Cher was born Cherilyn Sarkisian in the less-than-exotic locale of El Centro, California, on May 20, 1946. Her mother was a struggling actress who struggled even more with her personal life. Eight times married, she didn't have much time to keep an eye on her lanky, languid daughter who had exotic looks and vague dreams of moving to Los Angeles and making a name for herself. At 16, Cherilyn Sarkisian followed her dreams, moving to Hollywood and changing her name to Cher. She also had the aspiration to become an actress, but when she met a scruffy, 28-year-old aspiring songwriter named Sonny Bono, she decided to ditch her dreams of fame and hitch herself to his star, however farfetched it may have seemed at the time. Surprisingly, Sonny, who was apprenticing with famed music producer Phil Spector at the time, began to get noticed for his songwriting ability despite the fact that he did not read music. When he talked girlfriend Cher into singing a few tunes in the studio with him, the two clicked as a performing team despite their obvious "odd couple" appearance. Besides, it was the mid-1960s and perceptions about what was odd and what was awesome were undergoing volcanic changes. After playing a few bowling alley gigs as Caesar and Cleo, Sonny and Cher scored a huge hit with Sonny's "I Got You Babe." Overnight they were a singing sensation and Cher was a superstar.
But it was not to last. After a couple of years of recording success, Sonny and Cher's act began to feel stale. Deemed too soft for the hard-edged psychedelic sound championed by acts like The Doors and Jimi Hendrix, Sonny and Cher were reduced to the lounge circuit by 1969. Cher resented playing to President Nixon's "Silent Majority" and piped up by engaging in some pointed sarcasm with Sonny onstage. Quite unintentionally, Cher's big mouth worked to revive the duo's career. In 1971, they landed a deal with CBS for a musical variety show featuring plenty of Cher's patented barbed banter, and "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour" was an instant hit.
While one of the act's biggest hits was "The Beat Goes On," the show did not. Sonny and Cher divorced in 1974 and ended their still popular TV gig the same year. Cher enjoyed her freedom, dating Southern Rock God Gregg Allman, with whom she had a son, Elijah Blue (also has a daughter Chastity with Bono). But despite the romantic fireworks, Cher was approaching middle age and a career crisis. Although she was a solo act, playing casinos and supper clubs, she decided to pursue her girlhood dream of becoming a serious actress, and against almost impossible odds, she succeeded. A starring role in the off-Broadway play "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean" (1982) led to Mike Nichols casting her as an unglamorous lesbian in love with Meryl Streep's character in Silkwood (1983). Cher was terrific in that movie, and suddenly the tattooed hippie child with the low voice was a serious actress. Fine performances followed in Mask (1985), Suspect (1987), The Witches of Eastwick (1987) Moonstruck (1987), for which she won the Oscar®, and Mermaids (1990). She has experienced more than her share of disappointment since then, battling Epstein-Barr syndrome and grieving the loss of her ex-husband, Sonny Bono, who died in a tragic skiing accident. Not one to rest on her laurels, Cher worked her way up from infomercials to record the hit album, "Believe," from which the title track outsold Celine Dion's hit "My Heart Will Go On" in 1998. In 2002 Cher went out on her "final" tour, in support of her new album "Living Proof," which just goes to show that the beat does indeed go on for Cher.