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Cher and Country: It’s Only Natural

Country Well…bombastic Bon Jovi rock is not exactly in. So this kind of made sense to me when I heard it. Cher and country: not exactly oil and water.

The rumor was out last week that Cher's new album would be country. This article below also chronicles in excruciating detail Cher’s appearances at Country events and venues over the last few years: if to say "it's okay...Cher has country cred."

Gregg Allman is contemplating a country album and Gwyneth Paltrow signed a recent deal to make a pop-country record, but here are four words country music never thought it would hear: Cher is going country!

The diva herself has hired Carrie Underwood and Lee Ann Womack‘s producer, Mark Bright, according to Digital Spy, and he is confirming that Cher is indeed recording a country album. Bright says, “Cher knows that her listeners also listen to country music, so she felt it was a natural thing to develop a country music relationship.”

Cher, of course, is not a total stranger to country. She was a presenter at the 2010 CMA Awards, getting a standing ovation by the likes of Tim McGraw, Keith Urban and Ronnie Dunn when she walked onstage. Taylor Swift was even seen throwing her arms enthusiastically into the air as Cher sauntered up to the mic.

The ‘I’ve Got You Babe’ singer reminded the audience that country runs deep in her family. When her mom was young, she sang with Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. On the show, Cher said, “When I was about five, I thought there was only two kinds of music: the songs that were in ‘Dumbo’ and ‘Cinderella’ and country.” She added, “The first song my mom ever taught me was ‘Hey Good Lookin,” and my dear friend Merle Haggard and I’ve been talking about doing a duet forever, but I really have a hard time wrapping my head around ‘Haggard and Cher.’”

The last publicly reported time Cher was in Nashville was 2008, when she booked a private jet and came to Twang Town to see her good friend Haggard in concert at the Ryman. Later that night, a man was charged with disorderly conduct and public intoxication after he repeatedly harassed her at the legendary club Tootsies Orchid Lounge.

In 2009, Cher and her boyfriend were seen at a Haggard show in California. Her most recent brush with country music was to star in the movie ‘Burlesque’ alongside Julianne Hough earlier this year.

But we can’t ignore one of Cher’s earlier run-ins with a country great: In the video [check the site to view the video], Cher joins the legendary Dolly Parton onstage for a ‘Spiritual Medley,’ dated from a 1978 television special.

More of the same from The Boot:

Cher is going country, according to famed Nashville producer Mark Bright. The studio veteran has added the pop culture icon to his impressive production resume, which includes albums by Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts, Reba McEntire and Sara Evans, just to name a few.

Mark met Cher through a mutual friend, Songwriters Hall of Fame member Desmond Child. "Because we know each other," Mark says, "when she came to Nashville she thought of me."

Although Cher has been tight-lipped about her foray into country music, Mark's confirmation offers hope to rabid fans who crave new music from the living legend. The new album would mark her first studio album since the release of 'Living Proof' in 2001.

I was actually kind of getting excited about a Cher country album; but then reports came out that this was all rumor (per usual).

Hold your horses -- Cher is not making a country album (Melinda Newman)

You know that story about Cher recording a country album that’s making the rounds today? It was true, but is no longer the case.

As often happens once artists get into the studio, the direction shifts. Cher is now making a full-on dance record, according to her representative.

We contacted Cher’s spokeswoman today to see if there were more details about Cher’s country album with Nashville producer Mark Bright. Bright told the website Silk And Denim that he and Cher met each other through songwriter Desmond Child, who has written songs for Cher and who now spends much of his time in Nashville.

That interview ran in January, but for some reason, all the major websites picked up on it today.  News that Cher was looking for country songs first surfaced last November.

We’re waiting for more details about the new set and will add more when we get them, but Cher’s rep tells us that although the country album was in the works, it "no longer is. It will be a dance-oriented album.”

This all gives me a headache. I was actually psyched about some kind of musical departure. Another dance album isn’t going to turn the rock and roll world around. Don’t get me wrong: I love Cher’s dance records. This isn’t about dance. It’s about country. Cher’s voice is very soulful and soul and country are kissing cousins. Cher has never fully developed this natural inclination of her voice (think Elvis and country). It's so neo-hip, too. Just the thing I would love (like so many other thwarted Cher desires: a tourch ballad show, a full-fledged movie musical staring Cher).

I’m feeling a spoiled child tantrum coming on. I'm channeling Napoleon Dynamite.


This story got Cher fans to listing out her country oeuvre:

Doug wrote: Cher already has a few country songs under her belt:  "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind" from the I Paralyze album [1982], "You're Just What I've Been Looking For" from the Dark Lady album [1974], and "It's Too Late to Love Me Now" and "My Song" from the Take Me Home album [1979].

Ibekeen wrote: Don't forget "She Thinks I Still Care" the George Jones standard from her first album [1965] and "Crying Time" the Buck Owens/Ray Charles classic from the second S&C album as a bonus track [1966], and "Spring" from I'd Rather Believe in You [1976] could be considered country too.

Marcus wrote: And possibly, "Dixie" from Cherished [1977].

I feel a mix tape coming on.



I’d Rather Believe that Cher is Not Trying to Deprive Us of the Joy of her 70s Warner Bros Albums

220px-Cher_-_I'd_Rather_Believe_in_YouCher’s Warner Bros albums have now completely missed two levels of music technology: cassette tapes and CDs. We’re now on to mp3s downloaded from iTunes and these four albums STILL are buried under a rock like a time capsule we buried back in 1978 and now can’t find. What the hell?

This awesome Cher scholar Joe Marchese reviews the gems of Cher's late-70s Warner Bros time period and daydreams about the absolutely necessary compilation that is missing from our lives.

How can Cher be taken seriously as 5-decades-long musical artist when some of her best tracks are hijacked in a closet under hundreds of pairs of shoes?

“We listeners don’t need a modest little Diane Warren power ballad to remind us that Cher isn't going anywhere.”

I love his line-up but would one-up the thing after reading about Neil Young’s Blu-Ray DVD set Archives. This is the kind of package Cher fans need, a really serious musical retrospective of her career.  Young's set includes three cornerstone live concerts, rare footage and his entire catalog. Sure it’s $300 but what Neil Young scholar wouldn’t eat it up.

Read the whole Warner Bros retrospective: 

Speaking of Warner Bros tracks, Cher scholar Tom found the original version of "Island" on iTunes, recorded by Chunky, Novi and Ernie. Some Cher fans speculated that the song's writer Illene Rappaport was a psudonymn for Cher but this isn’t true. Ileen is her own self (although her name is Lauren Wood) and was alledgedly thrilled Cher recorded her song.


Becoming Chaz Promo

Becominchaz Becoming Chaz will be airing on Oprah's new OWN channel in May.

Speaking of OWN, I've been watching Master Class (so far I've seen Oprah's episode and taped but lost the Maya Angelou one when my Crapo--err Comcast--inexplicably erased all my taped shows. Now I'll never see the end of All that Jazz and A Haunting in Georgia. Bullocks!)

See the Becoming Chaz promo:


History: Dark Lady, Wooden Heart, David Letterman


Wooden Heart

I believe Cher scholar Robrt sent me this rarity of Cher singing "Wooden Heart" circa 1965.





David Letterman 

Also, in the latest Entertainment Weekly (4.1.11) there is a on-page piece on shocking David Letterman Show moments (page 8) of which Cher’s 1986 "asshole" episode is included among other weird weird episodes like Madonna’s f-word opus, Joaquin Phoenix’s sham performance, Farrah Fawcet's ramblings, Drew Barrymore’s boob flashing, and Crispin Glover (who knows what that was about). The representative pic for Cher shows her arms folded defensively. But she loosened up later in the interview as these shots show.









Luckily Cher had a change of heart about Letterman and has had many memorable visits since. 


Dark Lady



Cher reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart with her "Dark Lady" on March 23, 1974.

The track was Cher's third solo chart-topper. She scored a number-one hit with 1971's "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves" and repeated the feat with 1973's "Half-Breed." Cher would not return to the number-one spot for a quarter century, finally breaking her drought in 1999, when "Believe" topped the Hot 100.

Written by Ventures keyboardist Johnny Durrell, "Dark Lady" was the title track of Cher's 1974 album, which featured two other Durrell compositions, "Dixie Girl" and "I Saw a Man and He Danced with His Wife." The LP also included "Train of Thought" and "Rescue Me."

"Dark Lady" reached number one by knocking off "Seasons in the Sun" by Terry Jacks. After a one-week run, it was replaced by John Denver's "Sunshine On My Shoulders."

Wow…sandwiched between "Seasons in the Sun" (we had joy we had fun….this song was aCher%20Dark%20Lady n  earworm) and the drippy "Sunshine on My Shoulders" (I hugely prefer "Take Me Home, Country Roads" and "Thank God I’m a Country Boy" for my John Denver dollar).

Young heavy metal aficionados must have been pulling their hair out. God bless em.

Stan Ross RIP

Sonny%20cuts%20rebsml Cher scholar Rob alerted me to Stan “Choo Choo” Ross’ passing with this link:

"Stan Ross, Producer and Engineer co-founded Gold Star studios, famed for its 'Wall of Sound'

Stan Ross, who co-founded Hollywood's Gold Star Recording Studio, where producer Phil Spector perfected the innovative “Wall of Sound" technique, has died. He was 82. Ross died Friday at Providence St. Joseph's Medical Center in Burbank of complications following surgery.

More than 100 Top 40 hits were recorded at Gold Star, including such Spector-produced records as “You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" by the Righteous Brothers and “Be My Baby" by the Ronettes.

Other hits recorded at the modest building at Santa Monica Boulevard and Vine Street included Ritchie Valens' “La Bamba," Eddie Cochran's “Summertime Blues" and Iron Butterfly's “Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida." The Beach Boys also recorded most of their records there.

“Stan was born with a musical ear," said David Gold, who co-founded Gold Star with Ross when both were barely out of their teens. “He would come up with ideas for people who were recording, things that had never been tried before.""

Pic above is credited as Stan Ross, Sonny & Reb Foster. See many S&C pics from their time at Goldstar Studios: 


Las Vegas Sahara RIP


From The Las Vegas Sun: 

"It was once the home of Jerry Lewis, Buddy Hackett, Johnny Carson and countless other comedy legends. It is where Louis Prima and Keely Smith turned lounge entertainment into an art form, and where Sonny & Cher packed the showroom at the height of their TV fame."

First the Stardust sign kicks it and now this. Oh well, no more $35 rooms on the strip, eh?

How is the Riviera still standing? I ask you.

Take out your Sonny & Cher Live Volume II album and contemplate our ongoing need for a time machine so we can all go back and hear overly loud Sonny & Cher concerts at the Sahara and then sue for hearing damage like that guy did back in the early 70s. Ah…good times.

No seriously. If I could go back in time I would risk deafness to see S&C live.


Poetry and Pain

Laux So where have I been? Tethered to my consulting job at ICANN and suffering from my worst carpel tunnel slash upper-back-nerve malfunction of the last year. So I've been unable to paw out Cher diatribes the last two weeks. And now I need to start cleaning the house for my parents' next-week visit. So I'll be MIA for another week after this.

My thoughts and prayers to my Japanese friends and family who have their own friends and family in Japan right now living under the shadow of nuclear meltdown after last week's earthquake and tsunami.

"They say atomic power could never hurt a flower. Holy smoke."
                        -- Cher, 1979,
Prisoner album

My Sarah Lawrence College-mate Ann from Scarsdale, New York, sent me this new poem about Cher by poet Dorianne Laux. I love it when my obsessions collide: poetry and Cher. This poem starts out favorable, eulogizing the iconic-looking Cher of the 70s who was as "tall as a glass of iced tea" and gets to wear hokum outfits and has a "throaty panache," a voice of "gravel and clover." But then Laux laments the cosmetic changes of the 80s and 90s.

I like how the poem ends, with an scene that I'm interpreting as an image of Sonny & Cher singing V.A.M.P. on that upright piano.


Cher Thebookofmen

I wanted to be Cher, tall
as a glass of iced tea,
her bony shoulders draped
with a curtain of dark hair
that plunged straight down,
the cut tips brushing
her nonexistent butt.
I wanted to wear a lantern
for a hat, a cabbage, a piñata
and walk in thigh-high boots
with six-inch heels that buttoned
up the back. I wanted her
rouged cheek bones and her
throaty panache, her voice
of gravel and clover, the hokum
of her clothes: black fishnet
and pink pom-poms, fringed bells
and her thin strip of a waist
with the bullet-hole navel.
Cher standing with her skinny arm
slung around Sonny's thick neck,
posing in front of the Eiffel Tower,
The Leaning Tower of Pisa,
The Great Wall of China,
The Crumbling Pyramids, smiling
for the camera with her crooked
teeth, hit-and-miss beauty, the sun
bouncing off the bump on her nose.
Give me back the old Cher,
the gangly, imperfect girl
before the shaving knife
took her, before they shoved
pillows in her tits, injected
the lumpy gel into her lips.
Take me back to the woman
I wanted to be, stalwart
and silly, smart as her lion
tamer's whip, my body a torch
stretched the length of the polished
piano, legs bent at the knee, hair
cascading down over Sonny's blunt
fingers as he pummeled the keys,
singing in a sloppy alto
the oldest, saddest songs.

"Cher" by Dorianne Laux, from The Book of Men. © W. W. Norton & Company, 2011.

Buy the book

Read more poems by Dorianne Laux