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August 2014
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October 2014

Lady Gaga's Version of Bang Bang and Crossing Genres

GagabennetbbLady Gaga last week released a version of "Bang Bang." It's a bonus track on her new Cheek to Cheek album. The version sounds New Orleans jazzy version.

Lady Gaga tweeted: 

It's @cher a supreme honor to sing Bang Bang, that song time traveled & continues to inspire, I wish to honor your legacy w/ every breath.

More stories:

Cher's tweet:

So f*cking proud of you Gaga. I heard (and saw) amazing CD collaboration 'Cheek To Cheek' with the forever hip Tony Bennett. Babe, you're channelling jazz greats and killin' me.

Was Cher ever slated to do a duet with Tony Bennett:

Tried. I love him. I was desolate. The song didn't work for both of our ranges. It's OK. Gaga and Tony Bennett knocked it out of the park...No-one could make me say anything that I don't believe, when it comes to art. Gaga sang her ass off! Pure heaven talent. F*ck haters.

Gaga of Cher:

You know Cher, that level of support coming from you means more than you will ever know. Your confidence is the mark of a true legend. Love you.

and

Trend it Monsters. Let's show Cher how much we appreciate her #MonstersLoveCher Now that's what I call class!

I have not listened to the track yet. I've had in-laws visiting for a week and they took Mr. Cher Scholar and I ghost-hunting at the famous St. James Hotel in Cimarron, New Mexico.

But since I'm not a Gaga fan, I'll turn to my friend Christopher's thoughts about her duet with Tony Bennett. As a Gaga fan, he felt her vocals there were anemic.

He says,

"I am quite surprised that her vocals are not more impressive, as she has a really strong and compelling singing voice and has comfortably tackled dance, R&B and rock styles with equal skill. Here she just seems way out her element. Again, quite a surprise; she's so highly stylized in her approach to everything, and very insightful, it would seem that she would have the skill and vision to tackle this type of material. Guess not."

He goes on to talk about genre-hopping success by other artists he likes:

"Everyone has always ragged on Madonna about how she's "not a great singer" and this ultra-bland performance by Gaga reminds me of how effective and nuanced Madonna's vocals are on I'm Breathless (the Dick Tracy album) in which she very naturally nails the period feel of the material. Gaga, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have any feel whatsoever in this instance. She barely makes an impression of any kind.

I am all for musicians expanding their musical wheelhouse, but often the results are very misguided. It reminds me of Pat Benatar's blues album from 1991, Paying the Cost to Be the Boss, which is a noisy mess.  Pat is one of my favorite artists of all time, but despite the extraordinary range of her voice, the blues idiom is just not a suitable fit for her (it didn't help that the songs themselves weren't very good either).

Another example is Sinead O'Connor's Am I Not Your Girl which is a covers album of mostly torch songs. It's okay, but overall rather lackluster (and terribly sleepy). The feral brilliance of her singing is almost completely muted here and she's just not that memorable as a balladeer; the "style" takes away all the interesting edges and peaks of her voice. To make matters worse, Am I Not Your Girl? was the follow-up to her globally dominating album I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got (with it's inescapable #1 song "Nothing Compares 2 U"), so general fans were perplexed/disappointed by the abrupt shift in gears and less than impressive results, while committed fans were probably more tolerant of the misadventure but still left scratching their heads. I would argue that this album definitely had a negative impact on her career, as it quashed her forward momentum creatively and commercially, a position she most definitely couldn't afford to be in given that the album followed so closely on her scandalous Pope-shredding stint on SNL.
 
I think perhaps the most versatile singer in rock is Linda Ronstadt. There is literally no genre I can think of in which she hasn't made numerous recordings of the very highest order. She's fluent, assured and commanding in pop, country, AC, full-out rock, torch, 50s/60s Brill, New Wave, not to mention a full range of Mexican music styles in Spanish (She's half-Mexican. Shout out to Cher Scholar, who like Linda, was born in New Mexico!).

Sheena Easton is another great example too. In fact, she is the only artist in music history to achieve Top Ten songs on the pop, R&B, Adult Contemporary, Country and Dance charts (in fact, in practically all these genres she's had multiple Top Ten songs). Not even genre-hopping, hit-maker par excellence Cher has accomplished this chart feat.

Celene: I can honestly say that she can persuasively sing across any number of genres, including rock, dance, Motown, even reggae! She's pretty fearless in terms of taking on different genres; it's just that her label, Sony, is like all record companies, always choosing singles in the same narrow lane once an artist has a hit--it's the don't rock the boat, baby mindset. It's too bad labels are not more courageous in this respect, although Sony did release her epic, fantastic rendition of Jim Steinman "It's All Coming Back to Me Now," which was a deservedly massive hit.  Karen

My friend Terry weighed in:

"Individually I thought Gaga was "okay" and Tony was really good. But, their "harmonies" did not harmonize at all. That part was awkward. Overall, blah...I saw Tony Bennett on Letterman 2 or 3 years ago and he absolutely sizzled. Smooth jazzy cool. He still has it in him. I just don't think this particular piece has much to offer. Lazy cool is great. Lazy been-there done-that not so much (and that was the vibe I got from this)."

Are these Cher's "f*ckin haters?" Possibly. I call Mr. Cher Scholar a f*ckin hater every time he disparages Karen Carpenter with the term "milktoast."

Here is a cool Skylar Grey lyric video for "Bang Bang": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3x2ABSAMVno

  


Concert Cher News

SlashCher News has been tracking the release of Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. Good news: the Blue-ray is available for pre-order.

The second leg of Cher shows were to start on September, 11 but Cher has had to push back 10 dates pushing this legs shows into December.

Slash reported to The Huffington Post about attending a Cher concert and needing to go outside to smoke eventually gave him pneumonia. So he quit smoking.

Cher is also being sued by her former choreographer Kevin Wilson. Read stories on:

The last link is the testimony of Jamal Story, one of Cher's dancers. He was the dancer featured in last week's story in Fortune Magazine: "How to Survive on the Road with Cher. He makes great reference to the chaos in the Ferguson suburb of St. Louis (my hometown).He says:

I am disheartened to know that racism is part of the charge leveled in a lawsuit at my boss...But even if there is some shred of merit here, the lack of consideration for the three brown band members (of which there are only seven) still in Cher's camp befuddles me.

In fact, one of the most interesting experiences I’ve had dealing with the color quota represented on stage happened on Cher’s stage in Vegas years ago. A brunette out for her wedding was replaced by the cousin of another black dancer on the gig. Adding two of the plaintiffs (who were also there) brought the count of bona fide chocolate up to four, and then there were the two of us too light to figure in. Among the other six dancers were a Latino and a Tongan, both with enough pigment to type them out of a Mayflower Voyage film. We didn’t know whether to take a picture (because who would believe it) or accuse our boss of Blaxploitation. Because of course there were also the two black backup singers, the keyboardist and the drummer…

This doesn’t happen with a racist performer.                                                                             

In fact, since my first gig with Cher twelve years ago, I have missed only 2 of her 568 full stage shows. Never in any of them have I experienced any form of racial or sexist prejudice.

It’s not her style.  I was there every time she strutted around stage in a Native American feathered headdress singing about her Cherokee heritage.  Early in a career older than all of her dancers, she was notorious for entering the back door of venues and restaurants that would not allow her colored staff through their front. She argued with her fans via Twitter that the Tea Party supports racist policies.  She funds the Peace Village School in Kenya for black orphans.  Chand

You know, there was a budget for my hair. When I ran out of Mixed Chicks conditioner on the road,  or couldn’t find a barber for a manicured fro, Cher reimbursed receipts for cornrows. It did not bother her any when I walked on stage wearing them, black pants and a white tank—a look that might have gotten me shot by police in Ferguson—to stand in her spotlight and present her a stool.  This is the conversation we should be having instead, how my "Burlesque" costume with this hairstyle is life-threatening around those who would see a dangerous, uber-sexualized Negro thug.

During a delay in the tech rehearsal for the number “Dressed to Kill,” she sat waiting on the chandelier and smiled at me.

“I’m getting a weave,” I told her.

“Really??!!” she said, ecstatic.

     


Protest Songs Cher Should Cover

PoliceA picture that shows how little has changed 50 years later. We're still concerned with police brutality in 2014.

I was thinking recently when listening to Billy Bragg's great anthem, "Waiting for the Great Leap Forward" how Green Day revitalized their career a few years ago with a ppolitically-themed album. Cher’s tweets are unflinchingly political but why should her activism be trapped in Twitter? Would it ever be possible to hear a Cher album of political covers?

Think of all the great, old union songs, Bob Dylan songs, Phil Ochs songs. If Dolly Parton can get away with covering hard-rock songs revamped as bluegrass tunes, why can’t Cher do something interesting with political songs? Her voice is well suited to anthems and she would probably enjoy singing them. She could mine Billy Bragg's catalog alone. "Great Leap" proves you don’t have to go back to a folk sound to present a meaningful modern message. On Pandora I recently heard a very cool version of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son" covered by Cat Power.

I also recently discovered this unlikely protest song on an old Porter Waggoner show, "Paradise" by country act Jim and Jesse.

I found a few awesome lists of the best political protest songs. Interestingly, "Fortunate Son" was the only song on every one of these lists:

  

 


Cher & Joan Rivers

CherjoanAfter Joan Rivers passing, Cher tweeted:

"Am heartbroken about Joan. When I was young, I was going through a tough time and I thought about Joan. She had told stories about her tough times - I got stronger".

Cher also referred to her friend Kathy Griffin who she credits with getting her and Joan Rivers back together:

"Kathleen, I can never thank you enough for bringing Joan to the house that night. You two together is something that I'll never forget. Two girls in rare form.”

I kinda remember that tweet about Kathy and Joan years back.

Read more at Cher News.

   


Shows Delayed: Cher Under the Weather

SickCher has been forced to delay a few concert dates at the start of her second leg due to a viral infection that is keeping her in bed. I hope she didn't catch something at the old Sonny & Cher house with what sounded like ten people living in it.

Read more at Cher News and Cher World.

This was actually huge news over the last day or so, stories populating pages of the Internet. Here are some of the bigger venues talking about it:

Billboard

CNN

Los Angeles Times

While we're waiting for Cher to come back on tour, I found this article today on Fortune Magazine: "How to Survive on the Road with Cher by dancer and choreographer Jamal Story who has been touring with her for 12 years ("off and on").

There's also a new article by Liz Smith on Cher that appeared in The Huffington Post: "Cher -- Unending, Immortal -- She Is Not Stepping Aside"

And apparently, recently Cher Impersonators attempted a world record (in St. Louis of all places) to gather the biggest crowd of Cher impersonators on a street called Cherokee Street. I think the Cher Convention snagged more Cher impersonators than St. Louis did. But maybe this will be an inspiration to other impersonators out there.

Find out more:

  


Cher Caricatures

 

UntitledThe caricature to your left is by Kerry Waghorn. I think it captures Cher's very specific attitude.

I was thinking about Cher caricatures today because I discovered the Georgia O'Keeffe museum is starting an exhibit of works by Miguel Covarrubias this month. Many of us already know of Covarrubias' famous caricatures from Vanity Fair such as OkeefeeGeorgia O’Keeffe and Greta Garbo.

I always wish I could find more (good) caricatures of Cher.

View the Cher caricatures on Google.

View the Cher cartoons on Google.

While I was looking for caricatures of Cher, I found this amazing site by a Quebec artist designing Cher on Playing Cards inspired by her songs. I wish they were for sale.

Correction: They are on sale! (Thanks for the link Cher scholar Dishy)

Unt2itledHere is a new cartoon by the same artist named inkjava.

 

 

 

 

And of course, the most famous caricature of Cher of all... Logo

I'll have to refer back to Josiah Howard's Strong Enough book to learn who designed it.

   


Cher Walks Down Memory Lane

SoncherIt's fascinating and unusual-seeming when Cher does things everybody else does, like visit places where you used to live. Maybe she's been feeling nostalgic. 

TMZ reports Cher revisited one of her S&C homes, apparently one of the early ones, said to be off Lauren Canyon Drive in the Hollywood Hills where S&C lived around 1964-5 before the money started rolling in and they moved to Encino, the “Good Times” house.

She hadn’t been back for 49 years and she just dropped in “unannounced,” the way only celebrities can.

Current homeowner, Daniel Dreifussher, was not at home. I guess you should never leave your house in case some celebrity who once lived there happens by. Dreifussher's roommate answered the door and Cher was there with her two assistants (cum backup bodyguards).

She was described as “down to earth and super sweet.” Apparently she wasn’t able to see her old bedroom, however, which is too bad because she says she spent all her time in their bedrooms.

Read more at:

    
 


New D2K Dates On Sale Friday

CollageNew concert dates have been posted for sale Friday morning.

There is one show coming close to me in Lubbock, Texas. I seriously considered buying tickets for this one. I really want to see the new Cherfits. I should also visit Lubbock, where my recently-departed aunt used to live. My other aunts, (her sisters), tell me there a windmill museum there I should see.

Cherfits, windmills: it's pretty tempting but Lubbock is five hours away and by November 9th I will either be out of a job or starting a new job making less money. Plus the concert is Sunday night. It's all too extravagant for these transition-y times. Boo hoo!

I'm still holding out hope for a show in AlbuquerKAY, which is bigger than Lubbock, by the way!

But at least Lubbock is excited about it.

  


More Celebrity Deaths

CherjoanThis has been a rough month for losing celebrities.

After seeming to be a day away from intensive care yesterday, Joan Rivers has died as a result of complications from vocal cord surgery. 

Cher and Joan once swapped garage sale stories on The Tonight Show, where Cher would appear when Joan was guest hosting. Cher was also one of Joan’s inaugural guests on her own late-night show.

Later there were rumors of a tiff between them, but a few years ago they seemed to have reconciled and Cher posted many supportive tweets over the last few days.

"Just heard about Joan. My heart will break. I'm still betting on her." and "Hey Joan, hurry and get well. I know you and you're the toughest chick on our block."

If you want to get an idea of how tough Joan Rivers really was, watch her documentary, A Piece of Work (2010). My favorite part of the documentary of Joan Rivers was seeing her rifle through her elaborate cabinet of organized jokes.

Cherjoan2Cher also said, "I love her! Have known her since Uncle Sam was Nephew Sam."

Cher also posted the above photo on twitter. A twitter fan asked Cher, "Do you still have that dress? It's gorgeous!" Cher replied, "I can get one toe into it! You must realize that I was almost 5-foot-8 and weighed 106 pounds until 48. Wee little thing."

Cher also defended Joan’s daughter, Melissa: "Shame on those who say 'Melissa refuses to believe a world might exist without her mom Joan Rivers in it'. She loves her mom. We all do. Heartless... They have no empathy. It's a story to them. For Melissa, it's her beloved mother, whom she might lose. Their lives are intertwined."

At right, Elton John, Cher, PeeWee Herman and Joan Rivers on the first episode of The Late Show with Joan Rivers. Read more at Cher News.

BettybLauren Bacall also passed away on August 12.

Cher posted: "To Have & Have Not" along with a crying icon.