like things that are unhealthy.

on stage
John Shearer/BBMA2017/Getty Images
John Shearer/BBMA2017/Getty Images

She’s used cigarettes in the past but doesn’t any longer. She only has an adult beverage three or four times a year.

Cher Didn’t Exactly Have A Stable Childhood

Cher’s mother, Georgie Holt, was an occasional model and actress, but she was home most of the time while Cher’s father, a truck driver, was on the road. Because of his profession, Cher says that she rarely saw her father as a child. The two divorced when Cher was only 10 months old.

family
Harry Langdon/Getty Images
Harry Langdon/Getty Images

Cher’s mother remarried and divorced several times, and that meant Cher ended up moving around a lot. At one point, her mother even had to leave her in an orphanage. Throughout her childhood, she lived in New York, Texas, and California.

Cher Is The “Poster Girl For Plastic Surgery”

Unlike other stars who deny deny deny getting any surgery, Cher has always been open about the treatments she’s done to keep her youthful appearance. She’s even said that getting plastic surgery isn’t something to be ashamed of and that it “makes [her] happy.”

publicity event
Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images
Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images

She’s actually self-proclaimed to be the “poster girl for plastic surgery.” Her plastic surgeries include regular botox injections, a facelift, a neck lift, and an eye operation.

She Was A Perfect Fit For Vogue

While Cher might have suffered from stage fright, she came alive in front of the camera. As she began to become more and more successful in the 1960s, her long limbs, dark hair, and unique Armenian appearance caught the eye of Vogue, who offered her a modeling contract.

large sunglasses
Arnaud de Rosnay/Condé Nast/Getty Images
Arnaud de Rosnay/Condé Nast/Getty Images

By modeling for Vogue, Cher began to showcase and set more of the fashion trends. Eventually, she grew into the daring fashion icon we know today.

Everyone Wanted To Get With Cher

Cher is known best for her relationship with Sonny Bono, but what about the other men in her life? In 1974, Cher had a brief fling with record producer David Geffen. She has also shown her attraction to bad boys by dating Gene Simmons of KISS in the 1980s and guitarist Tom Cruise in 1985.

with friends
Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

If you want to go way back in time, Cher even reportedly had a fling with Warren Beatty when she was really young.

Her Real Name Is Cherilyn Sarkisian

No, Cher wasn’t brought into the world with her single iconic name. She was born May 20, 1946, in El Centro, California. It seemed that Cher was never happy with her original name. When she was a teenager she shortened the name to a more modern version and went by Cheryl.

Cherilyn
Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images
Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images

Throughout high school her friends always shortened her name to “Cher” but it wasn’t until 1978 when she legally changed it.

She’s Had Some Other Names Too

Despite going by the name Cher for years leading up to the name change in 1978, Cher also went by a few totally different names. When she released her first solo single in 1964, Cher actually used the stage name Bonnie Jo Mason. We bet you’ve never even heard that name.

with a monkey
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Then when Cher and Sonny Bono teamed up, they first released their music under the duo name Caesar & Cleo. Their first album was a flop, so they decided to perform under their real names and audiences liked it much more.

Cher Helped Pioneer Auto-Tune

Cher’s biggest single to date, “Believe,” was released in 1998. It made fans go wild because of the altered, almost robotic voice on the recording. At the time, the technique was so controversial and new that Cher’s producers kept it a secret. For a long time, it was even called the “Cher Effect.”

Cher performs in front of her image projected on a huge screen
Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Finally, in the early 2000s, other artists and producers learned how to make the auto-tune effect and we ended up with T-Pain.

She Landed Bit Roles On TV When She Was Just A Kid

Before Cher ever began singing, she was acting in small roles on television. Thanks to her mom’s occasional acting, both Cher and her half-sister Georganne we cast as extras on television shows like The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.

Ozzie & Harriet
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Georgeanne never expressed much interest in acting after these small parts, but Cher was the opposite. Being cast as an extra made Cher realize that she was destined for fame.

The Queen Of Crossing Genres

It’s hard to think of another artist who has constantly managed to reinvent themselves the way Cher has. She has always been open to new styles of music and trying new things, even if they flop. Cher began releasing wholesome folk music in the 1960s, switched to pop in the 1970s, and then disco in the later years.

queen of genres
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Finally, after getting rid of Sonny, she had her hand at rock in the 1980s and has been releasing dance music ever since.

She Originally Hated Her Hit Song

“If I Could Turn Back Time” is arguably one of Cher’s most popular songs, but when she was recording it, she absolutely hated it. In fact, when she heard the track played back she wanted it destroyed.

Cher performs on NBC's
Photo by Al Pereira/WireImage
Photo by Al Pereira/WireImage

The songwriter, Diane Warren, allegedly had to physically hold Cher down in order to convince her to record the song. Warren later told The Hollywood Reporter that Cher is one of the worst judges of her own material.

She’s Got Some Funny Tattoos

Cher may have seemed square to the kids in the late 1960s, but by the mid-1970s she was daring enough to get her first tattoo…on her backside. Yes, the singer got a butterfly and flowers needled onto her left cheek as she was going through her divorce with Sonny Bono.

tattoos
Marco Piraccini/Archivio Marco Piraccini/Getty Images
Marco Piraccini/Archivio Marco Piraccini/Getty Images

Since then she’s gotten numerous other tattoos that are easy to spot considering how often she can be found in low cut and revealing gowns.

Bob Mackie Has Been Her Go-To Designer

Since The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour aired, designer Bob Mackie has been Cher’s number one choice to dress her for all occasions. Mackie was the one behind her iconic Cleopatra and Miss Sadie Thompson gowns, as well as her generally flashy and low-cut dresses.

Cher and Bob Mackie pose
Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic
Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

Mackie and Cher are credited with creating a lot of the 1970s trends. Bob Mackie is also the designer behind Cher’s unforgettable barely-there dress for the 1988 Academy Awards.

For A While, She Was The Most Bankable Actress In Hollywood

You might think icons like Meryl Streep or Jodie Foster were the most bankable actresses in the 1980s, but it was actually Cher. In her first film, Silkwood, Cher attended a premiere where audiences laughed when they saw her name in the opening credits. She ended up proving everyone wrong and being nominated in 1983 for an Academy Award because of the performance.

movies
Metro-Goldwyn Mayer/MovieStillsDB
Metro-Goldwyn Mayer/MovieStillsDB

From there, she went on to star in films like Suspect, The Witches of Eastwick, and Moonstruck, which earned her the 1988 Academy Award for Best Actress.

Today, She’s An Icon On Twitter

Cher is a lot of things, but no one expected her to enter the 21st century and become one of the funniest people on Twitter. Millennials have become as obsessed with Cher as her older, die-hard fans thanks to her unpredictable and hilarious tweets.

Cher speaks onstage
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

You have to see them to believe them, but Cher’s tweets cover everything from politics to gummy bears to her love of her own career. She also uses Caps Lock liberally and loves to add emojis.