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Best National Anthem Singers

CherIt’s Super Bowl Sunday this weekend and Alicia Keys is slated to perform the National Anthem.

OK! Magazine has just done a review of their favorite performances of the National Anthem: http://www.okmagazine.com/news/top-10-super-bowl-national-anthem-performances-cher-kelly-clarkson-carrie-underwood-more

Their list:

  1. Whitney Houston –1991—what a wowee that was. I bought the single cassette!
  2. Faith Hill—2000
  3. Kelly Clarkson—2012
  4. Jennifer Hudson—2009
  5. Carrie Underwood—2010
  6. Jordin Sparks—2008
  7. Mariah Carey—2002
  8. Cher—1999
  9. Beyonce—2004
  10. The Dixie Chicks—2003

Note the FOUR American Idol singers (three AI winners) in this top ten list. Cher’s inclusion is striking because she’s not the same kind of singer as the others (with the exception of maybe the country sangers). Many would make the case that she’s the weakest singer on the list (if you split vocal hairs about this sort of thing). I chalk up her inclusion on all these favorites listings to the fact that Cher has become, not only a real American idol, but a national treasure.

Rolling Stone magazine’s list: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/pictures/the-most-memorable-super-bowl-national-anthem-performances-20120130.

  1. Whitney Houston
  2. The Dixie Chicks
  3. Faith Hill
  4. Beyonce
  5. Cher
  6. Carrie Underwood
  7. Jennifer Hudson
  8. Aretha Franklin, Aaron Neville & Dr. John (in a New Orleans Tribute)—2006
  9. Garth Brooks—1993
  10. Mariah Carey
  11. Luther Vandross—1997

They say about Cher:

She left the Bob Mackie headdress at home, but Cher's throaty take on "The Star-Spangled Banner" still had the pop icon's unmistakable style – not to mention some impressive notes.

Rolling Stone, still hating on the idea of spectacle (at least when it occurred in the 1970s). Get over it, Rolling Stone!

The site The Week also posted their list recently: http://theweek.com/article/index/239018/the-10-greatest-national-anthem-performances-in-super-bowl-history

  1. Whitney Houston
  2. Luther Vandross
  3. Jennifer Hudson
  4. Cher
  5. Jordin Sparks
  6. The Dixie Chicks
  7. Beyonce (tie)
  8. Carrie Underwood (tie)
  9. Mariah Carey
  10. Vanessa Williams—1996

Their comments on Cher:

Cher can sing? Holy crap, Cher can sing! This was great. No complaints about Cher. The interpretive dancers were kind of weird, though. The Week's multimedia editor Lauren Hansen nails it: "Cher was surprisingly impressive, but like Mike Bloomberg with Lydia Callis, her spotlight was stolen."

Arbitrary diva rating: 90.4 percent Barry

This site also recommends Barry Manilow’s performance from 1984. I would heartily recommend his pitch perfect rendition. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A795MW-Qpow

I would also recommend Marvin Gaye’s brilliant and chill-inducing performance from the 1983 NBA All-Star Game: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRvVzaQ6i8A

Marvin   


The Bittersweet White Light Photos

BwlI've always been fascinated by the album artwork for Cher's album Bittersweet White Light, the album of modernized torch songs from 1973.

I always found Sonny's photography of Cher on the cover to be enigmatic. The depressing panels of their house on Carolwood Drive. The crazy lights twinkling blurred in the foreground, Cher's fat fur, the head feather apropos of nothing and the shadow halo on her head. I just don't get any of it.

The rainbow Cher font?? Is that:

  •  "so gay" or
  •  "just gay"?

Cherthree

Then we move to those Neil Brisker photos on the back cover. Cher looks great but this is despite the fact that she's wearing crepe paper. This is some kind of artistic study of the seam.

Why is this yellow, orange and green stripped skirt dragging on the floor? Why does this bother me so much?

Cher could always make a halter-top work but all three photos show too much rib bone. We know she wasn't eating enough right before she left Sonny. Is this the evidence of her emancipated emaciated-ness? Why draw attention to it with this dress?

And surely we were all used to Sonny Bono Blather on the liner notes of Cher albums but swan song goes beyond the pale:

I was asked to describe this album in words. I don't know if I can, I'll try. A singer should make you feel. Every time I listen to Chér sing on this album I feel sad, I feel happy, I feel lonesome, I feel love but most of all I feel. For the ten years I've known Chér she's always wanted to make people feel. She did it this time. SHE DID IT ALL THIS TIME.

Sonny 

I'm telling you, I don't know what the hell I feel right now. Not sad, happy, lonesome or love. I feel slightly irritated with a hint of mystified. Was the creation of this little paragraph really necessary. Keep your feelings to yourself, Sonny.

To Sonny's credit, I actually like this album. I wish she had made ten more just like it. Torch with some 'tude.  

    


Cher Shows & Videos Percolating

Cher's New Logo Show

Rumor is that Cher is involving Chaz as a Producer on the show. But as this rumor is flying from the rag The National Enquirer it's most likely a large pile of hooey.

Cher's New Music Video

CherNews is tracking the tweets and news of the happenings of Cher's new video shoot, including:

 


Three Albums I Got For Christmas

Due to my prolonged cold-flu-cold series of illnesses in November and December, I didn't get my gifts mailed out to my peeps in Los Angeles until January. For this reason, we opened our gifts last weekend and I've just started to listen to some of the music my friends gifted me. Some amazingly good stuff.

EllieMy friend Christopher sent me this Ellie Goulding album. She's is a pop artist in England doing very well, an award-winner and favorite of Princess Kate. She was invited to sing at the reception for the Royal Wedding of Kate and Prince William. Her cover of Elton John's "Your Song" from this debut 2010 album, Lights, was the couple's first dance.

I would have to say Kate has good taste because this is one of the best, most cohesive, dance albums I've ever heard. Every song was lovely.

   

AlexMy friend Julie sent me the next two albums. British artist Alex Clare released this debut album, The Lateness of the Hour, in 2011 and his voice reminds me of Australia's Daniel Merriweather but he's more rocking and more eclectic. Again, almost every song is a winner, my favorites being "Up All Night", "Hummingbird" and "Sanctuary."

It will be hard to beat this album as my favorite discovery this year.

  
       

CeloCee Lo Green never ceases to amaze me. Who can beat his arrangements? I've never had good luck with R&R Christmas albums. Usually, only one or two of the songs are very original. In Vansessa William's case, the whole lot was crap. It makes no sense because I love R&B. I love gospel. How could it fail? It somehow can.

Cee Lo Green not only made a high-calibre Christmas album, it's my favorite of all time. I can even forgive his including Rod Stewart on a track ("Merry Christmas, Baby"). The songs "What Christmas Means to Me" and "All I Need is Love" (with the Muppets) are both rollicking and inspired. He makes "White Christmas" and "Run Rudolph Run" highly palatable and he transforms "This Christmas" and "Silent Night." Even the filler is well made. It's hard to make much of "The Christmas Song" over what Mel Torme was able to do with it from the beginning. Extra treats are his version of "You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch" in a Glee-esque arrangement with the group Straight No Chaser. His version of "Mary, Did You Know" gave me chills. Beautiful.

Masterful musical moments from Cee Lo Green. But what's new about that? The man is an ingenious "sanger" and artist.

 


Critically Thinking about The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour

ArchieOver the years I have struggled with trying to get my head around The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour in any critical way. I don't know if this is because I have a hard time revisiting many comedy shows I once loved as a young kid. The evolution of comedy sweeps you up and your sensibilities evolve with it. Looking back, the hilarity of certain scenes or gags don't come off as funny anymore. Comedic timing speeds up year after year and old bits seem to drag on too long. Comedy gets more irreverent, more piercing, more ridiculous. Boundaries are pushed and you look back to jokes that fail to have any humorous shock value.

But I also feel this segment of Cher's career, (and quite a big one at that), gets overlooked. Someone somewhere should be explicating the show. But pop culture academics aren't mulling it's relevancy.

But then a few months ago I came across the book Archie Bunker's America: TV in an Era of Change 1968-1978 by Josh Ozersky (2003). The book jacket promised some interesting interpretations of 70s TV shows:

Archie Bunker’s America discerns what was “in the air” as television networks tried to accommodate cultural and political swings in America from the Vietnam era through the late 1970s. Josh Ozersky’s spirited examination of the ways America changed television during a period of intense social upheaval, recuperation, and fragmentation uncovers a bold and beguiling facet of American cultural history."

The book is only available in hardcover and I'm not sure I would recommend it for simply reading about Sonny & Cher. For one reason, it's expensive--even used. I was also hoping the book would show evidence that the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour played a role in easing mainstream American into multi-culturalism with their progressive booking of African American acts and introducing international themes to comedy and torch segments, although these segments do look a bit stereotypical in retrospect. Unfortunately, the section on Sonny & Cher in the book is brief and, after reading the entire thing, I'm not sure what their example proves.

 

Some highlights:



The show was mildly licentious and filled with double entendres and showbiz hipness of the Vegas type. The entire production was suffused with a certain playful irony—“hey, we have our own show, let's have some fun with it. ” This was in stark contrast to their variety progenitors, like the Smothers Brothers, who for all their boyish irreverence were in dead earnest about producing a polished product. Sonny and Cher giggled at their own jokes, refused to take their skits seriously, refused to kowtow to “the great audience” the way more straitlaced entertainers did. They muffed their lines, ad-libbed often, and (the key to the show) really related to each other.

Thus did the informal atmosphere of the rock scene come to television by way of Las Vegas. As rock music began to be accepted by the Establishment as a fait accompli, television accommodated itself and rock did likewise. Professionalism went the way of live drama, and the proscenium separating audience from performer became only a matter of talent and/or good luck. Thus, the video archives of such buttoned-up interview programs as The Mike Douglas Show, The Dick Cavett Show, The David Susskind Show, and so on often feature mumbling, incoherent “celebrities” who looked high. Singers would forget the words to their songs. Comedians would “crack up” at their own jokes. This would have been scandalous or at least disastrous as late as the 1960s, but programs like The Sonny and Cher Hour [sic] eased the audience into the new culture, much as the Lear and MTM programs had eased them out of the old one.

The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hourwas truer than most to the culture however, and it continued to be so as the Nixon nightmare wore on...The forces of entropy apparent in the short life of the Sonny and Cher series were emblematic of larger forces informing American life. The women's movement, the fall of Nixon, and the overthrow of traditional attitudes regarding marriage, race, class, and deviance all combined with the largest and most acutely felt change of all—the collapse of the once-mighty American economy. The stylistic innovations of All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show were decisively engineered projects arising out of the network's perennial lust for ratings, “buzz, ” and advertising revenue. Now, shows for an unhappy culture began to come off the assembly line.

So the show essentially eased America into the idea of performers making bloopers and acting irreverent? Is that all? If so, didn't the crack-ups of Tim Conway and Harvey Korman do the same? Although the last paragraph above barely hints at this: I'd like to think the deadpan character created for Cher on the show was a powerful anecdote to the suppressed and patronized characters of Lucy Ricardo and Jeannie imprisoned in her bottle. At least this was the resulting interpretation for 3rd wave Gen X/Riot Grrl feminists like me.

I hope to dig up more pop culture theorizing about The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour as I peruse the libraries of academia. But for now this book, with these slight few paragraphs, has given me something concrete to chew on and has altered my view of the show's possible importance to our cultural evolution.

  


Cher on Night of 100 Stars (1982)

Many thanks to Dany for sending the link to Cher's appearance on Night of 100 Stars in 1982. Check the video near the 6:20 mark. Cher appears at the back of the stage.

Stars

There are a few things I want to say about this clip:

  1. I was 12 in 1982 and I would cash-in the official Ladd-house rule allowing me to stay up one night a week for shows like this. The rule was first instated after my obsession with The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour in 1974 and during The Sonny & Cher Show, which ran in 1976-1977, during which time we moved from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to St. Louis, Missouri, most importantly from Mountain Standard Time to Central Standard Time, a difference of one hour which rendered my 8pm bedtime alarming in that I would miss my weekly fix of Sonny & Cher. Who I was obsessed with. My parents created this rule to accommodate the tragic situation. But after Cher's last TV show was cancelled, I used the rule for the first Solid Gold specials and these parades of celebrities performing scant seconds of theatrical fashion modeling. What a weird concept for a show. Hours of excitement for an ultimately frustrating few seconds of your sauntering celebrity of choice. Could you even get famous people to agree to do this today?
      
  2. Looking back on this episode with Cher in the mix, how awesome that she gets to be the center of this parading V, like a princess among celebrities. The Queen Bee. She is the enticing reveal, the centerpiece, the bride atop the cake! She smiles nervously and appreciatively, doing the runway walk with in a very modified Cher strut. She even tosses her bouquet in the fadeout.
Yes, it was good to be 12 years old in 1982, although it was a quiet time in between Cher comebacks. You thought nobody cared about Cher in that gap of fame time, but apparently they did.
 

Winners Announced: Fans Rend Garments

Despair 

 

The winners of last week's Facebook contest were announced and Cher News has been tracking the tweets of joy and the tweets of despair from those fans who did not make the random cut.

 

 

Zombies will be zombies after all. Sadly, they always want flesh.

But seriously, don't the drama queens ruin it for the rest of us. Just like Jessica Lange emoted in the early part of this season's American Horror Story in her Oscar winning Bostonian accent after the inmates abused a good thing, "Movie night is over for the foreseeable futcha!"

Will Cher continue to provide contests if the contestants lose their minds? She certainly doesn't need to.

Interestingly related to this, I've been saving up quotes on fame for my next Cher Zine and I've just found a treasure trove of good Oscar Wilde ones. Yesterdays find is apropos for the situations of these upset fans:

"It is a very unimaginative nature that only cares for people on their pedestals."

I always thought the phrase "get a life" was too harsh and slightly inaccurate. How does one lose a life after all other than to "drop dead." The better encouragement may be, "please start to care about other things."

If you continue to rent the fates for not delivering up your name in a Facebook contest, life is nothing but suffering ahead for you.

Despair2

On the bright side of obsession, one obsessed fan contributed a winning bid of $5,700 to ensure meeting Cher, funds which will go to the Cher Charitable Foundation and the maintenance of the Shikimana School in Kenya. How often is it that nice and needy Kenyans get the opportunity to appreciate Americans for our celebrity obsessions?

 


Contest to Meet Cher Ends Tomorrow

ContestCher and her peeps have devised a contest to fly in fans to meet her and attend the taping of her "Woman's World" video. Originally the contest was to be a Twitter scroll random pick sort of thing.

But you know...lawyers get involved and the thing gets mired in legalese.

It's a pretty sweet contest and there are a few ways to win: bid your way to the top (you richie ditchies) or enter the random pick. According to the official rulz, if you bid:

"the funds raised from this auction will go directly to the maintenance of the Shikimana School in Kenya which Cher built two years ago under the auspices of The Cher Charitable Foundation. The school educates young children in need and provides medical help and nutritional meals for the students. The Shikimana School also acts as a community center."

If you are part of the underclass, like me, you can still throw your hat in the ring for a free trip to Los Angeles and time to hob knob on the video set with Cher. Pretty nice, huh?

Cher World breaks it all down nicely.

Or you can go directly to the Facebook page to enter: https://apps.facebook.com/womansworldwin/contests/310497. God forbid, if you don't have a Facebook account by now you must join.

My husband refuses to do this, even for a chance of meeting Cher.

Cher Zombies, you have until Thursday, Dec 17 at 3:00pm PST to enter. God speed.

 


David Geffen, Joni Mitchell & Cher

JonicherSince the David Geffen PBS special last year I've been thinking about the ladies in Geffen's life. Although he gave them expert help and guidance, many of them broke his heart, including Laura Nyro, Cher and apparently he was dismayed by Joni Mitchell's "Free Man in Paris" and how it exposed his private life.

Geffen had better luck mentoring men: Jackson Browne, The Eagles, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits,  Warren Zevon, J.D. Souther--all at Asylum. Most of the Geffen label successes were male: John Lennon, Asia, Elton John, Sonic Youth, Aerosmith, XTC, Peter Gabriel,  Blink-182, Guns N' Roses, Nirvana and Neil Young.

Linda Ronstadt and Lone Justice being exceptions.

Around the time of the special, a few Cher scholars alerted me to Joni Mitchell songs of the mid 1970s that might have lyrics referencing Cher. This was the time she was living with David Geffen and he was dating Cher.

Check out the lyrics and tell me what you think:

Rob alerted me to this line from "Off Night Backstreet" on the album Don Juan's Reckless Daughter (1977):

Who left her long black hair
in our bathtub drain?

Dishy alerted me to the Joni Mitchell song "Love or Money" from the live album Miles of Aisles (1974)It's lyrics are a bit more vague.

According to the the "Big Yellow Taxi" page, Cher's version (from The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour??) is available on a recording called Live And Loud, Volume II from 2005 although I can't seem to find any information about this album. Has anybody heard of it?

  


Some Sweet Pics

Over the last few weeks I've seen some sweet Cher pics float by from different sources, Facebook, Diva Incarnate, Google pics....I've been saving them on my desktop to post here.

Sonnycherlate60s

Normal_photos1977bl_06
Cher with Sonny in the 60s; Cher with Gregg Allman in Japan in the 70s.

Chercurtain

What

I have no idea what these could be. Cher in a shower? Cher in a wedding scene for a torch number?

Newsandc

Keepcalm

I love, love, love that Sonny & Cher pic. But I would have rewritten that sign, "Stay Calm I'm Back."