by Mollie Tie
Who are the greatest female pop icons of history? Madonna? Sure. Beyoncé? Of course. Kylie Minogue? Obvs. They are all undoubtedly epic pop behemoths but for me they will always be outshone by the incredible life, work and sheer grit of Cher.
Reinvention is her speciality and every Ch-era (sorry) is more ground breaking than the one that came before it. From long-haired hippie chick to fishnet-clad sexpot- Cher has always been a symbol of self-expression and empowerment. And yet despite her incredibly enduring career, she’s never really enjoyed the respect that she deserves, particularly as the years have gone on. Whilst Madonna’s significance in music is not questioned by even the most curmudgeonly of critics, Cher is often designated as a guilty pleasure- a slightly naff novelty act. But for me, that is not adequate recognition to such a pop culture Goddess.
Let’s remind ourselves of our favourite Cher manifestations:
During the initial phase of her career, Cher (a.k.a Cherilyn Sarkisian) was part of a duo with moustachioed performer Sonny Bono and the two eventually became a couple as well as performing partnership. Cher’s look was 60s hippie mixed with ethereal boho chic and fans went wild for her barefoot, long-haired and smokey-eyed look. Sonny and Cher’s break out hit was the classic “I Got You Babe” which was the success that catapulted them into stardom and signalled a promising career for one of them at least.
Presenter and Comedian
Sonny and Cher experienced a couple of years enjoying their success but at the tail end of the 1960s, rock was where it was at and the success of bands such as Led Zeppelin and Cream made S&C look pretty tame in comparison. With the loss of support from younger fans, some performers might have decided to call it a day. Not our Cherilyn- she turned her attention to a new medium… television. The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour was an old-school variety show which drew in 30 million viewers per episode at its peak. Cher was a fan favourite- delivering cool, deadpan jokes; wearing flamboyant and elaborate outfits and belting out a plethora of hits. Cher’s star stock was rising and her and Sonny divorced in 1974, just as her career went from strength to strength.
A charismatic performance in Mermaids alongside Winona Ryder and Christina Ricci. An intriguing, gothic performance in Witches of Eastwick. An emotionally charged, powerful performance in Mask. Cher decided that conquering TV and music was just not enough and instead set out to conquer film, as you do. Full-on Hollywood treasure looked set to become the next stellar stage of Cher’s already 30-year career but Cher had been there, done that by the time 1990 rolled around. She decided she had to don a leather jacket and a body stocking and straddle a cannon on a warship instead. And I for one am so glad she did because pop music would not have been the same without the video for If I Could Turn Back Time.
Modern tech guru
It’s 1998. You thought Cher may have gone into retirement. You switched on MTV and there she was with a headdress made of fluorescent tubing and an autotune, belting out 90s club classic Believe. You thought to yourself- can this woman ever be anything other than utterly badass?
And what Ch-era are we in now? The one where she is an ultimate doyenne- an incredible creative force who will live forever. It’s 2019 and she’s still in films (Mamma Mia 2) and releasing albums (Dancing Queen– an ABBA tribute record) and shows no sign of letting up. Someone wrap this woman in bubble wrap so she can live another 50 years.