Today would have been Sonny Bono's 63rd birthday. Bono is best-known for
his romantic and musical partnership with Cher, a teaming that produced the massive
hit "I Got You Babe" and catapulted Cher into superstardom, but he's
also known for his political roles. Born Salvatore Bono
in Detroit, the third child of Italian immigrants, he started
writing songs at the age of 7. He never graduated from high school and
moved to Los Angeles in the late '50s to chase after his big musical break.
His first step toward that break came in 1957 when he wrote "High School
Dance," the B-side to Larry Williams' "Bony Moronie." By the early '60s, Bono
had started working as an assistant for legendary producer Phil Spector, a job in which he picked up valuable tips about writing and arranging songs.
He first met 16-year-old Cherilyn Sarkasian LaPier, better known
as Cher, in 1963 when she came into Spector's studio to work as a backup
singer. Bono and Cher wed in 1964, the same year that the Searchers
recorded and hit the charts with a Bono-penned song entitled "Needles and Pins."
"I Got You Babe," Sonny and Cher's signature song, was recorded just a few
months after the couple exchanged vows and hit #1 in 1965. Bono spent the
remainder of the mid-'60s writing a litany of hits for himself and his
wife, both as a duo and as solo artists. Although Sonny and Cher sold millions of albums, their massive success faded with the politicization
of rock and the psychedelic revolution of the late '60s.
Abandoned by the hippie community, Sonny and Cher turned to
television, starring in "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour" from 1971-74 and
then "The Sonny and Cher Show" from 1976-77. By 1975, however, the couple
had divorced, and the duo were beginning to be thought of as relics from a very
different era. Cher went on to a successful solo career in the
music and film worlds while Bono dropped off the cultural radar screen for nearly
a decade. In 1983, he opened up a restaurant in Los Angeles and later
attempted to open one in Palm Springs, Calif., but was
blocked by city zoning officials. Not only did Bono take on city hall, but he
went on to run the joint when the people of Palm Springs elected him mayor in 1988. The '80s also found Bono back in front off the camera, appearing in such films as
"Airplane! The Sequel" and "Hairspray." In 1992, he failed in
his attempt to run for U.S. Senate, but he succeeded in landing a seat in
the U.S. House of Representatives two years later as a part of the fabled
"Republican Revolution." He was re-elected in '96 and sat on the House
Judiciary Committee. Bono was tragically killed in a ski accident on Jan.
5 of this year and was remembered by both entertainers and politicians as
someone who had great spirit and was never afraid to laugh at himself.
Other birthdays: Andy Taylor (Duran Duran/Power Station), 37, and Gerald Simpson (808 State), 35.