Tons of Cher Scholarshiping

BelieveOver the summer I did a bit of Cher scholarship and some awesome scholarship came to me.

Chart Masters

One of the most exciting things was this analytics data Cher scholar Aurélien sent me, this study conducted by the site Chart Masters. I love this nerdy stuff! Numbers have been crunched to combine physical sales, compilation and live album sales with digital sales to get a better understanding of a song or artist’s overall popularity. For longtime Cher fans, there aren’t many surprises in this report, but it's still fascinating nonetheless, especially the streaming aspect. Madonna fans in the comments took great umbrage with the new Cher moniker “goddess of pop” (was this a fan label or a press one, I never did know). This week my friend Ann suggested the title "the Nefertiti of Pop Music," but the article suggests possibly a more accurate alternative moniker: the “Godmother of All Divas.”

Something to keep in mind, these statistics don’t take into account Cher's popularity in movies, television programs or any other products and these diminutive sales might prove that Cher’s true popularity lies more in other products beyond music, which makes the longevity of her career making music (to date: 1964-2017) and the Billboard record breaking stats all the more mysterious.

BelievealbumRanking of Top Albums

The first section lists the sales of albums, both physical and digital. I’ve re-ordered the list by top albums by total world sales. However, early 60s and 70s albums numbers were  hindered by the fact that apparently few people invested in buying full albums (is this true?) and there weren’t many international sales. The deep catalog is also severely compromised by the fact that almost a decade of Cher’s output has never been officially released digitally (on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube).

  • Believe – 11,800,000
  • Heart of Stone – 6,000,000
  • Love Hurts – 3,500,000
  • Cher (1987) – 2,050,000
  • Burlesque Soundtrack – 1,375,000
  • Look at Us – 1,300,000 (the best of 60s albums)
  • Living Proof – 1,125,000 (said to be bomb because it landed next to Believe but it doesn’t seem awful, like other Cher bombs below)
  • Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves – 1,000,000 (strong comeback for the time)
  • It’s a Man’s World – 850,000
  • All I Ever Need Is You – 700,000
  • Half Breed – 600,000 (half of Gypsies)
  • Closer to the Truth – 600,000
  • Take Me Home – 550,000 (not as good as Half Breed)
  • All I Really Want to Do – 450,000 (second best of the 60s)

CherishedRanking of Albums That Didn’t Do So Well

  • Foxy Lady – 375,000
  • The Sonny Side of Cher – 325,000
  • Dark Lady – 300,000 (I was surprised at this low ranking considering the album had a #1 hit attached to it; but maybe being in the middle of a highly publicized divorce with the sad end of a popular television show compromised its chances. But it’s nutty to me that Foxy Lady outperformed it.)
  • Cher (1966) – 250,000
  • With Love, Cher – 250,000
  • Wondrous World of S&C – 250,000
  • In Case You’re in Love – 250,000
  • Good Times Soundtrack – 150,000
  • Stars – 125,000 (sad results for three of Cher’s best albums, Stars, Backstage and 3614 Jackson Highway)
  • Backstage – 100,000
  • 3614 Jackson Highway – 100,000
  • Bittersweet White Light -- 100,000
  • Mama Was a Rock and Roll Singer – 75,000
  • I’d Rather Believe in You – 75,000
  • Prisoner – 75,000
  • Cherished – 50,000
  • Two the Hard Way – 50,000
  • I Paralyze – 50,000

Single Rankings

The single “Believe” is a legitimate phenomenon and all the more so for Cher being 52 at the time.

  • Believe – 7,020,000
  • I Got You Babe – 2,870,000
  • Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves – 2,370,000
  • Half Breed – 1,850,000
  • If I Could Turn Back Time – 1,780,000
  • The Shoop Shoop Song – 1,710,000
  • Bang Bang – 1,570,000
  • Dark Lady 1,510,000
  • The Beat Goes On – 1,360,000
  • Baby Don’t Go – 1,300,000
  • All I Ever Need Is You – 1,290,000
  • Little Man—1,270,000 (I’m very surprised this song made the list; I always assumed it was a minor hit.)
  • Strong Enough – 1,170,000
  • A Cowboy’s Work Is Never Done – 1,140,000
  • Just Like Jesse James – 1,010,000

Take Me Home doesn’t even make the list. Due to the funkiness of the disco era where they were counting 12-inch singles and chart rankings based on units shipped, the single was certified Gold and it charted #8 on the U.S. Billboard chart.

Other songs that charted in the U.S. but did not make the sales list: After All, Walking in Memphis, The Way of Love, You Better Sit Down Kids, I Found Someone, We All Sleep Alone, All I Really Want to Do, Love and Understanding, and Heart of Stone.

I found it interesting that even for streaming statistics on old catalog albums that have been released digitally, the blips that did occur in sales were usually for single releases, even non-successful singles, for instance a song like “Carousel Man.“ Sometimes music companies make strange choices for singles, (“Sing C’est La Vie” instead of “I Got You Babe” being a famous example of Sonny having to fight the ideas of Ahmet Ertegun at ATCO). You’d think streaming would even the playing field a bit, especially for young people who don’t have the cultural memory of what those unsuccessful single releases even were. According to MJD, this is because most users on Spotify rely on playlists, which just reinforce the "best" of an era.

Some of the charts also have misapplied orphan songs that really belong in another artist category, (Cher versus Sonny & Cher), are actually from soundtracks or live albums or may just be bootlegs.

The brutal summary is that Cher has a dead catalog compared to other artists Chart Masters has studied. I don’t know how she compares to other artists her age or other artists who began releasing material in the 1960s, (besides The Rolling Stones and the Beatles). But Chart Masters does list the records she has broken: longest span between two hits (she’s 8 years ahead of Michael Jackson), oldest artist to have a top Hot 100 song, “Believe” is also the most successful album from an artist over 50, and she’s one of the few artists to win an Oscar, Grammy, Emmy and a Golden Globe.

Cher in Music Guides (It's Never Pretty)

I posted this article a few months ago (http://www.ninjajournalist.com/entertainment/secrets-cher/) but I revisited it over the summer. I like the thematic dissections of Cherness and the article points out that the Burlesque soundtrack was nominated for Grammy. Really? It was and it also won the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association Campy Film of the Year. It must have been a camp-free year. They  also call out the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Good!

But the article doesn’t debunk the silly rib removal story, passes an impersonator photo off as Cher, in once place Cher is spelled “share,” and the article claims S&C sang harmonies. They really didn’t. In one place it says Cher excelled in school despite her dyslexia and then later states she always got Cs and D.

Most interestingly, the article quotes writer Nicholas E. Tawa to say Cher’s voice is “bold, deep, and with a spacious vibrato.” That sounded like a rare compliment so I looked up the attribution. In his book Supremely American: Popular Song in the 20th Century (2005) Tawa spends a paragraph on Cher. Here’s the excerpt from Google books.

One small paragraph full of so many common inaccuracies about Cher.

“During the seventies, too, a new kind of performer came into view – the chameleon, always ready to adapt his or her public personality and tailor a singing style to suit the prevalent fashion.”

This is both true and not true. Sonny, Cher's first producer, was a bona fide folk rock artist. He picked the material and he didn’t change in the 1970s. He just handed Cher over to producer Snuff Garrett and so her music style changed. Cher never endorsed adult contemporary and fared only adequately with it (aside from 3 #1 hits), considering how long she was assigned this style by producers). Cher critics are constantly having it both ways. Tawa sees Cher as an exploiter of styles and cynical chameleon (when actually she felt powerless at the time to choose her material). Tawa even admits further down that some artists are “steered hither and yon.” But he must not be thinking of Cher here.

Tawa calls Cher a “case in point” of someone “who gave careful consideration to advancing her career.” If you’re a real student of Cher, you know her career is not Madonna-esque. It was always a fly-by-the-seat music career with occasional attempts at steering, some of which worked, but most of which did not. 

The Chart Master’s study above proves all this. As I said in my comments there: “Cher has never been a successful pop star in comparison (to Madonna) and yet she is consistently accused of being simultaneously too popular and calculated (by rock artists who never have pop hits) and not being popular and calculated enough (by fans of young pop hit-makers). This survey proves she is neither calculated nor popular. Which just makes her icon status all the more mysterious and remarkable.”

From Tawa, this is poor scholarship:

“In order to prove irresistible to her audiences, she had her nose and teeth straightened, her teeth capped, her breasts firmed up, and her body reshaped” and that this is why she succeeded.

First of all WTF does having your body reshaped even mean? That could simply mean twelve months at the gym. Secondly, Cher did have her nose and teeth done in her mid-40s, starting at her third decade of her career after the bulk of her music career was ostensibly over with. Those were fixes for her acting career, beyond the scope of this book on popular music. Other body amendments were allegedly made after pregnancies or in the 1990s and beyond. Tawa implies that she did all this as a young woman in order to make it in the music business. His chronology is completely off base but he plunges ahead with his conclusions.

When he lists her music styles, he includes 60s folk-rocker (true), pop-rock (true), wailed power ballads (is wail really the word one would use if Cher weren't a woman? Does Bon Jovi wail?), disco numbers (true, but why are disco songs always called “numbers”?),  New Wave glitter rock queen in the early 80s (one album of New Wave that was as far as queen-dom as you could possibly get, see album's ranking above), punk (ah, no), an exponent of arena-rock (ok maybe), and in a later reincarnation tried hip hop (is this a reference to It’s a Man’s World?). He leaves out dance (or as some would say Eurotrash) and the biggest hit of her career.

The Poet Scholar

A while back I posted the text of a poem called “Cher” by Dorianne Laux, who does a lot of pop culture pieces. The poem made the rounds again on a fan site and I decided to give it a closer reading and research other comments about it. There are some factual errors in the poem. And I hate to a Nelly-Nit-Pick but…a poem is all about particulars so...

  • Cher's labeled as tall. I guess she was perceived as tall on television but in reality looks tiny.
  • Laux says “before the shaving knife/took her…before they shoved/pillows in her tits” --Cher has never had huge breast implants, only breasts lifts…and even if she has had some, they are not quite “pillows inserted.” That was a huge recurring joke on the television shows, how flat Cher was. She may be bustier now...but not at a pillow level.
  • In general the language is vague and presents a weak ending that doesn’t really say anything: “singing in a sloppy alto/the oldest, saddest songs.”

But there are some really great lines too:

  • “bony shoulders draped/with a curtain of dark hair”
  • “nonexistent butt…I wanted to wear a lantern/for a hat”
  • “throaty panache, her voice/of gravel and clover, the hokum/of her clothes….bullet-hole navel….her crooked/teeth, hit-and-miss beauty” - all this stuff is great, if sometimes backhanded.

The poem originally appeared in a book called The Book of Men in 2011 but Laux re-published it in a book with her husband called Duets (2017). Laux says,

"All the poems are about music and musicians. I love rock ’n’ roll and pop music so my poems feature Cher and Dolly Parton, Mick Jagger, and Paul Simon. And Joe loves jazz and the blues so his poems are about Bo Diddley and Lightnin’ Hopkins, Ray Charles and Monk, among others.

And here:

"I’ve written poems about some of the icons of my time (Cher, Mick Jagger, the Beatles), and I’ve written poems about the artist Manet and his subject, Olympia, a failed poem about Van Gogh’s room in Arles. Those are obvious influences. But I think other influences are subtler and more profound. The music of my time included the harmonic complexities of Joni Mitchell, Simon and Garfunkel, The Beatles, the rough-edged energy of the Rolling Stones and Janis Joplin, the lonely solo of Otis Redding singing “Dock of the Bay.” This is a music I try to bring to my poems and look for in the poems of others."

The Cher poem is singled out here:

In “Cher,” the entire poem is a list of descriptors both plain and precise. Only two verbs activate the poem—and it’s the same verb—“wanted.” The movement comes in the swivels, the mini voltas that spin the poem along its axis. And, of course, how fitting to write a catalogue poem about J.C. Penney’s. It is as if the form was made for such a poem.

And here is a quote saved from Laux's defunct blog: 

"Laux wrote "Cher" after he husband Joe Millar gave her 10 words and told her to use them while saying something she'd wanted to say but hadn't. Laux took the chance to talk about her Cher envy."

So okay that makes sense. Cher envy. It doesn't even need to be based on reality. My bad.

BwlHow Does Cher Sound to a Classically Trained Musician?

And finally, my most favorite scholarshipping over the summer: a new interview and research project!

Musician Todd Grossman, a classically trained musician and teacher, took some time to discuss Cher and her oeuvre, her strengths and flaws all from a more professional perspective.
We talked about Cher’s 60s sound, ticks of self-consciousness, and an objective review on what’s still messy in her catalog and what was maybe overlooked.

Check it out!

Beat2The Idiom of The Beat Goes On

And now the research! I hear the phrase “the beat goes on” spoken as a common idiom constantly on the radio and I read it in print articles, attached to stories that have nothing to do with Sonny or Cher. And I started to wonder what people think this phrase means and how popular it might have become since 1967. I started a survey and found the phrase in lyric tributes, in Internet and scholarly articles and news stories, as book, album and movie titles, made into random images. Then I explored a possible etymology that predates Sonny’s lyric.

Check it out!

 


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.”


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.


Sonny & Cher on GetTV, Weeks 2 & 3

Believe-magicWeek 2 with Andy Griffith, 12/1/1972 (Third Season)

So we skip way ahead to Season 3 for this episode. Sonny & Cher sing The Lovin' Spoonful cover of "Do You Believe in Magic?" Cher did a much more mellow version on her 1968 album Backstage. Check out the study in eyeliner that is this video version. In their opening dialogue, Sonny covers his Detroit roots and Catholicism. All the while, I can't help but wonder what direction Sonny is hanging in those white pants.

BackbittersweetCher does the solo medley of "Sonny Boy," "My Mammy" and "Rocka-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody" that we've come to love from her 1973 Bittersweet White Light album. In this TV version, she looks androgynous in a suit and tie. Where is her hair under that short wig??

In the Vamp sketch they talk about Cher as a royal floozie and a common tart. The GetTV version skips the Cultural Spot sketch and Andy Griffith singing “Something Bigger Than You and I.” They did air "Headlines in the Paper" which is just a quick one-liner collage on current topics. I can't get into it.

BabyThe In Concert duet is an awesome one, Sonny & Cher singing Mac Davis' "Baby Don't Get Hooked on Me." I love this song. I love their version. Cher again wears the afro-extension wig, big earring hoops and they use those awesome, white 1970s mics and sing with such sincerity. I love it!

Mac Davis' version.

 

LoveWeek 3 with Danny Thomas and Telly Savalas, 9/19/73 (Fourth Season)

Late into this show they changed the animated intro and added Chastity who paints a subway scene. These subway intros showed mostly men riding into work, (with the exception of a female guest or Teri Garr). This skit makes a Lebanese joke on Danny Thomas' behalf and a Greek joke on Telly Savalas' name.

Sonny and Cher sing “I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love,” the Petula Clark song from 1966. Sonny is wearing a distracting amount of Italian jewelry bling, including the Sicilian horn and what looks like an Italian flag, along with some dramatic sideburns. Cher's eye makeup is great. She's wearing great earring hoops again and does some awesome hair flips. Sonny makes a Tiberius Bono Roman joke. They've started to cut up the opening song with short skits before the break point of the dialoging. I have to say I've always hated this (even as a little kid watching). It's too much song cut up. It feels chaotic and the skits are rarely worthy of any song interruption. Unfortunately, they ended up keeping that break-up formula for their divorce show.

There's a Civil War Confederate piece that's a play on sex roles: after a tearful farewell with Telly Savalas, Cher pounces off to battle in her Scarlett O’Hara dress. Cher, as Barbara Nauseous (is this a slam at Barbara Walters? And if so, why so harsh?), interviews Telly Savalas about posing nude in “women’s lib” magazines. Ahh, the 70s.  They were so quaint with words like "lib" and male nude centerfolds. I do a spoof on this phenomenon in the centerfold of Cher Zine 3.

LlBy now, the Vamp sketch has been replaced by the Lady Luck series. Here's an example of Lady Luck. The song is awkward in its low parts and so flat in comparison to the Vamp song. The series scope is also much more opaque. Plus this is just not a flattering dress. The S&C lore goes that in 1973 when S&C were fighting to the death Cher was depressed and getting thin. She is really thin in this episode. There's a Spanish skit with Cher in a very pretty traditional Spanish Senorita dress with a mantilla veil and Sonny playing a masked bandit. Cher also plays as old lady in a park and a jinked redheaded wife to Telly Savalas. Cher looks very thin in the housewife skit. In the green-screen finale where all these characters gather to sing the Lady Luck song there are three yellow-outfited characters, including Freeman King, who weren’t in any of the previous skits. WTF!

Sonny’s Pizza sketch is next. I'm hot and cold on this skit. Sometimes I love it. Sometimes I'm feeling eh. Sonny wears an almost-funny pizza clown outfit and Cher looks great in that curly wig and green eye makeup. The skits always feel so slow with lots of dead air between lines. I loved that pizzaria door, however, and wish I could find a picture of it.

The In Concert segment starts with their ceiling bank of lights being raised up. I love it when they do that! They sing the Temptations song "Get Ready.  Here is The Temptations version. Sonny wears a tux and Cher wears a gold dress and an uber-short wig. Again, where is her hair?? Could it really all fit under that short wig? We even get a back shot while they sing. Her hair is not hiding. That drives me nuts!

They to a Love Story spoof where Cher gets kisses with boys from Harvard, Princeton and Yale and a preview of The Village People. More great eye makeup and she looks good but tiny in a preppy outfit.

There's a Laverne sketch, At The Laundromat. For all the banter, no washing ever gets done. Cher arrives, dumps a hamper, folds a thing, and leaves.

GetTV doesn't air Danny Thomas singing “If I Didn’t Care” or Cher’s solo spot (WTF) of the band Bread's sappy hit “If.” Interestingly, Telly recorded this song in the mid-70s. His spoken word version was produced by Snuff Garrett and reached #1 in both the UK and the Republic of Ireland in March 1975.

The closing segment is one of the best. Chastity thinks Cher is old and says she thinks Cher is 4 years old. Sonny, she thinks, is 6 years old. They all discuss who holds the baby and when: Sonny on the show, Cher at Kiddie Land. Sonnny puts Chastity down and says, “Ret goes to s much trouble to match your outfit to mommy’s” [meaning costume designer Ret Turner] and we all get to see she's wearing an adorable version of Cher’s pink dress. Cher picks her up and tries to tell a story about the time Chastity didn’t want to be a girl anymore. Chastity covers her mouth and they all laugh. They end with a very affectionate version of "I Got You Babe."

The world is a very mysterious and surprising place, no?

AliThe Cher and Muhammad Ali Poem

Recently, in the service of art and literature, I decided to transpose the Cher and Muhammad Ali poem from the later Sonny & Cher show. Here it is with my commentary.

Announcer: Welcome, sports fans, to the Wide World of Poetry. Tonight we have a dandy [a shockingly dated slur against the masculinity of poets, a fob, a glamour boy…turn-of-the-century prejudice against men in the arts], the heavyweight poetry championship of the world.

Ali prepared by reading a rhyming dictionary and listening to a Rod McKuen album. McKuen died just last year.  Cher Bono Allman prepared by  sparing with Nipsy Russel.

Don Diphthong (Sonny) is the referee. [A Diphthong is a sound formed by the combination of two vowels in a single syllable like the word "coin."] Sonny says he will announce 15 rounds of poetry. Keep voices up and no iambic pentameter [five metrical feet, each foot with a stressed and unstressed syllable] allowed. In case of a pun [a joke exploiting the meaning of a word], go to a neutral corner. Shake hands and come out rhyming!

Sonny introduces Ali at 216 pounds of poetic power. The only man who actually did write a sonnet [fourteen lines, typically with a formal rhyme scheme] about an Easter bonnet. The Louisville Laureate, Muhammad Ali.

Ali: When a man sees you it on your nose he dwells.
It’s larger than Howard Cosell’s.

Cher: You know they’re filming your life story and there’s really no cause.
Cause it’s been on the screen once and they called the film Jaws.

Ali: I love your show and I admire your style.
But Cher, your pay is so cheap I won’t see you for a while.

Cher: You know I’m glad you turned to acting and writing.
Because my daughter could punch out those bums you’ve been fighting.

Sonny: Keep it moving. Watch the meter [the rhythmical pattern in a line of poetry].

Ali: I view your face each day although I’m not an admirer.
I always see your face on the
National Enquirer.

Cher: You know when you’re through fighting what will you do then?
You can’t be a ref cause you can’t count to ten.

Ali: That remark you just made was lower than low.
Just like the ratings you got when you had your own show.

Sonny: Good one Muhammad.

Timeout: Ali reads a book; Cher files her nails.

Cher:  You know they say you’re a giant from Maine to Montego,
but you’re really a shrimp with a six foot three ego.

Ali: You think you’re so smart but I’m gonna tell you something that’s funny.
It don’t take much smarts to be smarter than Sonny.

Sonny: Hey, that’s a low blow Muhammad. Not complaining.

Cher: You just got a divorce and one fact that’ll amaze you,
alimony can hit harder even than Frasier.

Ali: I changed my name once and they said I was a scamp
but in changing one’s last name, I believe you are the champ.

Cher: You know that last fight with Norton was rampant with friction,
did you win that fight or was that science fiction?

Cher:  You know you’re not like you were in the old days, mister.
You float like a hippo and you sting like my sister.

Cher: Your next fight with Forman they’ll call you the broom
cause old George will use you to sweep up the room.

Ali is knocked out. Sonny counts One, two, buckle my shoe. Three, four, close de door, five six pick up sticks. [English nursery rhyme from 1805]

Cher has won and agrees to a rematch but says Ali will have to beat Marie Osmond first.

Ali says she was in great condition. I never knew she had such great couplets [this match was in couplets, two lines of verse of meter and each line joined by a rhyme]. I was dancing, I was on my toes for the first four rhymes but the she hit me with a left quatrain [a poem stanza of four lines]. I was expecting a classical dactyl [meter consisting of one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables; ex: tenderly]. But then she came in with an anapestic [meter consisting of two short unstressed syllables followed by one stressed; example, the word "understand"] roundelay [a short song with a refrain; famous examples]. I want a rematch. I know I can beat that Marie Osmond.

[This was some effective acting by Ali who pretend to be out-of-breath during the fight.]  Watch the video.


Remember 9: The Last Resort?

Cher-as-gypsy-tellerI took a class in electronic literature this spring and we did play-throughs, those videos that show another player going through games so you don’t have to, for particularly literary video games. I loved the play-throughs. They're so much easier.

So this inspired me to look for play-through video for 9: The Last Resort, the Tribeca Interactive game Cher did voice-over work for in back in 1996. I never finished the game but now I sorta did!

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROons3_GCU8 (20 mins)
    2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mh9euOt4Wcw (22 mins)
    3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPbPft4UEPw (20 mins)
    4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=So3T4EJ7GPY  (17 mins)
    5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldx2o0YEtCg (18 mins)

Iconoclast187 is the player’s name and oddly he lists the celebrities voice-overs for the game, including ones that aren’t listed in the credits and don’t sound like who he says they are (Ellen Degeneres and Anne Heche). But at no point does he ever mentions Cher as doing the voice for Isadora, the mechanical gypsy fortune teller. Sound familiar? Is this legally typecasting?

It was kind of mesmerizing watching the play-through actually, although the Iconoclast187 is very snarky about the shortcomings of the game (about which I tended to agree...so much so that I stopped playing it 30 minutes in). He says things like, “That was certainly a collection of words” when he is aggrieved by the lack of clues in a long, Isadora speech. He seems to hate it when the game gets too easy or too hard.

This is the type of old computer game where you can only carry one thing at a time and you must complete tasks in a certain order, (and order completely unknown to you). God bless  Meatdress Iconoclast187 for sticking with it.

A lot of the story deals with themes on music with puzzles involving notes. There’s a very weird song at the end that thankfully Cher doesn’t sing.

Produced by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal, the cast includes Cher, James Belushi, Christopher Reeve, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. It also includes the artwork of Mark Ryden of the infamous meat dress painting.

Wikipedia states “The gameplay, coupled with the extremely high hardware requirements and the high cost of the game led to very few sales, and the game was remaindered… The name "9" refers to the nine muses which inhabit the resort (from Greek mythology). The muses are represented by various characters in the game."

Sounds fun.


Cher and Muhammad Ali

Cher-aliYou'd have to be in a news blackout not to have heard that entertainer/boxer Muhammad Ali just passed away.

Ali was a guest on the later Sonny & Cher Show and after his death last week this reel of his poetry, including the Cher vs. Ali boxing match, was distributed around Facebook. It's from  the January 14, 1977 episode.

Billboard.com published a retrospective of Ali that included Cher.

Cher's tweets:

Didn’t know Muhammad was dead At T.Hearns/Sugar Ray Fight in Vegas he explained boxing 2me.I Yelled,He Said Ooo-Wee Cher u got a mouth on u.  (from 4 June 2016, 1:22 a.m.)

Ran out of room,got caught up in memories.it was so much fun to be in ring with him.Son was like a kid. (from 4 June 2016, 1:38 a.m.)

Muhammad-Ali-and-Cher-billboard-1548

 


Recycled Cher Products

VhsnotebookAnother thing I got from the late Christmas exchange was a Mermaids Cher notebook not unlike this Moonstruck one! Both were made from recycled VHS boxes.

Getting it make me take stock of other Cher recycled  products that have gone functional out there.

Including record album cover notebooks:

  Notebook4 Notebook3 

 

 

 

 

And record album tote bags:

Bag Bag2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

People are so crafty!

While I was looking for these I came across this awesome bit of fan art for Stars:

Awesome!


The 50 Year Mark, Jon Stewart, Sonny's Park in DC, Chaz Play, Cher Art

Numberone!Music

Lots of people are talking about Cher’s 50th anniversary mark in the music industry this week. The lead article was this interview done for Billboard Magazine as her appearance on their chart (with Sonny) marks her entrée into the biz.

A few weeks ago I caught upon the cool blog Stargayzing when my Cher-friend Rick Hough sent me a link to the article he wrote on S&C first comeback, "The Sonny Bono Reinvention Act of 1971." It's well-written and has some great photos. In fact, Stargazing can keep you occupied for quite a few hours. There, I also found this amazingly awesome photo outtake of the Half Breed album cover by Gene Trindl. Read the post.

Hb-outtake

Speaking of Sonny…

SonnyBonoParkLast week I found this story, "How DC Ended Up With a Park Dedicated to Sonny Bono." Apparently the park is controversial due to some people thinking anyone with money can buy and dedicate a park to someone. Hello! That's pretty much what anyone can do with private property. Am I missing something here?

I also found out yesterday that Chaz Bono is promoting his own production company and a play this weekend in LA. I miss LA for things like this!

Sweet Tweets

Cher expressed dismay at John Stewart leave-taking from The Daily Show. Stephen Colbert, David Letterman, Jon Stewart: I can’t take this much media change!!!

Cher Art, My Favorite Category!

I found another piece of "What would cher do" art on Stargazer last week and our good Cher friend, Cher scholar Cherokee99, posted some Cher art here.

Cher Scholar Michael also sent me this hilarious bit of funny.

   


Honored in Brazil, Nick Vanoff, InStyle Mag, Kenneth Goldsmith

Cherbrasil14Been tied up doing the National Poetry Writing Month challenge this month (I have to write a poem a day) and obsessively watching episodes of Schitt's Creek, the new Canadian sitcom on Pop TV staring SCTV's Catharine O'Hara and Eugene Levy. Thankfully it's Canadian and may not get cancelled just because it's on Pop TV and no one knows where that is. It's very funny.

Cher Stuff

A few weeks ago I received a few missives from the Cher store that items were 50% off if you spent over $30. As it turned out only three items were 50% (of which I only wanted one) and to get over the $30 hurdle without buying a $75 sweatshirt you didn't want, you had to buy one of the other sucky three items. So I went over to ebay and bought a Mark Twain magazine to abate my shopping frustration.

Peripheral Stories

Nick Vanoff’s house for sale: ‘Sonny and Cher’ Producer’s Beverly Hills Estate Listing for $25 Million

(Wall Street Journal) (Realty Today)

EssexI love it when poetry and Cher collide. This month is full of that sort of thing. Remember David Essex on Cher's solo show? He now has a book of poems!

Take a look at him now and then watch him with Cher singing "The Long and Winding Road."

Honors & Awards

AIDS Activism

Cher was recently honored at the ‘Inspiration Gala’ in Brazil. 

Articles announcing the award:

Articles about Cher's visit to an art gallery before the ceremony:

Cher's tweet Saturday: "Brazil is lovely. Went to art show last nite & fell in love with MAGIC GOLDEN Art piece by 85 year old woman…IT WAS SOLD. HAD FUN ANYWAY."

Coverage of the event:

amfAR CEO Kevin Frost spoke passionately about amfAR’s Countdown to a Cure for AIDS initiative, with the goal of developing the scientific basis of a cure by 2020. Announcing a $100 million cure research investment strategy, Frost stressed that “amfAR has the will, the commitment, and the know-how to get this done, and to truly make AIDS history.” Frost then presented the amfAR Award of Inspiration to Cher. Speaking of her willingness and ability to use her fame for the greater good, Frost described her as one of the great champions in the fight against AIDS. Cher received a standing ovation and encouraged the audience to “help bring an end to this terrible disease” before bringing fellow honoree Jean Paul Gaultier on stage for a kiss.

Cher World has great coverage with lots of pics: http://www.cherworld.com/cher-news/cher-honoured-at-amfar-2015-brazil/ (Cher World covering the art gallery event:  http://www.cherworld.com/cher-news/cher-visits-brazil-for-charity-event/)

My favorite pics (click to enlarge):

 Cher-5th-Annual-amfAR-Inspiration-Gala-Sao-4NEBx9LJrUhl Cherbrasil15 Cher1  

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

   Cher-5th-Annual-amfAR-Inspiration-Gala-Sao-G7ltjzYK86wl

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

Fashon

InStyle Magazine is inspired by Cher's timeless jeans.

Recognized for blunt tweeting

Must-follow-Monday: Cher

Cher Research

Good resource for research on Cher singles and international album covers.

The Perils of Fame

The National Enquirer on stands now claims that Cher is dying. Cher refutes this.

My co-worker sent me this amazing story about a guy whose iPhone was stolen and he became suddenly famous in China. Lots of good commentary on the perils of fame and why the famous need "teams."

A follow up on the Edith Hill and Eddie Harrison story:
http://entertainment.inquirer.net/167192/cher-paves-way-for-elderly-womans-homecoming-after-a-court-dispute

Arts and Literature

Review of the Scottish S&C Musical (The Guardian)

GsmThe April month of Poetry was dedicated to hip hop poetry and it was interesting to see so many kudos thrown to The Wu-Tang Clan. Kenneth Goldsmith is a conceptual poet who's conceptual manifesto is published in the same issue. Since Cher is often accused of being artificial (by rock and roll standards), I have long been collecting commentary about artifice in art. Goldsmith had three things to say about this:

"Authenticity is another form of artifice."

"At this point in time, it's hard to verify authenticity, singularity, or proper sources for anything. Instead, in our digital world all forms of culture have assumed the characteristics of dance music and versioning, where so many hands have touched and refined these products that we no longer know, nor care, who the author is -- or was."

"Auto-tune your next book of poems."

  


Another Armenian Poet

Gregory-djanikianTraveling through my other obsession I found another Armenian poet, Gregory Djanikian. Don't ask me how I knew he was Armenian! He was born in 1949 in Egypt and now lives near Philadelphia directing the creative writing program at the University of Pennsylvania. That's not chump change.

Find out more about him:

- Bio on The Poetry Foundation (poem samples at bottom)

- Three Poems