Cher is in the process of releasing parts of her 1982 Concert Special A Celebration at Caesars song by song on her YouTube channel. If I hadn’t already seen the show a zillion times, this kind of release scheme would annoy me much, much more.
I often kid (not kidding) that I want to have a big, celebratory, (not a little bit gay) funeral with this show playing on a big screen. I have loved this show since I first watched it on Showtime in 1982. And watching it again recently, I am seeing something really strong and meaningful about the show, especially as it is positioned between her earlier variety show specials and her soon-to-come movie career and power-ballad phase. I’m noticing a lot of new things, which is incredible because as I’ve watched the show a zillion times.
But more about all that when Cher finishes releasing all the songs. Before then I wanted to talk about the song published today, “Out Here on My Own.” For weeks I’ve been eagerly awaiting this particular song release and my enthusiasm has to do, I think, with my identification with the song as it is sung separately by Cher in this concert special and Irene Cara in the movie Fame.
I don’t go to Cher generally to find myself and I don’t go to Cher songs to find myself in the lyrics of those songs. I would make the case even Cher doesn’t even use her own music to see herself therein. Cher’s music does other things that are helpful and meaningful to us. Maybe other Cher fans feel otherwise and do see themselves in her narratives and musical declarations. But all that said, this is a song I do see myself in, so much so that a line in the lyric is in contention with one other song’s line for the eventual tombstone.
I’m always fascinated by how Cher’s versions diverge from other artists’ versions. In this case, Irene Cara whose character Coco, as you may recall, was a tough little New York cookie, self-assured as to her future in entertainment, seemingly more mature than the other students at the Performing Arts High School. However, Coco promptly falls prey to a sexual predator and her bravado tragically crumbles.
In the movie, this song is a moment of honesty for Coco. She has distanced herself from potential friends with all her bravado and although this is a love song, it’s also about reconnecting with the other artists around her in a more honest way. Cara gives the song raw innocence and then summons up a bit of courage at the end to sing “I may not win, but I can’t be thrown, out here on my own.” It’s very moving at the end of the song when Bruno reaches for her hand.
Cher’s version, on the other hand, is underwritten by Cher’s more experienced persona and the performative bravado of her new 1980s cool-chick self, as opposed to the newly-abandoned Hollywood party-and-glamour girl self, which was a previous shed from her wide-eye, innocent hippie self. This new Cher isn’t shy about singing with power. All the lyrics resonate differently coming from her; but then even so, there’s also a pleading ache in her delivery. She is still full of fear and doubt, wondering where she fits in. But her finale is much more frim. “I may not win, but I won’t be thrown,” (that’s the epitaph, right there). Notice the subtle difference between the words can’t and won’t, an inability and a refusal. Illustrative of what makes the two versions so character-specific.
It’s interesting to see similar contrasts with two other songs covered by both Cher and Karen Carpenter. They both sang the Leon Russell songs “Superstar” and “Song for You” around the same time, the Carpenters’ versions were either more successful in the charts or better identified as a Carpenters song.
For years I have felt that Karen Carpenter’s more innocent rendition of “Superstar” was better because it showcased a kind of naivete and had a kind of misplaced crispness.
For the same reason, I’ve always liked Cher’s “Song for You” better (although Leon Russell’s own 1970 version is my favorite) because Cher’s voice contained more jadedness (already in the early 1970s) than Karen could manage. Karen’s version seemed saccharine in comparison. Cher’s version seemed more credible.
But lately I’ve come to appreciate Cher’s “Superstar” a bit more with its elevated, knowing pathos. I can now appreciate both versions like with “Out Here On My Own.” (Does there always have to be a best and better?)
I love Cher’s “Out Here on My Own” and when I hear it, I think, yes, I can see me in here. Maybe this is even a case where Cher herself relates more personally to the song, this being her first major concert tour or residence as an solo act without either Sonny, Gregg Allman or Black Rose.
The fact that Cher’s Broadway musical focused so much on overcoming insurmountable fears and Cher’s fears around those fears (with a Finding-Nemo-like prescription to “just keep swimming”) just makes this song
resonate all the more today.
Cher’s promotional single, an unreleased Jackson Highway song (1970, did not chart):
TV version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pFeG6IV_aE
Carpenter’s 1971 version (#2 Hot 100, #1 Adult Contemporary):
Foxy Lady album version from 1972, not released as single:
TV version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIY0SyyLJ_U
Carpenter’s 1972 version:
List of lots of other covers: