Cher and Sonny Bono met when she was 16 and he was 27. They began singing back up to other groups and singers and gradually worked their way into recording on their own. Sonny encouraged Cher to be a solo act, but in spite of her burning desire to succeed as a singer, she suffered stage fright. She wanted Sonny to sing with her to hide her nervousness, She sang to her audience through Sonny. Their first big hit "I Got You Babe" is still a vivid memory for anyone who lived through the sixties and seventies.
They got their own TV show in 1971 and the combination really worked. Cher was the lead and Sonny created his role as rather inept sidekick and lover. In their life together he was the manager, the one who came up with the plans to further their career. This plus the difference in their ages led to a feeling on Cher's part of an imbalance of power. She once called Sonny "a terrible husband but a great mentor, a great teacher."
They divorced in 1975 and went on to different lives. Sonny remarried, twice, and became a Congressman. Cher continued her career as a solo singer and as an actress. They had one child together, a daughter Chastity who made headlines with her decision to have a sex change and become Chaz Bono.
They managed to come back together professionally after their divorce and formed the Sonny and Cher show in 76 and 77. They also took part in two reunion performances.
Sonny took a fall on a ski hill and died of complications from his injuries in 1998 at the age of 62. Cher gave a eulogy at the request of Mary Bono, in tears, calling Sonny "the most unforgettable character I've ever met."
In a CBS special afterwards she referred to her grief as "something I never plan to get over."
A television movie was made in 1999 based on their relationship, called "And The Beat Goes On". It was nominated for two Emmies.
Sonny is buried in Cathedral City California. The epitaph on his grave reads, "And The Beat Goes On."