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.

 


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.

  


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.