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March 2017

Cher Slays the BBMAs

BillboardmagIt took me a moment to gather my thoughts this week and this is going to be a long post. Very exciting stuff going on and some of it very important to Cher scholarship.

The 71st Birthday Tributes

Remember last year on Cher’s 70th birthday when we had a plethora of celebratory articles? This year there were far fewer but then people were already talking about Cher’s Billboard award instead. Still there were some:

10 Facts You Didn’t Know About Cher - They even take issue with the fact that she’s not in the Hall of Fame yet.

Cher's Most Iconic & Controversial Fashion Moments of All Time (E! Online)

Our Favorite Quotes (Biography)

Cher: A life in photos

A Star Is Born: Cher turns 71 today (LA Times!)

Midriffs, Wigs, Sparkles & Boots: Cher’s Glam Concert Style Over the Years (Footwear News) - Footwear News??

Cher: See Her Top 10 Most Outrageous Outfits Ever

#BornThisDay: Cher (World of Wonder)  (thanks to Tyler)

Cher at 71: Her most incredible outfits in pictures (thanks to Tyler)

Bonus! Tour Cher's California Homes (Architectural Digest)

Kim Kardashian even had her own subset of birthday tweets and articles resulting from those tweets:

Billboard Sweetness

So, in support of Cher’s Icon award, Billboard Magazine did a series of tributes to her (see more in my opinion post, Cher’s Musical Oeuvre).

The interview: Cher Sounds Off on Trump's 'Cheating' & Why She's 'Not a Fan' of Her Six Decades of Hits

The article tallies up more famous Cher fans, (so now we have Pink, Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani, and the already-mentioned Tracy Chapman and Chrissie Hynde). Pink calls Cher a smart “sharpshooting rock star.” The article covers facets of her reputation: her blunt opinions, clothes, her swearing, her “fearlessness.” It culls out her award winnings and record breaking chart appearances. This is an old school article that actually sends a reporter to visit Cher in her Cher lair. (Remember those interviews?) The article touches on her androgyny and how she solidified an image on her television shows as “a woman who claimed privileges usually reserved for men, including honesty, independence and confident sexuality.” That’s even understated IMHO. The article also talks about The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour’s technical innovations with chroma key. Author Rob Tannenbaum calls her current live show set a Parisian flophouse (nails it there) and says the show is “dizzying, festive and cheeky.” He calls her image during Geffen era the MILK of hair metal (funny and not totally off the mark).

This seems like a typo though: “There was one problem: no evident lack of talent.” Why would no lack of talent be a problem? There’s also at least one factual error,  stating that since Believe Cher has only released one album on a major label. She’s released two (Living Proof and Closer to the Truth on the same label).

The article states Cher has 3.3 million twitter followers and that Buzzfeed calls her “the world’s most beloved Twitter user.” (Sweet.)

Chad Michaels on Cher's Musical Legacy & What It's Like Impersonating the Pop Icon to Her Face

Michaels credits Cher with pioneering the music video on her 70s TV shows and talks about age-bracketing his shows for content. He calls Cher not only the Goddess of Pop but the Queen of Rock and Roll (yeah, let’s get that one going). He admits “it must be strange for any celebrity to come face to face with an impersonator” and he talks about working on stage parodies of Witches of Eastwick.

RaptureWhy Cher Is More Musically Radical Than You Think

This is an awesome piece by Joe Lynch who  talks about the sexism inherent in rock criticism. He gives only a partial list of Cher’s accolades, (awards, sales, endurance, record breaks), and says “Cher’s impact as a musical force is unfairly disregarded or minimized.” He says music history is “refracted through a male, rock-privileging lens. But it’s also a casualty of music fans’ obsession with authenticity.” I would argue that even under the authenticity rubric, (which is ludicrous in what is essentially a posing industry), the standards are not evenly applied depending upon the rock clique you belong to.

Lynch argues that it’s not even fair to judge artists who don’t have full control over their material because even auteur-film-directors don’t have full control of theirs. I think we can look even closer than film: did The Ronnettes fully control their material? Did any Phil Spector artists have full control? Because many of them are in the Hall of Fame. Lynch gives Cher credit for auto-tune and she should get credit for fighting for it if not coming up with the idea for it on her song “Believe,” (even though I think that is a problematic accolade in rock music, again around issues of authenticity).

We can all agree, like Lynch says, that Cher didn’t pioneer genres or “take lyrics to new poetic heights” but she did “forge an iconoclastic path for vocal and visual androgyny in pop culture that’s frequently overlooked.” (I would argue she also did that with glam rock).

And for the storyteller songs most derided in Cher’s catalog Lynch says, “It’s absurd to argue those songs could have been as effective in the hands of another singer—sure they’re good story-songs, but Cher’s delivery is what makes these admittedly dated pop songs resonate…” Lynch says Cher “teed things up for people like Bowie and Patti Smith, and the world would certainly be different if she hadn’t stayed so irrevocably Cher from the start.”

A Look Back on Her Film & TV Career

GwenHow Cher Transformed Fashion And Became One Of The Most Influential Style Icons In Red Carpet History

This article notes Cher’s influence on Katy Perry, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna, saying she has “left a trail of glittering breadcrumbs across the mood boards of designers and musicians.” Author Brooke Mazurek calls her “the original red carpet renegade and provides quotes from Michale Kors, Vogue Editor Andre Leon Talley and the Fashion Institute of Technology’s curator Kevin Jones. Mazurek also draws a line back to Marlene Dietrich and Josephine Baker and has Bob Mackie crediting Cher with bringing ethnicity to 1970s TV. (That is also a big thesis of the book Off-White Hollywood by Diane Negra).

Cher's 'Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves': Why It's One of the 20th Century's Greatest Songs

This is a great piece by Rob Tannenbaum who wrote the lead story. Cher is dismissive about the song and the length of the recording session but Tannenbaum calls the song “one of the most majestic pop hits ever made…a tale recounted at breakneck speed, of sexual hypocrisy…female and class consciousness…voyeuristic like a pulp novel…redeemed by a brash confidence Cher gives the narrator.”

Tannenbaum goes on to explicate the complicated story line, the implications of which most people blithely ignore as they sing along. This is real professional scholarship here! This could be a undergrad lit paper! Tannenbaum even deconstructs the song musically:

“The song feels urgent partially because of the breakneck pace: the band plays at 171 beats per minute. (For comparison, the Ramones’ “Beat On the Brat” is 157 BPM, and Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” is 164.) When she reaches the chorus, Cher suddenly sings way in front of the beat, an expression of anxiety. The lavish arrangement feels vaguely “ethnic” or “exotic,” thanks to mandolin and calliope, and also threatening, due to the irregular meters and some shreds of dissonance. It has the grandeur of a Phil Spector production, but with B-movie horror mixed in to it.”

He points out that Cher is never sexually “apologetic or sorrowful…but savoring freedom and rebellion… delivers the line [“Papa would have shot him if he knew what he’d done”] with chilling delight…[making] it one of the most lurid and sexy lines in pop music, merely through implication.”

The song, written by Bob Stone, has “plot, detail and emotional complexity, and Cher belts it with a punkish defiance. As a song about prejudice, poverty, and the consequences of pregnancy for working-class women, 'Gypsys' has aged beautifully.” Yes, indeed.

Cher's 10 Best Trump Tweets

I love Billboard Magazine’s implicit affection for Cher’s anti-Trump tweets here. It’s their own condemnation of Trump and such a reflection of the mainstream, they let it go without any qualification or judgement. The article credits Cher as an advocate of LGBT and women’s rights, her political activism. Lauren Tom calls her a “a pioneer of female autonomy during a male-driven era.”

Older related links

Bob Mackie's Archives Unveiled: Iconic Designer for Cher & Diana Ross Gives Billboard a Peek Behind the Curtains (Oct 2016)

See Bob Mackie's Sketches for Classic Madonna, Cher & Tina Turner Gowns

Press Before the Show

SpeechThe internet was also full of stories rehashing the Billboard interview and reacting to Cher’s admission, (not nearly a new one), that she hates her own music. Every time she says that, people respond in such surprise.

After the BBMAs Coverage

My two cents: award shows seem now to be just excuses for launching elaborate musical performances from big arenas. I'm bored with it already, especially the Byzantine performances of Nicki Minaj (and ten variations of her throughout the night). I did enjoy the Chainsmokers (although it sounds like nobody else did), Julia (I like that funny "Issues" song), and Lorde's very inventive performance pretending to be at a karaoke club. I thought Celine was understated but great per usual (that crazy dress!). She had a lovely chandelier to sing under.

Gwen Stefani introduced Cher who then sang "Believe" and then we watched a career reel while Cher changed into the hole-fit and sang "Turn Back Time" and then accepted her award. I liked her speech which threw some props to Phil Spector, the Wrecking Crew, her mom, Sonny, David Geffen, Diane Warren and luck. Watch Celine Dion sing along to Cher.

GIF of Cher saying she can do a five minute plank.

Spend an afternoon with Cher GIFs!


Cher’s Musical Oeuvre

GtthApologies but I wrote this after finishing the dual-biography The Youth of Cezanne & Zola by Wayne Andersen (and seeing the movie Cezanne and Moi last week) so if I start to sound too academic, slap me and tell me to snapoutavit.

To be honest, I wasn’t overly excited about Cher’s Icon award from Billboard recently served. What did it even mean? Cher even admitted the word Icon was stupid last week. That said, I WAS exceedingly, super-duperly excited about the set of Billboard articles that came out last week in support of the award. They were scholarly and explored various facets of Cher’s “genius at the zeitgeist,” to borrow David Geffen’s idea. It all felt like a landmark-y change-in-the-tide week in terms of Cher criticism, at least a tide coming to pass outside of Cher zines and blogs.

These two pieces were impressive:

Why Cher Is More Musically Radical Than You Think by Joe Lynch

Cher's 'Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves': Why It's One of the 20th Century's Greatest Songs by Rob Tannenbaum

And it's significant there are young male writers...in that are we getting hipster men to admit there is value in Cher's music.

Gtth2But it feels a little weak that during the very week that mainstream male critics have turned a corner describing Cher’s oeuvres, (as they are multiple), and Cher gets her first serious accolades for something beyond movies, costumes or Twitter posts, (although Billboard historically has always been very kind to Cher's albums if not laudatory), Cher once again announces that she hates her music and even some tracks we previously assumed that she liked (the song "Believe" or the whole of It’s a Man’s World).

It’s quiet extraordinary and, as a pseudo-scholar, I never know quite what to make over Cher’s condescension about her own music.

She’s been in the business such an unbelievably long amount of time that it’s hard to keep hearing that she’s had little opportunity to produce the kind of music she likes, (beyond the Geffen material which was produced over a tiny five-year span of 1987 to 1991). She supposedly now has the means and hopefully the confidence to show us all more of what true Cher music should be, but she has kept capitulating to other plans.

You can always say No. And although Cher might not be as ballsy as she comes across, she was ballsy enough to last 50 years and ballsy enough to say no to even Sonny Bono and David Geffen eventually. It’s long past the time when Cher needs to be intimidated or misled by male producers, lovers and Svengalis.

Gthth4It also seems apparent that musical artists have more autonomy over projects than actors would, albeit still dependent on record companies (outside of DIY projects). After 5 decades of not saying No to material you don’t like, you’re simply left with the oeuvre you have. What is to be gained by distancing yourself from it, beyond recurring shame or wanting to be respected by various persons who also dismiss your genres and efforts.

And it should be said, this isn’t another case of an artist simply being dissatisfied with their efforts or a singer disliking the sound of her voice. That kind of self-criticism is always self-tempered: "I tried to do something and didn’t quite get there." It’s different to say “it’s all rubbish”.

Gtth3In Cher’s case it always feels like the dismissals are some sort of internalized, male-privileged shame-criticism of the kind you’d hear from a Gregg Allman fan or KISS fan. And I realize I’m psycho-analyzing here from a distance,  but the problem is that these personal dismissals exacerbate and perpetuate the existing, arguably-sexist and rock-snobbist dismissals about Cher's music that you'd get from older critics and the rock establishment of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Cher music = uncool.

It's very possible Cher herself is a rock snob.

As a Cher fan since the age of 5, I've heard a lot of rock snobbery. I had two older brothers who were teen fans of the Beatles, Styx and Montrose. I heard everything by the time I was seven and I've written a lot about the false idea of authenticity in an industry of institutionalized posing. Cher=uncool is the baseline of all of it.

And it that’s the praise you seek, praise from old white men, I can see why you would want to distance yourself from their judgements. But the reality is that many ground-breakers never fully reveal during their own time and there are many Cher scholars among us who challenge those white male judgements.

Which is what has always made being a Cher fan feel so rebelliously brave.

  


The Armenian Poets

CherarmeniaOn Big Bang Poetry, I’ve been doing blog posts about protest poetry ("Protest Poetry and Resistance Poetry are Flourishing") and one of the books I mention, Against Forgetting, 20th Century Poetry of Witness, edited by poet Carolyn Forche, starts with two Armenian poets.

For Armenians there are the best of times and the worst of times. The most famous Armenian superstar in the world is now winning icon awards and yet barely 100 years ago her ancestors were being slaughtered in the first modern genocide.

“Any 20th century history of human rights and genocide must begin with the massacre of Armenians, then the largest Christian minority population of Turkey…Between 1909 and 1918…1.5 million Armenians were massacred by order of the Ottoman Turkish government...Historians have called [it] the first “modern” genocide…the first instance of political mass murder made possible by advanced technology and modern communications."

Siamanto

SiamantoThe first poet, named simply Siamanto, was himself executed on April 24, 1915.

This passage from his poem “Grief” sounds eerily familiar in reference to Trump and those who have and those who have not, although admittedly on a much smaller scale than genocide.

“And this evening before sunset
all of you will go back to your houses,
whether they are mud or marble,
and calmly close the treacherous
shutters of your windows.
Shut them from the wicked Capital,

shut them to the face of humanity,
and to the face of your god…
even the lamp on your table
will be extinguished
by your soul’s clear whispers.”

Siamanto’s poem “The Dance” is absolutely horrific, a poem about a group of Armenian women made to dance naked in public until they were exhausted, then lit of fire with kerosene. The poem ends with Siamanto saying “How can I dig out my eyes.”

His poems were translated by Peter Balakian and Nevart Yaghlian.

More about Siamanto

His bust was dedicated in Yerevan.

Remembering the Armenian Genocide thru Siamanto’s Poetry

Vahan Tekeyan

3799The second Armenian poet in the anthology is Vahan Tekeyan. He escaped execution due to being in Jerusalem on business and lived in exile until his death. I loved all his poems in the book.

"Forgetting"

"Prayer for the Threshold of Tomorrow

Does this remind you of anything?

“Let the fortress of egos,
that huge barricade,
crumble.”

The poem “Dream” is about the dead coming back from heaven and “a wolf slinking off, surprised to see his victims again.”

And "The Country of Dust," is a great poem about being small and scattered and dispersed like dust:

“But hope
rises like the sun. Accumulate. Dust consolidates into stone.”

His poems translated by Diana Der Hovanessian and Marzbed Margossian.

More about Vahan Tekeyan

A bootleg book of his poems which must be out of print.

Sixty-five Years after His Demise, His Vision is Alive and Growing

 

You can also read the Anthology of Armenia Poetry.

Famous culture critic Theodor Adorno once said there can be no poetry after the holocaust. This was often taken to mean there can be no beauty after such atrocities. But academics believe he really meant that there could be no poetry because the state would co-opt it for their own purposes. Carolyn Forche begins her anthology quoting German poet Bertolt Brecht, almost in response, who said:

“In the dark times, will there also be singing?
Yes, there will be singing.
About the dark times.”


Cher History: Marriages, Music, Hair, Movies and TV

ChergreggGossip

Cher's marriage to Gregg Allman was revisited by Inquisitir: “inside their whirlwind marriage.”

 

 

Music

And on the site AV Club, death-fuled songs from the 70s place "Dark Lady" in the same league with Barry Manilow's "Copacabana" and “I Don’t Like Monday’s” by The Boomtown Rats.

Death-songs

Speaking of their "Copacabana" video, watch some bad, unenthusiastic lip-synching and awkward dancing from a dapper and youthful Barry Manilow in that video. He even does a Cher-like costume change!

I love that guy. “Don’t fall in love. Don’t fall in love.”

They also list "Indian Reservation" by Paul Revere and the Raiders (see the stats article).

CherhairFashion

Is Cher hair still a trend? The article references Kim Kardashian but she just cut her hair.

Thanks to Cher scholar Tyler for this article on the Five decades of Cher outfits from CBS News.

 

 

 

 

 

R.I.P.

Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour producer Chris Bearde has died. Mr. Cher Scholar always snickers these days when the credits roll and his name appears as chrisbearde.

Cher-chris

Cher’s late-1970s manager, (before 80s-era Bill Sammeth), Sandy Gallin, (whom for years I thought was a woman) has also died.  (Thanks Cher scholar Michael for that link.) Another story from the gruesomely named Deadline.com.

Cher-sandy

This TV site mistakenly attributes Cher’s tweet about Bearde to be about Gallin.

But on the brighter side, Cher says her mom is doing better.

Cher80sMovies

I've been finding a lot of interviews on YouTube that were obscure since the 1980s. I will try to blog about them as I can. This is one of the best, a great German interview for Witches of Eastwick and Cher's Geffen Records era debut.  In it, Cher says she and Sonny were the first hippies in the world.

 

GlencTelevision

Cher scholar Tyler found this amazing bit of scholarship on YouTube, a fascinating medley between Sonny, Cher and Glen Campbell, a medley proving that when art is concerned, conservatives and liberals can get along.

 
You can also watch the full 1976 episode of Sonny & Cher on Donny & Marie

Dandm


Cher News: Billboard Awards, Classic Cher, Armenians, Birthdays, Right Wing Media

Cher-billboardBillboard Awards

The big news is that Cher will be on the Billboard Awards May 21, (a day after her 71st birthday), at 5 pm Pacific, (check your local times and stations), to receive the Icon award and to sing "Believe." News announcing the award:

- http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Cher-to-sing-Believe-at-Billboard-Music-Awards-11120512.php

- http://www.eonline.com/news/848448/cher-to-perform-live-at-an-award-show-for-the-first-time-in-15-years-you-better-believe-it

I heard this and wondered, doesn’t Cher already have a Billboard award from the 2000s. I checked Wikipedia's Cherwards page and found she's won the Artist Achievement award in 2002 (see pic to the left with her son Elijah, who considerately matched his hair color to her dress).

What’s the difference between these awards you may want to know. Cursive research shows nothing. This is the Billboard list of award categories and who has won the big categories like Artist Achievement and ICON. The Icon Award gets a dedicated Wikpedia page for some reason but with no explanation worth the effort: " to recognize music singers and contribution."

Here is Steven Tyler announcing Cher's Achievement award in 2002. It seems like a "lifetime achievement" from how Tyler frames it - the definition of longevity - and Tyler gives no mention of what the award recognizes or represents officially. These awards seem willfully vague and I'm starting to dub them Empty Hat Awards. Not that it's every boring to watch Cher win awards. Or satisfying for Cher scholarship.

Cher-vegas-coverClassic Cher Show

More press for the Classic Cher show from a Cher cover story in Vegas Magazine.

https://lasvegasmagazine.com/entertainment/2017/apr/28/cher-las-vegas-park-theater-monte-carlo/

https://vegasmagazine.com/cher-on-sonny-bono-oscars-and-vegas-residency

This led me to find other covers of Cher’s millennial Vegas shows:
 

Vegas2000s Dfb6d5c3ee1f9256ca4cc377948ba425

 

 

 

  

Promise2The Armenians

PromiseCher recently attended the premiere of the Armenian Genocide movie The Promise and has been promoting it. From Armenian Radio.

You can also see who else is promoting the movie. And see a story about what Cher wore to the premiere. More from Extra TV.

Cher was photographed on red carpet with Armenians Kourtney and Kim Kardashian. Story on Daily Mail saying they could be sisters.

Paparazzi also caused a scene chasing Cher while she was going out to eat.

After news of the Met Gala this year, Cher said she might attend next year. Time Magazine covered this story.

Politics

Last week was yet another example of seeing the lowdown right wing media lies in action. Various conservative news sources, led by Breitbart News and FOX News, gleefully ridiculed Cher's dismayed tweets about the health care bill passing in the U.S. House. Slate correctly reported that Cher's comments had been misconstrued. (No shit?)

For years they've tried to label her a has-been, (she's winning a Billboard ICON award this month), and yet right-wing media never stops trying to ridicule her tweets. The effort never quite goes mainstream for them. In the infamous words of Trump: So sad.

Birthday!

Cher celebrates her 71st birthday this month. See other famous 1946 birthdays.


Nerdy Cher Stuff: Poetry & Statistics

Javier-collectionPoetry

It’s very exciting for me when my poetry and Cher blogs overlap. That’s the kind of nerd I am. And they have been overlapping lately.

I finished another year of the NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) challenge, which involves writing a poem a day for the month of April. No easy feat, especially when you commit to following the prompts, which I did this year.

The prompt of April 26 was to write a poem about how an archaeologist in the future would make sense of our culture. In my poem, archaeologists uncover my garage full of Cher memorabilia. To the left is a picture of Cher scholar Javier Ozuna's very fine Cher collection. Mine is not nearly this extensive but imagine archeologists coming upon this scene and trying to write up a thesis on it.

It’s rare that I do a Cher poem. I don't know why. I think I’ve only done two really crappy ones and those were over 20 years ago. I called this poem “The Relics of Very Tiny Religions.” 

I'm back to enjoying the Cher/Sonny & Cher shows on GetTV. There have also been quite a few skits that are new to me. Either previous TVLand of VH1 episodes skipped them or on was a fully new episodes for me.  This segment floored me. It's a bad recording from a bad recording but it’s Cher reciting the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling.  Cher references the cartoonist Sergio Aragonés, who you might recognize from 1970s MAD magazines and books. Cher, like everybody else, can’t help but recite in “the poem voice,” a kind of plodding tone everybody uses when reading poems for some reason. There are some prophetic moments of the cartoon and poem, including...

Narcissm If

 

 

 

 


...the bits about narcissism and political corruption.

There’s more Cher/poetry commentary to come because I’m really into protest poetry right now  and reading the mother anthology of protest poetry, “Against Forgetting, 20th Century Poetry of Witness,” the first section of which is poets of the Armenian genocide.

ReadersguideStatistics

At work I often do usage research on Google Analytics and keyword research on Google Trends. When I start to learn any new research tool, I always test it out by plugging 'Cher' into the system to see how it works. I've done this my whole life, since learning how to use the green periodical lookup books at the school library when I was a tween.They were very boring books but led to all the articles of Cher in People Magazine and Ladies Home Journal that I could check out in the library which was a great incentive to plunging into the nerd universe.

Anyway, plugging Cher into Google Trends led me to discover two great new-to-me Cher sites:

Paul_Revere_And_The_Raiders_-_Indian_Reservation And I've had Google Analytics on my blogs for over a year now. The most popular page result is a blog post I did in 2008 about the fact that Cher did not ever release a recording or perform live the song people search for as “Cherokee People” or “Cherokee Nation.” The song is actually a Paul Revere & the Raiders song called "Indian Nation." I tallied up the results from an entire year and 649 people made that search and visited my blog to be disabused of that erroneous belief. A huge amount of people associate Cher with that song.

Last month my search queries also showed a very funny result for “cher all i wanna do is make love to you lyrics” confusing bombastic Heart with bombastic Cher. Due to this I looked up that song. On Wikipedia it says:

Heart-80sAnn Wilson commented on the band's dislike for the song, stating, "Actually we had sworn off it because it kind of stood for everything we wanted to get away from. It was a song by "Mutt" Lange, who we liked, and it was originally written for Don Henley, but there was a lot of pressure on us to do the song at the time." Ann Wilson has made a number of comments on her dislike for the song, calling the song's message "hideous" in an interview with Dan Rather. In that same interview, Ann mentions that she's surprised at how many of their fans, especially in Australia and New Zealand, want to hear the song to this day when Heart plays live (Heart does not perform it live anymore despite the requests).”

Watch the video.