Friday, February 10, 2017

Sonny & Cher – "The Beat Goes On" (1967)

Grandmas sit in chairs and reminisce
Boys keep chasing girls to get a kiss
The cars keep going faster all the time
Bums still cry, “Hey, buddy, have you got a dime?”

(Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.  Except cars don’t keep going faster all the time because today most of them have poopy little four-cylinder engines that were designed to minimize emissions rather than to maximize  horsepower.)

Salvatore “Sonny” Bono was a 27-year-old songwriter and jack-of-all-trades for record producer Phil Spector when he met the 16-year-old Cherilyn Sarkisian – you know her as “Cher” – at a Hollywood coffee shop in 1962.  

Cher and Sonny in 1964
The two sang backup on classic Spector records like “Be My Baby” and “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” and released a few singles as “Caesar and Cleo,” which went nowhere.  But as “Sonny & Cher,” they became one of the most successful pop recording acts of the mid-1960s.

The couple’s fame peaked when their variety show, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, became a big hit for CBS when it debuted in 1971.  The Comedy Hour Sonny and Cher were a latter-day George Burns and Gracie Allen, but with the roles reversed – the diminutive Sonny was perfect as the hapless and not-too-bright second banana who was on the receiving end of his wife’s put-downs.

The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour
In real life, Sonny was the brains behind the operation.  He wrote and produced most of the duo’s hit singles (like “I Got You Babe” and today’s featured song), as well as some of Cher’s biggest solo hits, including “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).”

In 1988, long after he and Cher had divorced, Sonny tried to open a restaurant in Palm Springs.  Frustrated by a never-ending series of hassles with the local government bureaucracy, he decided to run for mayor and won.  

In 1992, he ran for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, but lost in the primary.  Two years later, he was elected to Congress, where he served until he died after hitting a tree while skiing in January 1998.  His fourth wife, Mary Bono, was elected to fill the remainder of his term and then re-elected seven times.  

At Mary’s request, Cher gave the eulogy at Sonny’s funeral.  The epitaph on his headstone is “And the Beat Goes On.”  

Sonny Bono Memorial Park (Washington, DC)
Shortly after Sonny’s death, a family friend funded the creation of the Sonny Bono Memorial Park, which is sited on a tiny, triangular patch of ground created by the intersection of New Hampshire Avenue and 20th and O Streets in northwest Washington, DC.  

I walked right by this park recently, but had no idea it was a memorial to Sonny.  It features a small vault filled with Sonny Bono memorabilia, including his Congressional cufflinks and the sheet music to today’s featured song, which reached the #6 spot on the Billboard “Hot 100” fifty years this month.

Here’s “The Beat Goes On”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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