With a career spanning more than half a century, Cher has had an incredible run in Hollywood that shows no signs of stopping! In honor of the star's 74th birthday on May 20, 2020, we're taking a look back at the icon's life in photos! Keep reading to take a walk down memory lane…
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On May 20, 1946, Cherilyn Sarkisian was born to John Sarkisian and Jackie Jean Crouch in El Centro, California. After her parents' divorce and relocation to Los Angeles, Cher — seen here as a young woman in an undated photo from the 1960s — fell in love with Hollywood and dreamed of being famous.
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Cher dropped out of school at 16, moved out on her own and started working in clubs on Los Angeles's Sunset Strip. It was there in November 1962 that she met Salvatore Bono (who later was known as Sonny Bono), the man who would change both her career and her life. Cher and Sonny are seen here in an undated photo from the '60s.
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Sonny Bono introduced Cher to his boss, record producer Phil Spector (seen here, left, along with singer Darlene Love, center), who hired her as a backup singer. Her backup vocals were featured on big songs including "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" by the Righteous Brothers, but Cher was destined for greater things. Phil produced her first single, a song called "Ringo, I Love You," under the stage name Bonnie Jo Mason.
Cher's pal Sonny Bono quickly became more than just a friend. He believed in her talent, encouraging her to pursue a solo career, but Cher's debilitating stage fright put that dream in jeopardy. Cher convinced Sonny to perform with her, and the new couple formed the duo Caesar & Cleo. They put out a few singles in 1964 including "The Letter" and "Do You Wanna Dance" but didn't make a splash on the music scene at first. They're seen here in an undated photo from the '60s.
Sonny & Cher is born! In September 1964, Cher and boyfriend Sonny Bono released the song "Baby Don't Go" under their new name, Sonny & Cher. Written by Sonny (seen here with Cher in an undated 1960s photo), the tune caught on, becoming a regional hit.
After knowing each other for a little under two years Cher and Sonny Bono decided to tie the knot in a Tijuana, Mexico, hotel room in October 1964. The wedding wasn't exactly legal or official, as Sonny later recounted in his autobiography, but it was clear the two were madly in love.
Cher signed with a record label at the end of 1964, performing under her given name, Cherilyn. Sonny Bono produced her first song, "Dream Baby," which garnered radio play in Los Angeles but failed to make waves nationally. Her second song, a cover of Bob Dylan's "All I Really Want to Do," was released in May 1965 and helped the singer (seen here in 1965) gain some notoriety when it peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. But that wouldn't be her biggest hit of the year…
Cher and Sonny Bono finished their first album as duo Sonny & Cher — "Look At Us" — by the summer of 1965. It included their first mega-hit single, "I Got You Babe," which was released that July and topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for three weeks that August. They performed the hit on some of the biggest television shows of the era including "The Ed Sullivan Show," "American Bandstand" and "Hullabaloo" (seen here that September).
Aside from her hits with Sonny Bono, Cher was also busy at work on her solo career. She put out her first solo album, "All I Really Want to Do" — which was filled with a mix of covers and original songs — in October 1965. The album was a hit with critics and peaked on the Billboard 200 chart at No. 16.
Cher's solo career continued to flourish when her second studio album, cleverly titled "The Sonny Side of Cher," was released in April 1966. Like her first, it featured many covers, as well as two songs written by husband Sonny Bono. It peaked at No. 26 on the Billboard 200 and contained Cher's first No. 2 single, the Sonny-penned "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)."
Cher was a busy lady in the mid-'60s! Just one month after the release of her second solo album, she released her second album with Sonny! Sonny & Cher's "The Wondrous World of Sonny & Cher" came out in May 1966 and featured a lot of covers and songs written by Sonny. It peaked at No. 34 on the Billboard 200 and featured songs like "But You're Mine" and the cover "What Now My Love," which got radio play and charted in the U.S.
Another month, another new album from Cher! October 1966 saw the release of the star's third solo record, titled simply "Cher." This one was also mainly covers plus one song penned by hubby Sonny. It didn't do as well as her previous efforts, peaking at No. 59.
Sonny & Cher's third studio album, "In Case You're in Love," was released in March 1967. Their first two singles, "Little Man" and "Living for You," weren't huge hits, but the third time was the charm with this record: Single No. 3, "The Beat Goes On," was a smash hit that peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard chart. They continued performing on huge shows of the era like (seen here) "The Phyllis Diller Happening."
Moving to the big screen! Cher and Sonny Bono starred in their first movie, "Good Times," in 1967. The comedy came out that May and saw the musicians playing themselves. Unfortunately, the film received poor reviews and ultimately lost money.
Cher's fifth album, "Backstage," was released in July 1968. It was her first major flop. Like previous albums, it was largely made up of covers, though it failed to produce a major hit. While her solo career stalled, Sonny & Cher did as well. This was due in part to the new drug culture, which Cher and Sonny did not take part in.
Though they were dealing with hard times professionally, personally, Cher and Sonny Bono's lives changed for the better in 1969. The stars welcomed their first child, daughter Chastity Bono — now Chaz Bono — that March.
After welcoming their first child together, Cher and Sonny Bono mortgaged their home in order to make the 1969 movie "Chastity," which features Cher playing a young hippie searching for the meaning of life. It was both a critical and commercial failure, but critics were impressed with Cher's acting chops.
The same month the film "Chastity" was released — June 1969 — Cher also put out her sixth album, "3614 Jackson Highway." She's seen here taking a break while recording it in Alabama a month before its release. Once again, it was mainly covers — and also a big flop. But despite poor sales, music critics were still big fans.
Cher and Sonny Bono moved their singing act to the small screen in the early '70s, starring on "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour" beginning in 1971. The show featured the stars (seen here with Chastity) doing skits, comedy bits and musical performances. The show was a hit, as was the album Cher released that same year in September — her sixth studio album, "Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves," which featured her very first No. 1 song, the album's title track.
1972 saw "The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour" thriving as well as the release of Cher's eighth album, "Foxy Lady," which came out that July. But it wasn't a commercial success, and neither was her followup, 1973's "Bittersweet White Light." Despite two album flops, Cher persevered with her solo career and released her 10th studio album, "Half-Breed," in September 1973. The title single became Cher's second No. 1 hit.
It's over! Sonny Bono filed for separation in February 1974 and Cher (seen here at a design exhibition that November) filed for divorce a week later, citing "involuntary servitude" as the reason for the split. Just a few weeks earlier, Cher won a Golden Globe Award for best actress for her work with her ex on "The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour."
While divorce proceedings were ongoing, Cher started dating record exec David Geffen (who publicly came out as a gay man nearly 20 years later). The music bigwig helped her get out of her business deals with ex Sonny Bono and also helped her with her new $2.5 million deal with Warner Bros. Records (which resulted in yet another album flop, this time for "Stars"). He also helped produce her solo return to television on the CBS show "Cher." The series would be short-lived, running less than a year during 1975, but critics loved seeing the star back on the small screen.
Cher and Sonny Bono's divorced was finalized by June 1975 and Cher wasted no time trading David Geffen for musician Gregg Allman of The Allman Brothers band, whom she wed just days after a judge signed off on her divorce. The relationship was rocky to say the least, with Cher filing for divorce nine days later only to later reconcile with Gregg and have his son, Elijah Blue, in July 1976.
Though they were no longer married, Cher and Sonny Bono reunited on television for "The Sonny and Cher Show" in 1976 — the first series to ever star a divorced couple. It was a hit with fans, but not for long. There was eventually a backlash, with Cher's developing relationship with Gregg Allman off screen and their divorce banter on screen making things awkward. It was canceled in August 1977.
In 1977, Cher and Gregg Allman recorded a duet album under the name Allman and Woman entitled "Two the Hard Way." Unfortunately, with the album's release, their relationship came to an end, with their divorce coming through in 1979.
Following more album flops, Cher signed with Casablanca Records and attempted a comeback in 1979. She took a note from the disco music craze and released "Take Me Home" that January, which was certified gold after selling more than half a million copies. She followed that up with "Prisoner" that October, which slanted a bit more rock and wasn't as much of a success. When she wasn't performing, she was a busy single mother of two to Chastity and Elijah (seen here in 1980).
Cher's next relationship resulted in a new band! She started dating guitarist Les Dudek, with whom she formed Black Rose. She briefly sported a pseudo-punk look, cutting her hair as they released their eponymous first album in August 1980. The album didn't receive great reviews, but Cher was pulling double duty at the time, also performing her hits in a Las Vegas residency. Black Rose disbanded in 1981.
After a few more album flops, Cher set her sights on acting again. After moving to New York, she performed on Broadway in the play "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean" and later starred in the 1982 film adaptation.
Cher followed up "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean" with 1983's "Silkwood" opposite movie stars Meryl Streep and Kurt Russell. Her impressive acting skills in the flick earned her a Golden Globe Award for best supporting actress and an Academy Award nomination in the same category. That wouldn't be her only critically acclaimed flick of the '80s…
Cher arrived at the 1986 Oscars in this iconic, barely-there ensemble designed by Bob Mackie. "I knew some people in the Academy didn't think that I was a serious actress," she told British Vogue years later. "I always felt a bit sad that I presented Don Ameche with his best supporting actor award in that outfit. It seemed to make him a little nervous." The Academy failed to nominate her for her work in the critically acclaimed 1985 film "Mask" after she received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in the drama.
Cher met bagel shop worker-turned-bartender Rob Camilletti — seen here at the "Torch Song Trilogy" premiere in December 1988 — when she was 40 and he was 22. Their romance made headlines for years as they dated through the late '80s. Cher was devastated that the media always focused on their age difference, especially since Rob, who eventually became a pilot, was one of her great loves. "It's no use denying I miss those days," she told Women's Realm magazine years after their breakup. "He was possibly the one true love of my life. I hate the phrase 'toy boy.' It's so demeaning."
1987 saw Cher star in three films: the drama "Suspect," the comedy-horror flick "The Witches of Eastwick" with Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jack Nicholson, and "Moonstruck" (pictured here), a romantic comedy co-starring Nicolas Cage and Olympia Dukakis.
While her film career was flourishing, Cher's music career was also experiencing a revival. Her 18th studio album, "Cher," came out in November 1987. It went platinum and included the Michael Bolton-penned song "I Found Someone," which heralded her return to the top of charts. The tune marked her first time in the top 10 since 1979.
Cher's work in "Moonstruck" was well-received by fans and critics alike. The performance won her a best actress Academy Award and Golden Globe. She wore this showgirl-inspired Bob Mackie creation to accept her Oscar in 1988.
1989 marked the release of Cher's 19th album, "Heart of Stone," which included one of her biggest hits ever, "If I Could Turn Back Time." The hit single helped propel the album to triple-platinum status. Her look in the video, which was shot on a battleship in Long Beach, California, was iconic, and one she'd sport again later in her career.
Cher dated Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora in 1989 and 1990. They're seen here at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles that September.
After a brief absence from the big screen while she again focused on music, Cher returned with the film "Mermaids" in 1990. She played a mother to two daughters (Winona Ryder and Christina Ricci) in the movie, which was a big hit with audiences. Cher also performed songs on the soundtrack, including the hit "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)."
Cher (seen here at a charity benefit in 1994) dealt with some health struggles in the early '90s, resulting in her stepping back from her film and music careers due to chronic fatigue. In order to pay the bills, she starred in infomercials, which tarnished her A-list status.
The mid-'90s saw Cher return to music and film. She released a moderately successful album, "It's a Man's World," in 1995 and starred in 1996's "Faithful" (pictured). The film received dismal reviews, but Cher's performance was praised. Her directorial debut also came out in 1996 — the HBO film "If These Walls Could Talk."
Sonny Bono died in 1998 in a skiing accident. Cher attended the funeral with their only child together, Chastity, who'd been making headlines for the past few years after coming out as a lesbian on the cover of The Advocate in 1995. After Sonny's death, Chastity released the book "Family Outing," which was meant to help young gay people come out to their families.
After Sonny Bono's death in January 1998, Sonny and Cher were honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame that May. Cher accepted the honor along with their family members. That same month, she hosted a special, "Sonny & Me: Cher Remembers," on CBS. Later that year in October, her album "Believe" — which introduced her dance-pop side — was released. It went quadruple platinum and sold 10 million copies worldwide.
Cher received the Legend Award at the 1999 World Music Awards in Monaco, a prize given to her for her lifelong contributions to the music industry. That same year, she was named Billboard's top dance artist, sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the Super Bowl and performed on VH1's "Divas Live 2" concert special alongside Whitney Houston, Tina Turner and Brandy.
On Valentine's Day in 2002, Cher reunited with ex-boyfriend Tom Cruise, whom she'd dated in the '80s, at a charity concert. While discussing her past romantic relationships on "Watch What Happens Live" in 2013, Cher told host Andy Cohen, "I had just the greatest lovers ever. Not a long list. It's just a good list." As for Tom? "He was in the Top 5," she gushed.
2002 saw Cher embarking on her final live concert tour, "Living Proof: The Farewell Tour," in support of her 2001 album "Living Proof." The tour ended up being extended several times, continuing through 2005. It is still one of the highest grossing concert tours of all time as it earned $250 million over 326 dates.
In December 2002, Cher was honored with the special Artist Achievement Award at that year's Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas. Then 56, she also won the award for dance/club play artist of the year that night. Her date for the big event? Her 26-year-old son, Elijah Blue Allman.
Back on the big screen! Cher appeared in the Farrelly brothers flick "Stuck on You" in 2003 alongside Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear, who played conjoined twins. She played herself in the funny film.
In 2009, Cher's firstborn child, Chastity Bono, began the process of transitioning into a man. He started receiving testosterone injections, had his breasts removed and underwent gender reassignment surgery. Of the change, Cher told "Nightline," "I have two sons. Never thought that would be, but, you know, you go through life and you get what you get." Her son reintroduced himself as Chaz Bono and made appearances alongside his mom (seen here in 2010) the following year.
Cher enjoyed another major movie hit in 2010 when she starred opposite Christina Aguilera in the movie musical "Burlesque." Besides acting in the flick, Cher also performed two songs on the film's soundtrack.
2010 also saw Cher immortalized on Hollywood Boulevard again, this time with a hand and footprint ceremony outside the iconic Grauman's Chinese Theater. She brought along son Chaz Bono and her mother, Georgia Holt, to support her on her big day.
A fashion darling in her 70s! Cher attended the 2015 Met Gala as designer Marc Jacobs' guest and then went on to serve as his model! She appeared in campaigns for his fall/winter line that year.
Cher gets political! In 2016, Cher supported Hillary Clinton for president. The singer-actress made multiple appearances during the politician's campaign in various cities including Miami (seen here) on the eve of the election. When asked during this event what she would do if Donald Trump won the presidency, Cher answered; "I'm gonna have to leave the planet." Fortunately for all of us, she's still here.
At the 2017 Billboard Music Awards, Cher performed "If I Could Turn Back Time" in her iconic outfit from the music video — which was shot nearly 30 years earlier! That night, she also received the Billboard Icon Award.
More than 50 years after she got her start in Hollywood, Cher's career was still thriving in 2018. That January, she was honored with a water choreography performance of her hit "Believe" by the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas — an ode to the star's continuing residency, "Classic Cher," at the Monte Carlo resort, and a nod to the song's 20th anniversary later in 2018.
Back to the big screen! Cher joined the star-studded cast of 2018's "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" after an eight-year hiatus from film. The legend played Ruby Sheridan in the musical sequel.
Cher headed back out on the road in September 2018 on her "Here We Go Again" tour. That same month, she released the album "Dancing Queen," which featured ABBA covers. The superstar kicked off her off-and-on world tour in New Zealand and wasn't set to wrap the concert trek until 2020. (The tour was cut short due to the global coronavirus pandemic.)
Cher was among an esteemed group of entertainers who received a Kennedy Center lifetime achievement honor in December 2018. The star, who was honored alongside Lin-Manuel Miranda and Reba McEntire, among others, was lauded by Whoopi Goldberg and Amanda Seyfried at the big event in Washington, D.C.
Cher's life story has made it to Broadway! "The Cher Show," a musical based on the star's early life and career, hit the Great White Way in December 2018. Cher was in attendance to give her stamp of approval on opening night.
Continuing with her trend of getting political, Cher attended the VH1 Trailblazer honors in February 2019 to honor Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi — and didn't pass up a chance to diss Donald Trump in the process.
In November 2019, Cher popped up on the finale of "Dancing With the Stars" to perform her hit "The Beat Goes On" just before "The Bachelorette" star Hannah Brown was handed the Mirrorball Trophy as that season's winner.