Search This Blog

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday Jukebox - I Got You Babe by Sonny & Cher (Plus a BONUS song!)

Hard to believe, but it's been a little over three months since I started this blog, and now here we are.  My one hundredth blog entry.  I can't believe I managed to talk about one hundred pop culture references every day for three whole months.

(Well, okay...actually only 98, since one blog post was an introduction, and the other one was made when I had a bout of computer trouble.  This still makes this post number 100!)

And the timing of this post really could not have been any better.

Today happens to be the 28th of August, 2011.  Not too special of a day (well, unless you're unlucky enough to be in the path of hurricane Irene, of which point you really should log off and take cover) at least for this year.

This date had some significance 46 years ago, in 1965.

August 28, 1965 saw quite a few things happen.  The Beatles played in San Diego, California, and Shania Twain was born on this date in Ontario, Canada.

It also happens to be the date that my parents got hitched.

I tried to get them to allow me to post their wedding photos on my blog, but they refused to cooperate, so the only thing that I can do is describe to you what the wedding was like.  That particular August 28 was unseasonably chilly.  Although it was the tail end of summer when my parents got married, the weather was really, really cold.  Though with all the talk about global warming that is in the news lately, I wonder if maybe in the mid-1960's, it really WAS colder?

Well, that, plus the wedding was in Canada, and all Americans know that Canadians live in igloos twelve months a year right?  ;)

Anyway, the ceremony was quite small.  Just a simple ceremony with a simple reception.  Nothing real fancy.  Then again, my parents were only 19 years old when they got married, so it wasn't like they had a whole lot to spend on a lavish affair catered by the finest caterers complete with strawberries dipped in four different kinds of expensive Swiss chocolate.  They were simple folk, they were.

A few years back, when they celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary (ironically enough, another hurricane, Katrina, was causing havoc in the southern states at the time), I asked them if there was anything about their wedding that they would like to have changed, and you know what?  Each of them said that if they could do it all over again, they would had done things completely differently!  Funny how time changes perspectives, huh?

I know my mom's side of the family for whatever reason was unable to attend the wedding ceremony, so you know what her regret was.  And, I know my father really wanted to have a more decent wedding ceremony for them both, but couldn't afford to.  But you know, if there's anything that I can learn from my own parents trials and tribulations over their now 46-year old marriage, it's that sometimes you don't need to have a lot of money or prestige to earn someone's love.  Granted, my parents marriage has not exactly been all Ozzie and Harriet like.  In fact, I think I could probably name at least half a dozen instances in my own childhood where I was legitimately surprised that they even stayed together! 

Still, for them (and any couple for that matter) to last over four and a half decades together as husband and wife is something that sadly in today's society you don't see too much of.  In a world where divorce procedures can last longer than the actual marriage itself, and where prenuptial agreements take center stage, it almost seems unheard of for a couple to last even one decade together, let alone four.  It's sad, but unfortunately something that people have to deal with.  In one aspect, as wild and crazy as my parents marriage has been at times, deep down inside, I am really glad that they stuck it out if only because they are proof positive that if you work hard enough at something, it can be great and long-lasting.  My parents are now both 65 years of age, and neither one of them thankfully are showing any signs of slowing down.  Maybe at this time in 2015, I'll be writing about the crazy things they did for their 50th wedding anniversary.

And, this leads to the subject of the blog entry for today, which has a little bit of delicious irony attached to it.  My parents wedding date was August 28, 1965, and as it so happened, the number one song on the Billboard charts back in that time period was sung by a real-life couple professing their own love for one another.  The song had hit number one two weeks prior to that, and had my parents probably had known that, they may have very well danced to this song for their first dance.

Or, maybe it would have been some twangy country hillbilly hit, like the ones that both of them listened to at the time.

At any rate, here it is.

ARTIST: Sonny & Cher
SONG:  I Got You Babe
ALBUM:  Look At Us
DATE RELEASED:  July 10, 1965

Now, unless you've lived under a rock, I'm sure that almost everyone on this planet has heard of Sonny & Cher...or at the very least Cher.  This song just happened to be their biggest hit, and was the song that made them stars.

The song was featured on their 1965 album, 'Look At Us', and since then, the song has been covered by several artists, including a memorable cover version twenty years after the original release featuring UB40 and Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders.  The song itself featured prominently in the movie 'Groundhog Day', and was performed by cast members on the shows 'Full House', 'The Golden Girls' and 'Home Improvement'.  Rolling Stone magazine listed the song at #444 of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  For a song to even make that list of the tens of thousands of songs recorded since the early days of the Billboard charts meant that it was something special.

But do you know how the song was created?  Back in 1965, Sonny Bono was sitting in his basement in the house that he lived in with then wife Cher (whom he had married the year before), inspired by a song recorded by Bob Dylan entitled 'It Ain't Me Babe'.  Sonny had expressed a desire to capitalize on the term 'babe' after hearing it in song, and figured the best way to do that was to write a song for himself and Cher to sing.

That song debuted on the charts in July 1965, and just thirty-five days later reached the top of the charts.  It became an anthem of sorts for the hippie movement that was just starting to emerge at the time, and made Sonny & Cher household names.

Over the next few years, Sonny & Cher recorded more songs, and more albums, but never quite could reach the same success as they had with 'I Got You Babe'.  They tried hard to make it in the music business together, but unfortunately their drug-free idyllic music was no match for the psychadelic, drug-induced, Woodstock festival music that dominated the music industry throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Throughout it all, they managed to stick it out through the rough time, and in March 1969, Cher gave birth to their only child together a daughter named Chastity (who now goes by Chaz, but that's another topic for another day).

As the 1960s ended, and the 1970s began, Sonny & Cher got their second wind in an very unusual venue.  It all began in 1971, when Sonny & Cher starred in their first television special.  The special was called The Nitty Gritty hour, and it was basically a show that was part slapstick comedy, part live music.  Basically, it was like Saturday Night Live before Saturday Night Live even debuted.

And the special was a bonafide smash on television.

The special was such a success that it attracted the eye of a staff member of the 'Eye' network.

Fred Silverman, the head of programming for CBS had saw the duo in action and was so impressed that he offered them their own, and in the summer of 1971, the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour premiered on CBS.  It was a huge hit, and propelled Sonny & Cher to further stardom.

The television show revived the duo's once stagnant recording career, giving them two more top ten hits in 1972, and the show itself was nominated for fifteen Emmy awards (winning one for Best Direction) during its initial run.

Sadly, as Sonny & Cher's professional life together was gaining in popularity, their personal life together was deteriorating.  By the third season of the show, it was apparent that Sonny and Cher's relationship was getting more and more strained by the day.  The duo separated, and the show went on hiatus.  On June 27, 1975, their divorce was finalized, and reports stated that it was initially not an amicable split at first, and that the divorce was very messy and nasty.

Sonny and Cher both tried their hands at their own solo variety shows a year apart.  Sonny's show debuted in 1974, and was cancelled just six weeks later.  Cher's program debuted just six months after Sonny's, and fared a little bit better in the ratings.  But, most audiences agreed that the duo was better together than apart.  However, their divorce proceedings were ugly, and the odds of them ever being on camera together was an impossibility.

Or was it?

After their 1975 divorce, Cher and Sonny had went their separate ways, and hadn't seen each other in a whole year.  But then one chance encounter in 1976 seemed to change things.  It was in 1976 that Sonny had opened up a restaurant, and Cher attended the grand opening as a peace offering of some sort, supporting him in his venture.  Their marriage was over, and they would never get back together again romantically, but it was enough of a gesture for Sonny and Cher to once again establish a friendship.  And that friendship inspired a revival of the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour in 1976.  Though they were divorced, they were both committed to making the show work, and the show managed to run straight through 1977.  It was after this second attempt at the show that the two parted ways on a more permanent basis.

In the years since the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour went off the air, both Sonny and Cher managed to find new career paths as individuals.  Certainly, everyone knows that Cher continued to stay in music, scoring several top ten singles including 'If I Could Turn Back Time', 'I Found Someone', and 'Just Like Jesse James'.  She has also become an activist for LGBT rights, likely inspired by Chastity's decision to come out of the closet in the mid 1990s.  Cher also became an established actress in her own right over the years.  Appearing in such films as 'Mermaids', 'The Witches Of Eastwick' and 'Moonstruck' (in which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1988), Cher proved that she could make it on her own.  But so did Sonny.

Sonny Bono in his later years had abandoned the entertainment industry entirely since the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour ended for good.  In the 1980s, Sonny Bono tried to open up a restaurant in the city of Palm Springs, California, but found the government bureaucracy of the town incredibly frustrating to navigate through.  In 1988, when Cher was celebrating her Oscar win, Sonny put his name in the race for the mayoral election in Palm Springs.  He won the election and served as mayor of the city until 1992.  During his mayoral term, he succeeded in bringing more businesses to the city, and was instrumental in spearheading the creation of the Palm Springs International Film Festival.  Two years later, he became a member of the United States House of Representatives, and was sworn into the position in January 1995.

While Sonny and Cher both went their separate ways and were doing their separate things, they never really forgot about each other.  On November 13, 1987, the two reunited on the David Letterman show, and sang their iconic 1965 hit one final time.

You could tell that even though they had been divorced for years at this point, and while both of them were in different directions, there was still something magical that sparked between the two.  At the time, 22 years had passed since the song was a number one hit, and yet, they still looked as if they enjoyed singing together just as much as they did back in the days when they were husband and wife.  I think it was awesome that they ended up letting bygones be bygones, and how they managed to remain rather good friends.

Further proof of the deep respect they had for each other came at a rather sad time.  When Sonny Bono tragically died in a skiing accident in the first few days of 1998, it was Cher who was asked by Sonny's then wife, Mary Bono to write his eulogy.  Needless to say, Cher delivered.

Even years after Sonny's death, Cher continues to speak very highly of him.  Although, she poked fun at his expense (as displayed in 1993 when she sang their iconic song with Beavis and Butthead), she really did care for him, and never really stopped.  Here's where our bonus track comes into play.  For it was Sonny's death that inspired Cher to record a whole album of new material that sparked a brand new group of fans.  It was around Thanksgiving, 1998 that Cher's newest song was released.  While the song may or may not have been inspired by Sonny, it did have a powerful message in that you can believe that there is life after love. 

That song became a massive hit for Cher, and ended up putting Cher in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the oldest female to score a #1 hit on the Billboard Charts (Cher was 52 when the song was recorded).  And somewhere up there, I think Sonny Bono was smiling down on her all the way...


  1. Great posting Mark! I loved the slice of your family history and then the connection to Sonny and Cher! Thank you for your blog!

    River Jordan

  2. Did I say Mark??? Yikes! I meant Matt, *blush.

    Apologies! It was a great posting Matt! Loved it.