Sonny Bono

Multi-faceted Salvatore Bono, pop star, restauranteur, mayor and congressman, was born in 1935 in Detroit, the son of a Sicilian butcher.

 

Moving to Southern California aged seven, and ignoring his parents’ medical career ambitions for him, Bono began writing songs and poems with the intention of being a performer. Dropping out of school to support himself, Bono spent years struggling to get his music heard, under various aliases.

His break came when he landed a job as an assistant to legendary producer, Phil Spector. In 1964, The Searchers recorded one of his. His first hit, ‘Needles and Pins’, was recorded by The Searchers in 1964, on Spector’s label.

During this time, Sonny met Cherilyn Sarkisian, a 16-year old nightclub singer and aspiring actress. Leaving his first wife for her, Cher gave birth to their daughter in 1964 and the pair recorded the smash hit, 'I Got You Babe'.

With hits such as 'The Beat Goes On', their chart success was matched only by The Beatles, selling 40 million records by 1967. They appeared in films, notably 'Good Times', in 1967, and in the Bono penned musical, 'Chastity'.

The pairs’ musical success tailed off in the late 1960s, which some link to their hard stand on drugs. Now a night-club double-act, they appeared in their own CBS 'Sonny and Cher' shows up to 1974.

After an unsuccessful attempt at a solo career, Bono opened a restaurant, called ‘Bono’, in Hollywood. Realising its success, he opened another in Texas, and a Sicilian restaurant in Palm Springs.

Attracted by local business politics, Bono was elected as Republican Mayor of Palm Springs, despite never having been a registered US voter.

Popular, despite allegations of fraud, after an unsuccessful Senate bid in 1991, he nevertheless made it into Congress in 1994. Head of the Entertainment Task Force, he attacked same-sex relationships, despite his own daughter being a lesbian.

Bono died whilst skiing near Lake Tahoe in Nevada, in 1998.