By Warren Kurtz
To celebrate Cher as a Kennedy Center Honors recipient, we’ll share three vinyl flip sides from three different decades.
“LEAVE ME BE”
SONNY & CHER
(Atco flip side of “Have I Stayed Too Long,” 1966)
Between the Top 10 successes of “I Got You Babe” and “Baby Don’t Go” in 1965 and “The Beat Goes On” in 1967, Sonny & Cher had five more Sonny Bono compositions in the Top 100, including “Have I Stayed Too Long” in 1966. Its flip side, “Leave Me Be,” was first heard in the prior year by The Zombies as the flip side of “Tell Her No” and was co-written by their bassist Chris White. On the Sonny & Cher cover, Cher powerfully sang, “You better leave me be, til I don’t want you anymore. I don’t want to meet you again, until I’m sure I’m over you.” This song was also included on the duo’s second album, The Wondrous World of Sonny & Cher. That same year, Cher, as a solo performer, achieved her first Top 10 hit with Sonny’s composition “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” and her second Top 10 hit with another Sonny composition, “You Better Sit Down Kids” the following year.
“MY SONG (TOO FAR GONE)”
(Casablanca flip side of “Take Me Home,” 1979)
Coinciding with the first season of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, with Cher dressed in costumes and gowns designed by Bob Mackie, the duo placed two singles in the Top 10, “All I Ever Need is You” and “A Cowboy’s Work is Never Done.” During that first season, Cher also achieved her first No. 1 gold single with 1971’s “Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves.” She had two more No. 1 gold singles, back to back, in the middle of the decade, “Half-Breed” and “Dark Lady.” At the end of the decade she achieved her fourth Top 10 gold single with the dance song, “Take Me Home.” The flip side was the ballad, “My Song (Too Far Gone),” from the Take Me Home album, which included songs produced by Ron Dante, who told Goldmine, “My favorite song on the album is the finale, ‘My Song (Too Far Gone).’ Cher doesn’t write a lot of songs, but she co-wrote this personal song about Gregg Allman and their son. She was so easy to work with and a totally warm person to me and all the musicians on those sessions I produced. Cher showed up early every day at the studio and sang her heart out on every song we did. Producing Cher was one of the highlights of my career. There will never be another star quite like her.”
(Geffen flip side of “I Found Someone,” 1987)
After a long absence in the Top 100, while Cher focused on films including Silkwood, she returned in 1987 with “I Found Someone” from her self-titled album Cher. Michael Bolton co-wrote this powerful love anthem, which brought Cher back to the Top 10. The flip side of “I Found Someone,” also from the album, was “Dangerous Times,” dealing with the potential vulnerability of relationships. The chorus was on par with the crispness of Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth,” which was No. 1 as Cher’s single was climbing the charts. Background singer Rosemary Butler doubled Cher’s vocal strength in the chorus and Little Feat’s Bill Payne provided a solid keyboard backdrop on this song, produced by Peter Asher. In 1989, “Dangerous Times” was used again as a flip side, this time for her gold single duet with Peter Cetera, “After All.” The record stayed in the Top 100 while her next gold single, “If I Could Turn Back Time” was beginning its rise that summer.
In the ‘90s Cher had five charting cassette singles of which “Love and Understanding,” written by Diane Warren, was the most successful. Near the end of the decade Cher asked, “Do you believe in life after love?” This CD single, “Believe,” became Cher’s biggest hit, spending a month at No. 1 and going platinum. In 2002, she was in the Top 100 with “Song for the Lonely.” In 2013, Cher’s Closer to the Truth album was filled with catchy dance numbers and a ballad showing off her vocal range called “I Hope You Find It.” In September of this year, Cher released an album of 10 ABBA covers called Dancing Queen, including “Mama Mia,” which features the line, “Here we go again.” Cher’s “Here We Go Again Tour” runs through May 18, 2019. Joel Hoekstra, told Goldmine, “It’s been an honor to play guitar for her. Musically speaking, her material is diverse and that makes for an entertaining set of music to play. There are also a couple of moments on stage where I step out and perform with her a bit, and words escape me when it comes to describing what a cool feeling that is. Every show she does something different and that really can keep you on your toes.”
The televised coverage of 2018’s Kennedy Center Honors aired Wednesday, December 26, 2018.