Cher facts for kids
Quick facts for kids
Cher in 2019
May 20, 1946
|Parent(s)||Georgia Holt (mother)|
Cher (//; born Cherilyn Sarkisian; May 20, 1946) is an American singer, actress and television personality. Often referred to by the media as the "Goddess of Pop", she has been described as embodying female autonomy in a male-dominated industry. Cher is known for her distinctive contralto singing voice and for having worked in numerous areas of entertainment, as well as adopting a variety of styles and appearances throughout her six-decade-long career.
Cher was born Cherilyn Sarkisian in El Centro, California, on May 20, 1946. Her father, John Sarkisian, was an Armenian-American truck driver with gambling problems; her mother, Georgia Holt (born Jackie Jean Crouch), is a former model and retired actress who claims Irish, English, German, and Cherokee ancestry. Cher's father was rarely home when she was an infant, and her parents divorced when Cher was ten months old. Her mother later married actor John Southall, with whom she had another daughter, Georganne, Cher's half-sister.
Now living in Los Angeles, Cher's mother began acting while working as a waitress. She changed her name to Georgia Holt and played minor roles in films and on television. Holt also secured acting parts for her daughters as extras on television shows like The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Her mother's relationship with Southall ended when Cher was nine years old, but she considers him her father and remembers him as a "good-natured man who turned belligerent when he drank too much". Holt remarried and divorced several more times, and she moved her family around the country (including New York, Texas, and California). They often had little money, and Cher recounted having had to use rubber bands to hold her shoes together. At one point, her mother left Cher at an orphanage for several weeks. Although they met every day, both found the experience traumatic.
When Cher was in fifth grade, she produced a performance of the musical Oklahoma! for her teacher and class. She organized a group of girls, directing and choreographing their dance routines. Unable to convince boys to participate, she acted the male roles and sang their songs. By age nine, she had developed an unusually low voice. Fascinated by film stars, Cher's role model was Audrey Hepburn, particularly due to her role in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany's. Cher began to take after the unconventional outfits and behavior of Hepburn's character. She was also inspired by Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis, and Katharine Hepburn. She was disappointed by the absence of dark-haired Hollywood actresses whom she could emulate. She had wanted to be famous since childhood but felt unattractive and untalented, later commenting, "I couldn't think of anything that I could do ... I didn't think I'd be a singer or dancer. I just thought, well, I'll be famous. That was my goal."
In 1961, Holt married bank manager Gilbert LaPiere, who adopted Cher (under the name Cheryl LaPiere) and Georganne, and enrolled them at Montclair College Preparatory School, a private school in Encino, whose students were mostly from affluent families. The school's upper-class environment presented a challenge for Cher; biographer Connie Berman wrote, "[she] stood out from the others in both her striking appearance and outgoing personality." A former classmate commented, "I'll never forget seeing Cher for the first time. She was so special ... She was like a movie star, right then and there ... She said she was going to be a movie star and we knew she would." Despite not being an excellent student, Cher was intelligent and creative, according to Berman. She earned high grades, excelling in French and English classes. As an adult, she discovered that she had dyslexia. Cher's unconventional behavior stood out: she performed songs for students during the lunch hours and surprised peers when she wore a midriff-baring top. She later recalled, "I was never really in school. I was always thinking about when I was grown up and famous."
At age 16, Cher dropped out of school, left her mother's house, and moved to Los Angeles with a friend. She took acting classes and worked to support herself, dancing in small clubs and introducing herself to performers, managers, and agents.
Cher met performer Sonny Bono in November 1962 when he was working for record producer Phil Spector. Sonny introduced Cher to Spector, who used her as a backup singer on many recordings, including the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" and the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'". Spector produced her first single, "Ringo, I Love You", which Cher recorded under the name Bonnie Jo Mason. The song was rejected by many radio stations programmers as they thought Cher's deep contralto vocals were a man's vocals; therefore, they believed it was a male homosexual singing a love song dedicated to the Beatles drummer Ringo Starr.
Cher and Sonny performed their own unofficial wedding ceremony in a hotel room in Tijuana, Mexico, on October 27, 1964. Although Sonny had wanted to launch Cher as a solo artist, she encouraged him to perform with her because she suffered from stage fright, and he began joining her onstage, singing the harmonies.
In early 1965, Caesar and Cleo began calling themselves Sonny & Cher. Following the recording of "I Got You Babe", they traveled to England in July 1965 at the Rolling Stones' advice; Cher recalled, "[they] had told us ... that Americans just didn't get us and that if we were going to make it big, we were going to have to go to England."
"I Got You Babe" reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and became, according to AllMusic's Bruce Eder, "one of the biggest-selling and most beloved pop/rock hits of the mid-'60s"; Rolling Stone listed it among "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" in 2003.
As the song knocked the Beatles off the top of the British charts, English teenagers began to emulate Sonny and Cher's fashion style, such as bell-bottoms, striped pants, ruffled shirts, industrial zippers and fur vests.
Cher's solo career was established during the same time, with the top-ten singles "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" and "You Better Sit Down Kids". She became a television personality in the 1970s with her CBS shows; first The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, watched by over 30 million viewers weekly during its three-year run, and then the namesake Cher.
Cher and Sonny had had marital problems since late 1972, but appearances were maintained until 1974. In February 1974, Sonny filed for a separation, citing "irreconcilable differences". Their divorce was finalized on June 26, 1975.
In 1974, Cher won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy for The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.
Cher emerged as a fashion trendsetter by wearing elaborate outfits on her television shows. While working on television, Cher released the US Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves", "Half-Breed", and "Dark Lady", becoming the female artist with the most number-one singles in United States history at the time.
In 1982, Cher made her Broadway debut in the play Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean and starred in its film adaptation. She subsequently garnered critical acclaim for her performances in films such as Silkwood (1983), Mask (1985), The Witches of Eastwick (1987), and Moonstruck (1987), the last of which won her the Academy Award for Best Actress. She then revived her music career by recording the rock-inflected albums Cher (1987), Heart of Stone (1989), and Love Hurts (1991), all of which yielded successful singles such as "I Found Someone", "If I Could Turn Back Time", and "Love and Understanding". Cher contributed to the soundtrack for her next film, Mermaids (1990), which spawned the UK number-one single "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)". She made her directorial debut with a segment in the anthology If These Walls Could Talk (1996).
Cher reached a new commercial peak in 1998 with the dance-pop album Believe, whose title track topped the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1999 and became the biggest-selling single of all time by a female artist in the UK. It features pioneering use of Auto-Tune to distort her vocals, known as the "Cher effect". Her 2002–2005 Living Proof: The Farewell Tour became one of the highest-grossing concert tours of all time, earning $250 million. In 2008, she signed a $60 million deal to headline the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas for three years. During the 2010s, she landed starring roles in the films Burlesque (2010) and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018) and released studio albums Closer to the Truth (2013) and Dancing Queen (2018), both of which debuted at number three on the Billboard 200.
In June 2002, Cher embarked on the Living Proof: The Farewell Tour, announced as the final live concert tour of her career, although she vowed to continue making records and films. Initially scheduled for 49 shows, the worldwide tour was extended several times. By October 2003, it had become the most successful tour ever by a woman, grossing $145 million from 200 shows and playing to 2.2 million fans.
Cher's 326-date Farewell Tour ended in 2005 as one of the highest-grossing concert tours of all time, seen by over 3.5 million people and earning $250 million.
On December 2, 2018, Cher received a Kennedy Center Honors prize, the annual Washington distinction for artists who have made extraordinary contributions to culture.
In October 2019, Cher launched a new perfume, Cher Eau de Couture, which was four years in the making. Described as "genderless", it is Cher's second fragrance after 1987's Uninhibited.
Cher appeared in a voice-over role as a bobblehead version of herself in the animated feature film Bobbleheads: The Movie (2020). The same year, she was featured on The New York Times Magazine's list of "The Best Actors of 2020", the first time an actor not in a current-year theatrical release made it on the annual list.
Having sold 100 million records, Cher is one of the world's best-selling music artists. Her achievements include a Grammy Award, an Emmy Award, an Academy Award, three Golden Globe Awards, a Cannes Film Festival award, the Billboard Icon Award, and awards from the Kennedy Center Honors and the Council of Fashion Designers of America. She is the only artist to date to have a number-one single on a Billboard chart in six consecutive decades, from the 1960s to the 2010s. Aside from music and acting, she is noted for her political views, social media presence, philanthropic endeavors, and social activism, including LGBT rights and HIV/AIDS prevention.
In 1992, Madame Tussauds wax museum honored Cher as one of the five "most beautiful women of history" by creating a life-size statue.
Music and voice
Cher has employed various musical styles, including folk rock, pop rock, power ballads, disco, new wave music, rock music, punk rock, arena rock, and hip hop; she said she has done this to "remain relevant and do work that strikes a chord". Her music has mainly dealt with themes of heartbreak, independence, and self-empowerment for women; by doing so, she became "a brokenhearted symbol of a strong but decidedly single woman", according to Out magazine's Judy Wieder. Goldmine magazine's Phill Marder credited Cher's "nearly flawless" song selection as what made her a notorious rock singer; while several of her early songs were penned by or sung with Sonny Bono, most of her solo successes, which outnumbered Sonny and Cher's successes, were composed by independent songwriters, selected by Cher.
Some of Cher's early songs discuss subjects rarely addressed in American popular music such as divorce and racism. Her ability to carry both male and female ranges allowed her to sing solo in androgynous and gender-neutral songs.
Cher has a contralto singing voice, described by author Nicholas E. Tawa as "bold, deep, and with a spacious vibrato". Ann Powers of The New York Times called it "a quintessential rock voice: impure, quirky, a fine vehicle for projecting personality."
In a 2013 interview with the Toronto Sun, Cher reflected on how her voice has evolved throughout her career, becoming stronger and suppler over the years. She said working with vocal coaches had made a significant difference: "It's so freaky because people my age are having to lose notes and I'm gaining notes, so that's pretty shocking."
Cher's primary philanthropic endeavors have included support of health research and patients' quality of life, anti-poverty initiatives, veterans rights, and vulnerable children. The Cher Charitable Foundation supports international projects such as the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, Operation Helmet, and the Children's Craniofacial Association.
Beginning in 1990, Cher served as a donor and as the National Chairperson and Honorary Spokesperson for the Children's Craniofacial Association, whose mission is to "empower and give hope to facially disfigured children and their families". The annual Cher's Family Retreat is held each June to provide craniofacial patients, their siblings and parents an opportunity to interact with others who have endured similar experiences. She supports and promotes Get A-Head Charitable Trust, which aims to improve the quality of life for people with head and neck diseases.
Cher is a donor, fundraiser, and international spokesperson for Keep a Child Alive, an organization that seeks to accelerate action to combat the AIDS pandemic, including the provision of antiretroviral medicine to children and their families with HIV/AIDS. In 1996, she hosted the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) Benefit alongside Elizabeth Taylor at the Cannes Film Festival. In 2015, she received the amfAR Award of Inspiration for "her willingness and ability to use her fame for the greater good" and for being "one of the great champions in the fight against AIDS".
In 2007, Cher became the primary supporter of the Peace Village School (PVS) in Ukunda, Kenya, which "provides nutritious food, medical care, education and extracurricular activities for more than 300 orphans and vulnerable children, ages 2 to 13 years." Her support enabled the school to acquire land and build permanent housing and school facilities, and in partnership with Malaria No More and other organizations, she piloted an effort to eliminate malaria mortality and morbidity for the children, their caregivers and the surrounding community.
Soldiers and veterans
Cher has been a vocal supporter of American soldiers and returning veterans. She has contributed resources to Operation Helmet, an organization that provides free helmet upgrade kits to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. She has contributed to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which serves military personnel who have been disabled in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and those severely injured in other operations. In 1993, she participated in a humanitarian effort in Armenia, taking food and medical supplies to the war-torn region.
Cher has engaged in the construction of houses with Habitat for Humanity and served as the Honorary National Chair of a Habitat's elimination of poverty housing initiative "Raise the Roof", an effort to engage artists in the organization's work while on tour.
In 2016, after the discovery of lead contamination in the drinking water of Flint, Michigan, Cher donated more than 180,000 bottles of water to the city as part of a partnership with Icelandic Glacial.
In 2017, Cher weighed in on the need to protect elder rights as she executive produced Edith+Eddie, a documentary about a nonagenarian interracial couple. It received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject).
In November 2020, Cher joined Four Paws International and traveled to Pakistan to advocate for and work with the country's government to have Kaavan, an elephant who had been confined to a zoo for 35 years, transferred to a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia. In April 2021, Paramount+ released the documentary film Cher and the Loneliest Elephant, detailing Cher's quest, alongside animal aid groups and veterinarians, to free Kaavan from confinement.
Legacy and impact
Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield stated how "there are no other careers remotely like hers, [particularly] in the history of pop music" and referred to Cher as "the one-woman embodiment of the whole gaudy story of pop music." Billboard's Keith Caulfield wrote that "there's divas, and then there's Cher."
Cher is commonly referred to by the media as the "Goddess of Pop". Her work in music, film, television, and fashion has influenced artists including Benjamin Francis Leftwich, Betsy, Beyoncé, Bonnie McKee, Britney Spears, Bruno Mars, Christina Aguilera, Cleo, Cyndi Lauper, Drew Barrymore, Dua Lipa, Gemma Chan, Gwen Stefani, Helena Vondráčková, Jennifer Lopez, Kacey Musgraves, Kanye West, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Lil' Kim, Lizzo, Lucy Dacus, Miley Cyrus, Olivier Rousteing, Paulina Rubio, Pink, Madonna, Marc Jacobs, Ralph, Rihanna, Rita Ora, Rob Halford of Judas Priest, RuPaul, Sarah Paulson, Saweetie, Shirley Manson of Garbage, Sofia Carson, Taylor Swift, Tina Turner, Tracy Chapman, Troye Sivan, and Zendaya.
As a solo artist, Cher has sold 100 million records worldwide (in addition to 40 million as part of the duo Sonny & Cher), making her one of the best-selling music artists of all time. She is one of the few artists to win three of the four major American entertainment awards (EGOT—Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony), and one of five actor-singers to have had a US number-one single and won an acting Academy Award. Her breakthrough single, Sonny & Cher's "I Got You Babe", is a Grammy Hall of Fame inductee and was featured on Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" list compiled in 2003. Her 1971 single "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves" was called "one of the 20th century's greatest songs" by Billboard magazine. Her 1998 song "Believe" is the biggest-selling single of all time by a female artist in the UK. It was voted the world's eighth favorite song in a poll conducted by BBC in 2003—the only American song to be named on the list. "Believe" was placed on the 2021 revised list of Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". In 1988, Cher became the first performer to receive an Academy Award for acting and a RIAA-certified gold album in the same year since the inception of gold awards in 1958.
Cher is the only artist to have a number-one single on a Billboard chart in six consecutive decades, from the 1960s to the 2010s. She has held US Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles over the longest period of time in history: 33 years, seven months and three weeks between "I Got You Babe", which topped the chart for the first time on August 14, 1965, and "Believe", whose last week at number one was April 3, 1999. With "Believe", she became the oldest female artist to have a US number-one song in the rock era, at the age of 52. Billboard ranked her at number 43 on their "Greatest Hot 100 Artists of All Time" list. In 2014, the magazine listed her as the 23rd highest-grossing touring act since 1990, with total earned revenue of $351.6 million and 4.5 million attendance at her shows.
Cher has received numerous honorary awards, including the 1985 Woman of the Year Award by the Hasty Pudding Theatricals society at Harvard University, the Vanguard Award at the 1998 GLAAD Media Awards, the Legend Award at the 1999 World Music Awards, a special award for influence on fashion at the 1999 CFDA Fashion Awards, the Lucy Award for Innovation in Television at the 2000 Women in Film Awards, the Artist Achievement Award at the 2002 Billboard Music Awards, the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2010 Glamour Awards, the Legend Award at the 2013 Attitude Awards, the Award of Inspiration at the 2015 amfAR Gala, the Icon Award at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards, the 2018 Kennedy Center Honor, the Ambassador for the Arts Award at the 2019 Chita Rivera Awards for Dance and Choreography, and the 2020 Spirit of Katharine Hepburn Award. In 2010, Cher received the honor of placing her handprints and footprints in cement in the courtyard in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Her name is on a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as part of the duo Sonny & Cher. She had also been selected for the honour as a solo artist in 1983, but forfeited her opportunity by declining to schedule the mandatory personal appearance.
In 2003, Cher appeared at number 41 on VH1's list of "The 200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons", which recognizes "the folks that have significantly inspired and impacted American society". She was ranked 31st on VH1's list of "The 100 Greatest Women in Music" for the period 1992–2012. Esquire magazine placed her at number 44 on their list of "The 75 Greatest Women of All Time". She was featured on the "100 Greatest Movie Stars of our Time" list compiled by People. In a 2001 poll, Biography magazine ranked her as their third favorite leading actress of all time, behind Audrey Hepburn and Katharine Hepburn.
- All I Really Want to Do (1965)
- The Sonny Side of Chér (1966)
- Chér (1966)
- With Love, Chér (1967)
- Backstage (1968)
- 3614 Jackson Highway (1969)
- Chér / Gypsys, 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)
- Take Me Home (1979)
- Prisoner (1979)
- I Paralyze (1982)
- Cher (1987)
- Heart of Stone (1989)
- Love Hurts (1991)
- It's a Man's World (1995)
- Believe (1998)
- Not Commercial (2000)
- Living Proof (2001)
- Closer to the Truth (2013)
- Dancing Queen (2018)
- Two the Hard Way with Gregg Allman as Allman and Woman (1977)
- Black Rose as lead vocalist of Black Rose (1980)
- Wild on the Beach (1965)
- Good Times (1967)
- Chastity (1969)
- Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982)
- Silkwood (1983)
- Mask (1985)
- Suspect (1987)
- The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
- Moonstruck (1987)
- Mermaids (1990)
- The Player (1992)
- Prêt-à-Porter (1994)
- Faithful (1996)
- If These Walls Could Talk (1996)
- Tea with Mussolini (1999)
- Stuck on You (2003)
- Burlesque (2010)
- Zookeeper (2011)
- Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)
- Bobbleheads: The Movie (2020)
Headlining television shows and specials
- The Sonny & Cher Nitty Gritty Hour (1970)
- The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour (1971–1974)
- Cher (1975–1976)
- The Sonny and Cher Show (1976–1977)
- Cher... Special (1978)
- Cher... And Other Fantasies (1979)
- Standing Room Only: Cher in Concert (1981)
- Cher... A Celebration at Caesars (1983)
- Cher at the Mirage (1991)
- Sonny & Me: Cher Remembers (1998)
- Cher: Live in Concert – From the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (1999)
- Cher – The Farewell Tour (2003)
- Dear Mom, Love Cher (2013)
- Cher & the Loneliest Elephant (2021)
In Spanish: Cher para niños
- Culture of the United States
- Honorific nicknames in popular music
- List of artists who reached number one in the United States
- List of best-selling music artists
- List of highest-grossing concert tours
- Forbes list of highest-earning musicians
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