Written By: Ethan Griggs
My Music: ethangriggsmusic.virb.com
Cherilyn Sarkisian, known professionally as Cher, has remained a striking and at times polarizing figure in the music industry for over five decades. Often deemed as the “Goddess of Pop”, the California-born singer has remained at the forefront of female artistry and continues to inspire young female artists to this day. In addition she is a renown actress, and the only female musical figure to hold a Grammy, an Academy Award, and a Golden Globe. Her chilling contralto vocals and towering physical presence has transformed and blended into more styles and genres than almost any other female artist, including whimsical 70’s pop all the way to thunderous club anthems. Here are five of her best songs.
1.”Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves” from Cher (1971)
Cher got her big break as one half of the legendary husband/wife duo Sonny & Cher. Throughout the 60’s and early 70’s they were a household name and a consistent acquaintance with the Billboard Hot 100. The musical partnership eventually disintegrated per their divorce, but that wasn’t before Cher had her first number one hit as a solo artist. Although her father was of Armenian decent and her mother was a white woman who claimed to be related to the Cherokee tribe, “Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves” serves as a mystical pop song utilizing both religious and ancestral thematics as well as the exotic musical elements that had come to prominence during the counterculture era. When Cher’s unmistakable voice uttered “I was born in the wagon of a traveling show/Mama would dance for the money they’d throw”, she emerged as a towering musical figure in her own solitary right.
2. “Half-Breed” from Half-Breed (1973)
This affirming number from Cher’s eleventh studio album is another number that discusses Native American life, this time as a product of being split between two ethnic backgrounds. “My father married a pure Cherokee/My mother’s people were ashamed of me/The Indians said I was white by law/The white man always called me ‘Indian Squaw'”, sings Cher in a performance that is both emotional and fierce at the same time.
3. “If I Could Turn Back Time” from Heart Of Stone (1989)
One of Cher’s most popular albums bar none is her nineteenth, 1989’s Heart Of Stone. Serving as her goodbye to the 80’s and a hello to the 90’s, it contains some of the singer’s best known work. “If I Could Turn Back Time” is one of the quintessential woman-sung pop ballads. This tearful tale of regrets of love and loss and the wish to go back in the past to fix it is reflected in excellent lyrics like “Pride’s like a knife, it can cut deep inside/Words are like weapons, they wound sometimes”. The performance sounds truthful as it’s coming from someone who had seen relationships deteriorate with both Sonny Bono and the recently deceased Southern Rock legend, Gregg Allman.
4. “Just Like Jesse James” from Heart Of Stone (1989)
Another hit from the Heart Of Stone album is part defiant anthem of strong femininity and part western ballad. The whole “loaded gun” sentiment sprinkled through the song at first sounds like a sexual metaphor until the songs last line, where Cher turns it into a sinister twist murder mystery with “I’m gonna shoot you down, Jesse James”. Although the song didn’t hit number one on the Hot 100 like “If I Could Turn Back Time” did, it proved to be ok as nothing could’ve prepared Cher for her next huge success.
5. “Believe” from Believe (1998)
The title track off of Cher’s twenty second album is one of the biggest selling singles of all-time. Despite it being an incredible leap of faith sonically, leaving behind the traditional pop sounds of the day for those the thriving and thriving dance music movement, the song became Cher’s first worldwide number one hit, selling 11 million copies and topping the charts in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, and the United States. One of the first tracks to feature the new “Auto-Tune” vocal processor, the single won Cher an entire new generation of fans and won the 1999 Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording.