Sonny Bono was a music industry rug-rat who dreamed of making a living in the business. Instead, he made a celebrated career for himself and his former singing partner and wife, Cher. From a first song that celebrated cookies to a handful of likable pop-rock chestnuts like "Needles and Pins," "I Got You Babe" and "The Beat Goes On," Bono briefly grabbed the golden ring, as have dozens of others before and after.
In fact, Bono had already spent a decade behind the scenes before "I Got You Babe" transformed him and Cher from nonentities into America's musical sweethearts, a Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald for the counterculture. In the summer of 1965, no one had even heard of Sonny & Cher. By September they had five singles on the charts simultaneously, as a duo or as solo artists -- "I Got You Babe," "All I Really Want to Do," "Just You," "Laugh at Me" and "Baby Don't Go."
Spector, in fact, produced Cher's first recording -- 1964's "I Love You, Ringo" recorded under the name Bonnie Jo Mason -- but passed on signing her when the single got no response. Sonny & Cher had by then started singing together after she got nervous in the studio and asked him to join her. That same year, a frustrated Bono borrowed $135 to produce his own session on an original song titled "Baby Don't Go." A minor hit in Southern California, it caught the ear of Atlantic's Ahmet Ertegun, who promptly signed Sonny & Cher to his Atco subsidiary. The first release was "I Got You Babe," which spent three weeks atop the pop charts, the first of 10 Top 40 singles for Sonny & Cher, most of which Bono wrote.
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