You Say It's Your Birthday: The Late Sonny Bono

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.