Fabulous Fun Fan Fall: Music

CherwallsWalls

This is like my favorite time to be a Cher fan. There’s another new Cher song out! She “performed” a song called “Walls” solo last weekend at the One Young World Festival in Bogota. Here’s an audio clip.

It’s very "Sirens" sounding. Allegedly a single will go on sale to benefit Cher's animal welfare foundation, Free to Wild. Keep a look out for the official recording to purchase. Cher is putting her vocals behind some really great projects this year: Syrian refuges, character-building children’s shows, animal welfare. Hopefully we can all contribute to these causes officially.

This is Cher’s fourth new song this year. Three of the new songs were released as a surprise without PR fanfare and none have been officially released as singles. According to reports, “Walls is expected to be released in the near future with proceeds from sales to be donated to Free The Wild, Cher’s foundation which was created to protect wild animals in captivity.”

Cher was recently trying to free the elephant Kavaan.

According to Newnownext, "It’s always a cause for celebration when Cher releases new music. But when it’s a soulful ballad that subtly knocks President Trump, it’s doubly amazing. The Dark Lady premiered “Walls” over the weekend at the One Young World Festival in Bogota. While it’s ostensibly about emotional barriers, it’s also a dig at Trump’s favorite pet project—a wall along the U.S./Mexican border.”

It’s actually primarily about animals in cages. But I really do love the fact that the song can be read on three layers. They lyrics are vague enough to be read as tearing down Trump’s Mexico wall, tearing down political, emotional or interpersonal barriers, and about cages keeping in wild animals.

In college I made a mix tape of animal welfare songs. And yes, "Bless the Beasts and the Children" was in the mix, completely un-ironically. However," Tame Yourself" by Raw Youth has always been my favorite animal welfare song. Although I see now that the finger crossing in the video is a little over the top. The song was recorded to benefit PETA and was released as a compilation with other animal welfare songs.

Cher’s song is not maudlin or accusatory. And it does seem elastically vague enough to be readable with multiple interpretations. We don’t know who wrote it yet but it could be another Diane Warren song. The vague language kind of reminds me of her style.

Which reminds me that Paloma Faith, who has a new album coming out soon and a new single posted on YouTube, now has a Diane Warren connection.

LovecanhurtSo Paloma is an artist that I love so much I’ve accidentally purchased one of her albums twice. And I did this recently. After buying her third album twice, I became enraptured with the video and the song "Only Love Can Hurt Like This" and for about a week I listened to it nonstop before I realized it was written by none other than Diane Warren. I love this song. And I know I’ve been pretty vocal about my feelings about Ms. Warren. Like most people, I’m too opinionated about music. And way less opinionated in poetry where I'll return to writers I don’t like to see if I might become more open to them.

Most Cher fans love her Diane Warren songs. My friends, all 80s kids, love her songs, too. I’m pretty much a minority of one in my distaste for them. In fact, my friends and Cher-fan friends might say I have a bonafide prejudice. And in this world of over-opinionization, opinions have become pretty meaningless. I’ll argue strenuously any day of the week that music preferences are completely subjective any way you look at it.

But it’s my blog so I can complain if I want to. However, I’m now faced with the issue of there being Diane Warren songs I like.

To recap what I haven’t liked: 1) simplistic melodies (Cher’s “Turn Back Time” being particularly grating), 2) easy rhymes and platitudes (Cher’s “Love and Understanding” maybe the worst offender), 3) ubiquitously found on everybody’s albums, including now the incomparable Paloma Faith!, 4) if you write a song about smiles, it has to live up to the smile of the person singing it. (The whole sub-genre of smiling songs we can leave to another day.)

HosAnd this reminds me that John Waite has also released a new album with a good version of Donovan's “Catch the Wind” which Cher covered too in 1966. Which yet again reminds me of that day in 1989 when the first Bad English album and Cher’s Heart of Stone were released on the same day.

And in full disclosure, of all the many, many Diane Warren hits I have liked the following: "Unbreak My Heart," "If You Asked Me To" (Patti LaBelle’s version), and as a preteen I really did love the build-up and synthesizers in Laura Branigan’s "Solitaire." Oh, and Michael Bolton’s "Time, Love and Tenderness" was one of the few cassette singles I ever bought  because it felt like an updated, edgier version of the Barry Manilow’s cheer-up song "I Made it Through the Rain."

But I can live happily never having heard these songs again: "Because You Loved Me," "Look Away," "Blame it on the Rain," "Don’t Turn Around," "Rhythm of the Night," "Don’t Want to Miss a Thing" (ugh, really hate that one), "I Get Weak," "How Can We Be Lovers," "Just Like Jesse James," and Heart’s "Who Will You Run To."

I can’t argue with the powerhouse that is Diane Warren. All I can say is that I love "Only Love Can Hurt Like This" and have to throw some of the credit for that to Paloma Faith who has really taken the song and made it part of her retro-ouvre.

It will be interesting to find out who wrote “Walls” and if I’ll have to eat my hat again over liking it for the very same reason I don’t like Warren’s other vague lyrical material.

CherfutureEveryday People

More material from Cher’s commercial with Future (that news feels like old news now, huh?).


Cher in Movie History

GoodtimesThanks to Tyler (again! He's a Dr. of Cher scholarship) for sharing this great blog post on Good Times.

"Good Times" is not necessarily a good movie by normal cinematic standards. In fact, let's come right out and say it -- it's a bad movie by most cinematic standards. But it's still fun to watch, especially if you think of it as a series of music videos instead of a movie. Or maybe just think of it as a preview of their TV variety show from a few years later.

ChermaskAnother great article about Cher music on TV and in the movies.

The article singles out the recent covers of “Believe” on singing competition shows and also super rarities in the movies, like the song “Human,” the never-released gem from the soundtrack of Stuck On You. It's one of my favorite later-day Cher songs although the production sounds a little back bedroom. Another interesting mention is Cher's performance of “Little Egypt,” the infamous, badly-lit scene cut from the final release of Mask. You can see the outtake here (and in  Peter Bogdanovich’s Directors Cut DVD). It's the part of the movie where she runs into Gar at a picnic that turns into a party and she's trying to lure him back into her life.

I haven’t seen this movie in years. Maybe it’s time.


Cher in Television History

SonnychercarolNostalgia TV

So much good TV history stuff this summer, but I’m a bit frustrated with the ever-repeating reruns of reruns that is Sonny & Cher on GetTV. For all of you who didn’t kill yourselves to get this channel, you can rest happily. As a consolation, GetTV has provided a quiz on their website: Are you more Sonny or Cher? I scored as Cher: a free spirited, outspoken, wise cracker.

Over at the other beloved re-run channel MeTV there is a story about Classic TV Stars Who Are Still Touring and 10 Iconic Facts about Cher.

Carol Burnett Show

Cher scholar Tyler discovered this delectable early Carol Burnett Show episode with Sonny & Cher from the mid 60s. The full episode includes everything (the solo of "You’d Better Sit Down Kids" and the duet "Living For You," plus the big finale number) but Cher’s solo is missing audio.

 For that solo, you have to visit this other link. Carol Burnett introduces Sonny & Cher as part of a “wild, way out movement [hardly]. They country jam this groove-fest.

Cher comes across as a shy, morose teenager in these numbers and at one point actually creeps off the set. Sonny tries to be so groovy, but WTF is he wearing on his leg? Cher’s correct, though, he has very nice hands.

The big number (at mark 45:10) is really something to see. Cher in very shy and unsure as Carol Burnett and Nanette Fabray exhibit the kind of duo chemistry that makes Cher look like a big third wheel. It’s exactly the same shut-out that occurred in 1975 between Cher and Tina Turner, when Kate Smith looked like the third wheel in the big Beatles tribute.

Magic on The Cher Show

Another great find (thanks to Tyler) was this Cher Show appearance by magician Mark Wilson. Cher plays his assistant. It’s pretty cheesy by today’s standards, there’s a big overhead of assistance, lame jokes and is that Gloria Steinem in the un-enthused crowd?

GroovypadLove American Style

Truer than the red, white and blu-oo-oo! The full episode of Sonny and Cher’s appearance on Love American Style from January 1971.

It’s called “Love and the Sack.” I loved this show as a kid. This time I noticed how goofy and Mary-Tyler-Moore the set looks: a wicker chair, peace sign art, 1960s plants, and the ubiquitous guitar in the corner.

Cher (as April) is waiting for a surprise marriage proposal from her boyfriend Henry. A sack arrives with Sonny in it, postage due. Sonny says, “I mailed myself to you” as if that’s not a creepy-stalker thing to say. Stranger danger!

Sonny, who’s name we never learn, tries to convince Cher/April that life with Henry would be a mundane affair of track housing, missionary sex and too many babies. Meanwhile he has a motorcycle, a loft in the village with a bathtub sofa, (I looked that up and found nothing but a slew of bathtubs converted into sofas), and promises her a Turkish-bath honeymoon (I looked that up too).

So Henry shows up and Cher says “get back in the sack!” See, in the 60s, sack was a double-entendre. Anyway, Henry comes in and offers to take Cher out for Cock-a-doodle Chicken. (This show is so randy!) And bingo, all of Sonny’s predictions come true. Henry IS a stiff who wants her to be a baby factory. Henry calls Sonny a bag of soft potatoes and calls Cher/April a kook and a weirdo for having a man in a sack in her living room. Sonny tells Henry to offer Cher/April “Italian sausage.” I kid you not.

I honestly feel this skit shows a solid preview of Cher’s future acting chops.

Glen Campbell and Jerry Lewis

We lost both Glen Campbell and Jerry Lewis this summer. Cher worked with Glen Campbell back with the Wrecking Crew in the 1960s. He also appeared on Cher Shows; Cher appeared on Glen's shows, both with and without Sonny. Cher was also a guest on Jerry Lewis’ TV show and he appeared on hers, with and without Sonny. These are my favorite clips:

Cher and Glen do one of their last medleys (of many) together.

Jerry Lewis on Cher’s show.

Glen1 Glen4

 

 

 

 

 

Cherjerry4 Cherjerry3 Cherjerry2

 

 

 

 

 

Turn Back Time

Cher made the Rolling Stone list of sexiest videos of all time.

Tbt


Cher in Music History

Ms3614 Jackson Highway

There’s a 2014 book, Muscle Shoals Sound Studio: How the Swampers Changed American Music, by Carla Jean Whitley that includes some additional information about Cher's experience there in 1969.

I also saw an episode of Merv Griffin with Tom Jones from back in January of 1980. He was promoting a 1979 album called Rescue Me and performing a song called “Flashback.” Merv thought it was an old song but Tom insisted it was brand new, “never before performed.” I wondered if this was the song Cher recorded for her 1976 album I’d Rather Believe in You and it was. Compare the two versions.

Flashback

Tom Jones in 1979 (much more disco, without the piano)

Cher in 1976 (love TJ songs but this version has more texture, IMHO)

These Days

Here’s a good site about everyone who's covered Jackson Browne’s song “These Days” including Gregg Allman and Cher.

"Cher recorded and released a Jimmy Webb-produced covers album, Stars, that attempted to steer her in a more classic-rock direction, but to complete commercial apathy. Cher’s relationship with Allman might have had something to do with her choice of including “These Days” to join the likes of Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul” and Derek & the Dominos’ “Bell Bottom Blues” on the track listing — she didn’t just pick a recent hit of his, rather, she gravitated straight towards one of the more mournful ones. The subtle pop-country-rock arrangement on her version of “These Days,” which leans heavy on syrupy strings, still steps back just far enough to let Cher’s voice stand out as something genuinely longing above the haze of schmaltz."

Cher's "These Days"

Gold Star Studio

An extensive blog post about that clip of Sonny & Cher at Phil Spector's Gold Star Studio in 1966.

Mashable also posted a series of pictures of Cher looking like a sullen teen while hanging out at the studio.

Sirens

And where have I been but I just discovered the original version of "Sirens” by Nell Bryden.


Media History With Cher

GtI’m like a kid in a candy story with all this Cher scholarship out right now. Two more articles last week:

Cher Is Still Changing The Conversation In 2017 (BuzzFeed)

“Cher is still making headlines, after more than five decades in the spotlight, because she’s never stopped finding and mastering new outlets for her creative expression.”

The article talks about her “fierce tweets,” her “Cher-style viral disruption,” her ability to project an expression of a 'real' person, her outspokenness, her flamboyance, the way she “tends to downplay her hard work,” her history as a fashion trend-setter, a comedian, an actor, a “cross-genre, cross-generational pop artist,” her ability for “generating memes and moments for decades” and “meme-generating outfits.

Um, meme wasn’t even a word back when Cher was doing it.

The article credits her for a style that “that would eventually almost become commonplace on red carpets.” There’s a funny quote from her 1970s manicurist, Minnie Smith, who said, “What the hell different can you do with fingernails?” They found something.

According to BuzzFeed’s culture writer, Pier Dominguez, Cher has a “reliable self-awareness” and is able to maintain “a kind of “authentic down-home appeal” unfiltered and has become a “larger-than-life movie star” engaged in a “defiance of aging.”

He links to that crazy 1975 television duet with David Bowie. This clip has become a popular reference point since David Bowie died. For years I’ve never been able to decide whether these song mashups were brave or ridiculous. Probably bravely ridiculous.

And this NPR story by Desire Moses, Shocking Omissions: The Resilient Reinvention Of Cher's 'Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves' (NPR).

This piece talks specifically about the song “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” as a vehicle for Cher’s “signature contralto” and androgynous vocals and that was a step away from Sonny’s “straightforward, cheerful music.”

We are reminded here that Cher lost a Grammy for this to Carole King’s Tapestry (not too shabby). Moses explicates the song  as ”a story of classism, sexism and racism,” and Cher's performance “whose strength lies in her embodiment of the character.” It’s the story of a woman who has been “shafted into the same life as the generations of women who came before her.”

I feel like a whole new generation has discovered this song.

“Cher’s emboldened drawls [a perfect way to describe her singing style] transformed the song into an urgent, beguiling pop smash” and “established a pattern of storytelling reliant on exoticism,” Moses says, in reference to “Half Breed” and “Dark Lady.” Moses calls Cher a “red-carpet trailblazer” and the “poster child of 70s glam,” an innovator one step ahead of the times.

This year's statements, my Cherfriends, are not things that have been typically said about Cher by the press. This feels like a pretty big shift toward sainthood.


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!

 


Cher Commercial with Future; Fundraising with Oprah, Baby Don't Go

ChergapWow. Before I could finish blogging this week, Cher turned up in more stuff.

The Cher Gap Commercial

The Gap has just released an off-the-cuff commercial with Cher and Future singing “Everyday People.” It's great. And painfully short.

- From Ad Week

"A new 30-second ad, debuting today, will air on high-profile TV programming like NFL games, prime time and late night, marking the first time in several years that Gap has advertised on television in the fall back-to-school period."

- From People

"What do you get when you put one of the most iconic female performers of all time on set with the chart-topping rapper of the moment? A duet you never knew you needed. Unlikely duo Cher and Future team up for Gap‘s latest installment of its “Meet Me in the Gap” fall campaign to make some music together — and of course they look really good in their Gap gear while doing it."

- From Logo

"Is Cher’s ad better than Madonna and Missy Elliott’s iconic 2003 Gap commercial? We’ll let you be the judge..."

See the full commercial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_bbo1hUJeY

And Sonny & Cher singing the song on The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour back in the early 70s.

Baby Don't Go

BdgI also forgot to mention this earlier but the Welsh band Colorama just did a very lovely cover of Baby Don’t Go (and it’s good to see something other than "Believe" and "Bang Bang" getting some attention).

 

  

 

Handinhand2Fundraising for Hurricane Harvey Victims

Cher also appeared on TV to do fundraising for Hand in Hand and giving a speech with Oprah. Read CNN's story.

Some links: 

  Cher-oprahHandinhand


New Cher Projects, 2017

ChazSo my summer break was longer than usual. My parents came to stay with us for 5 weeks while waiting to move into a new house in Ohio. I’ve also been taking stock of my writing projects and realized I’m way behind in my self-imposed schedules. I don’t know how this will effect the blog.

But despite the big break, I’ve still accumulated so much good stuff to share. I’ve been working on some new scholarly projects that I’m excited about and will unveil a few (on Cher Scholar and Big Bang Poetry) over the next few weeks.

But as happens every summer, lots of Cher stuff has gone down.

American Horror Story

Chaz Bono has returned to the American Horror Story franchise this year as a one-armed Trump supporter and there are rumors that Cher will be making an appearance this season as well. The rumormongers:

- http://elitedaily.com/entertainment/cher-ahs-cult/2059844/
- http://www.konbini.com/us/entertainment/cher-american-horror-story-cult-cameo/
- https://www.queerty.com/cher-appearing-new-season-american-horror-story-evidence-speaks-20170831

The hate-crime, fascist stuff, not the clown, has scared me right off watching the new show on anything slower than 15x. When entertainment is that close to reality…I’m just a jellyfish I guess. However, I'm going to see Stephen King’s IT movie this Thursday and I’m sure that will be much more pleasant.

You can collect Chaz’s appearance on AHS #6 Roanoke which goes on sale for DVD and Blu-ray October 3.

ClassicClassic Cher

Cher started up her stage shows again. Here are the latest reviews on that:

Her show’s guitarist, Joel Hoekstra, is interviewed here: http://www.sarasotapost.com/great-reading/1362-turn-back-time-with-classic-cher

The Broadway Show

Cher’s new Broadway show had its open call in July and over 500 people showed up:

They predict a Spring 2018 opening: http://www.goldderby.com/article/2017/cher-broadway-musical-tony-awards-news/

Boovs2Two New Songs

Cher made an appearance on a children’s show called Home: Adventures of Tip and Oh and recorded two new songs.

Reviews speak for themselves:

Netflix Got Cher to Record a New Song for a Cartoon Because Netflix Can Do Anything Now

“Cher seems to be particularly picky about what she's recorded in the last decade. There was an album in 2013 (Closer To The Truth), a contribution to the soundtrack of her 2010 film Burlesque ("You Haven't Seen The Last of Me," by the acclaimed Diane Warren), a contribution to the documentary Cries From Syria, a duet with her mother, and a couple of unreleased collaboration (with Lady Gaga and Wu-Tang Clan). She has not been particularly prolific, and this might be considered her first dance floor jam in at least four years.”

Cher's New Trap Track

“To be a fly on the wall where this bonkers song was pitched to Cher... We’re still not sure how this track came to fruition, but we’re not complaining either: somehow the 71-year-old sells this campy trap song.” 

Yes, I had to look it up. Trap is “southern hip hop with ominous lyrics, double or triple time divided hi-hats, heavy kick drums and a Roland TR-808 synthesizer or layered synthesizers.”

Cher’s bizarre new song is the catchiest thing you’ll hear all day

“We love Cher. Not only for her amazing back catalogue, her brave fashion choices or constant trolling of Donald Trump on Twitter, but also because she still has the ability to surprise us with her music” and “gloriously psychedelic video.”

Cher Dropped A Demented Bop Called “Ooga Boo”

“It transcends traditional kiddie fare, however, with the demented electronic production, heavy lashings of auto tune and an annoyingly catchy chorus. It’s the not the comeback we wanted, but it’s probably the comeback we deserve.”

EarstockingsThe Animation Podcast review was hilarious.  (Thanks to cher scholar Tyler for the find).

Animation aficionado ElectricDragon505 had his mind blown by the cartoon, not because of the story or Cher’s appearance on it, but because of of her character’s design. He says it reminds him of a “drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket” or a mutated marshmallow. “What the fridge am I even looking at!” he cries. He likes the Boov characters and their bright, cold colors with flashes of hot yellows, oranges and reds but says the makeup is “even too much for a drag show.” Too much are the comically huge eyelashes and fishnet leggings because the fishnet leggings are even on Chercophanie's ears. (I would agree with that; WTF.) But ElectricDragon505 will even give the designers a pass on all that. What he absolutely can’t abide is a Boov wearing three bras because this forces questions about Boov anatomy that he just can’t face.

This all seemed like a great deal of news for an appearance on a Netflix children’s show, so I did a search for her last un-released but kinda-released song from January and oddly there were zero news stories or reviews about “Prayers for this World” on two pages of Google results except this short blurb:

“First new material since 2013 From a documentary that debuted recently, she is singing with the Los Angeles Children's choir. Absolutely amazing!”

My parents gifted us with Netflix. So I watched the Chercophanie episode last week.

The show is about an interracial or inter-galaxy friendship between a spunky preteen black girl (Tip) and an alien Boov (Oh). The episode is called “Chercophanie/Oh Man & the Sea” and it contains two 15 minute stories. I spent time bemoaning the short attention span of “young people today” as I was watching it and then realized I spent my own childhood binge watching 8-minute Loony Tunes cartoons.

Tip is playing pretend rock star and her friend Oh is playing pretend obsessed fan. By the way, we never played pretend star/fan back in the 70s. We played teacher, waitress, working single-mother, sordid soap-opera Fisher House community, salacious sex-life Barbie, TV news broadcaster, outdoor Missouri shipwreck, and novelist.

DG1ewsoU0AAGmzYBut anyway, Tip is full of artistic torment for fame and glory. Unfortunately, she feels a lack of desire to actually practice singing or guitar playing. But she wants legions of fans, like, yesterday! And she tries to make a big splash as a street singer. The humans hate her performances but the alien Boovs love it. By the way, all Boovs look like octopuses.

Tip loves to talk about “star power” and she calls her fans Tipsters. Cher descends into the scene as “a true star who knows how to make an entrance.” In fact, the show gives Cher’s Boov character plenty of funny entrances. She’s “a cultural enigma” they say but she’s never given the chance to tell Tip and Oh what her true passion is. Spoiler alert: it involves whale-shaped Ooga Boos…which finally explains Cher’s new song then.

StarpowerBut sadly, the public doesn’t care about Chercophanie’s passion and only wants to hear her “rockin voice.” There’s a very funny bit where Chercophanie cries and her massive mascara runs down her face. A makeup Boov rushes in to fix it.  

Chercophanie calls Tip “Twinkle Pie” and takes Tip and Oh to her studio to hear her latest track, “Ooga Boo,” and my parents left the closed-captioning on Netflix so I was able to decipher that confusing lyric: “Moi a tu.”

Tip is over-confident and when she finally hears herself play the guitar, she’s mortified, even after Chercophanie tries some funny production magic. A few times I laughed out loud at this stuff: Boovs crowd surfing, Boovchella. During performances, Tip likes to yell out “how many of you out there have faces?”

CherwhaleChercophanie tells her not to be worried about the reviews, just be you…because following your heart is “where you find true art.”

Fans of Tip, of course, hate the result of that sort of advise and abandon her new direction. One fan calls out, very disgruntled, “my expectations have been defied!”

Cher fans, you’ve been there.


Cher History: Movies, Music, Musicals

MoonstruckThis is my last blog blast for the summer. This is the beginning of busy season here with guests visiting so I'll be back Cher scholarin' after that.

Old Interviews and Clips

I've been going through a huge pile of old interviews I've never seen. Media: it proliferates like wet gremlins.

Here a good one from October 2016 where Cher reviews all her movies.

And here's a 2013 interview about Closer to the Truth. She attributes of her longevity to luck and says she loves the tracks "Lie to Me," "My Love," "I Hope You Find It," "Dressed to Kill" ('cos it's campy), and "Sirens."

Here's a Love Hurts era interview from CBS This Morning. She's labeled the "Grande Dame of Pop Music" and she says at 45 that workouts are a pain.

Recognize the face of the first few seconds of this 80s interview?! Hint: he was just famously fired. The story is about whether Cher enjoys portraying bad girls in movies and Moonstruck. Gloria Steinem talks about Cher. Cher says Sonny was the "best and worst of everything I know about relationships" and that Gene [Simmons] was "the easiest person I ever lived with." She says Gregg Allman was "a nightmare" but that he had a great heart and great capability. She says she hated slapping Nick Cage’s face so many times.

Around Cher's birthday, Cher scholar Tyler found this retrospective of her best movie roles (Grindr)

In Music

VcTrivium’s Matt Heavy Covers Cher’s ‘If I Could Turn Back Time

Remember the picture above, that scene in Moonstruck where Olympia Dukakis as Cher's mother Rose says, "Now he’s going to play that damn Vikki Carr record and when he comes to bed he won’t touch me." Well, I was searching for "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" images recently and found this amazing thing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aDrztsC-RI from 1972. I didn’t make it to the end but...imagine Vikki Carr complaining to her friend: “Now he’s going to play that damn Cher record and when he comes to bed he won’t touch me.”

Other quotes from Moosntruck.

Cher scholar Tyler also sent me this link to Rock Back Pages where you can join and research old Sonny & Cher articles. Happy scholaring!

Broadway

The thing is a go! Whoohoo!

The Guardian

Billboard


Gregg Allman's Funeral

FuneralCher attended Gregg Allman's funeral a few weekends ago and it was a much quieter affair than the one we remember for Sonny; but fans still managed to insinuate themselves along the periphery of the procession route and around the edge of the cemetery (see below). 

It appears Elijah was there as well, although not fully photographed or mentioned.

Some local coverage:

http://www.macon.com/news/local/article154086244.html

http://www.macon.com/news/local/article153863999.html

Cher scholar Robrt Pela also located this very sweet retrospective of Cher and Gregg visiting a high school in Buffalo in the 1970s.  The story probably gives us more insight into their relationship that any of the other retrospectives that have surfaced of late.

While I was at the dermatologist last week, I spied a recent People Magazine (June 12, 2017) obit on Gregg Allman with a picture of Cher and Gregg in lower right corner of the cover. The table of contents declared the article was about "Gregg Allman: His Live and Loves" of which there were a few, but the article was exclusively about his relationship with Cher, "the glitzy variety show hostess" who met "the hard rocker from Georgia with a howl soaked in Jack Daniels."

FansAccording to People, Allman spent 11 stints in rehab and became sober in 1995. His nicknames were Cooch and Gui Gui.  Not to be confused with Gris Gris (from "Walk on Guilded Splinters"). They met, as we all know, at The Troubadour in Los Angeles where Allman said Cher “looked like an Egyptian idol.” And Cher said “I never loved anybody the way I loved him." But that "Gregg needed more than my love.” (which is unfortunately the Boilerplate summary of a music star relationship: see Victoria Principal on Behind the Music discussing Andy Gibb for the most infamous version.)

The relationship started working, Cher said, “when he found out that I was a person—that a chick was not a dummy.” Incidentally, this is the same realization Gene Simmons was made to come to in 1979. Cher: transforming sexist rock stars, one man at a time.

As we know, 9 days after the wedding, Cher filed for divorce but reconciled. Allman later felt "out of place in Cher’s glamourous world” and filed for divorce but she was by then pregnant with Elijah and they reconciled. Then they made their 1977 album and on the tour for that they fell apart with finality.

The Country Music Awards opened this year with a moving tribute to Gregg Allman: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/country-music-awards-open-with-powerful-gregg-allman-tribute_us_5938f2e6e4b0c5a35c9bfb75

And Cher fans have been discussing their feelings (then and now) around Cher's relationship with him. Full disclosure: she was about to separate from Gregg Allman at the moment my older brother unceremoniously and gleefully informed me (at age seven) that Cher was no longer married to Sonny and I cried in a chair for an hour before moving on with my life. I didn't learn about the Allman marriage until I was old enough to read a Cher biography.

But Cher scholar Michael put it very nicely: "I'm happy that I come to Gregg through Cher because I'm not sure I would have found Cher through Gregg. Cher has recorded so much in her career. In the days of album credits, I learned who wrote those songs she recorded. Because of Cher I discovered Dylan, Donovan, Gershwin, Tim Hardin, Neil Young, Buffy Saint-Marie, and a long list of others. Cher may not think that she has made a musical impact, but I know I've been forever in her debt for my early musical journey."

I would agree. And would add that when I was 17 I went on a journey to locate from my local public libraries, every original version of a song Cher had covered. There were so many, I never finished. But it's an interesting exercise to think about other artists you discovered by being a Cher fan. If you need a refresher, take a walk through the writers list, album by album, starting with https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_I_Really_Want_to_Do_(album) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Look_at_Us.

I can tell you this, I would never have tried to track down Edith Piaf's version of "Milord" or bought a Miriam Makeba CD in Paris had it not been for Cher.