It seems more than a little surprising that Cher is not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. She is, after all, the only artist to have a Billboard #1 hit on at least one chart in six straight decades. To do that requires a consistent degree of popularity and a skill at survival that is remarkable. And Cher is nothing if not a survivor. Yet although she deserves at least two inductions into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, both for her role as part of the duo Sonny & Cher as well as for her own solo work, she is not inducted at all, when many vastly less influential artists are. Since this is a somewhat complicated case for induction, it would be worthwhile in this case to look at the separate case for induction for both Sonny & Cher as a duo, as well as Cher’s own case for induction for her solo work. This ought to be enough for her influence to be well-recognized and celebrated in as full a context as possible.
The Influence Of Sonny & Cher
The influence of Sonny & Cher is a complicated one. Part of that influence stems from their music itself, but a large part of it springs from the greater context of the duo as a supercouple in the way that they achieved and maintained popularity during the period from 1965 to 1976, when they parted ways. For one, their image of easy going pop and their opposition to the drug-fueled lifestyle of psychedelic pop was similar to the Carpenters . For another, a great deal of their popularity resulted from their accessible ways, encouraging an openness and vulnerability in dealing with the press that has greatly complicated the lives of many pop stars since then, and contributed greatly to the cult of celebrity television shows that give fans a better look at the life of stars. For better or worse, we can thank Sonny and Cher for a part of that, as well as for popularizing the period of residency of stars in Las Vegas, a technique that has been used by such artists as Celine Dion and Elton John, among many others. This is not even going into their lengthy and successful career in television as a duo. On cultural grounds alone, these are worthy of induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
The Influence Of Cher
After starting her own musical career, Cher’s cultural influence did not cease. She continued to be a cultural influence in somewhat surprising ways, despite being (like Madonna) a “trend follower” and a popularizer rather than an innovator in terms of musical genre. Nevertheless, she is responsible for popularizing the use of autotune (known also as the “Cher Effect”) , a culturally significant milestone all of its own. She is responsible as well for popularizing tattoos among women as well as serving as an inspiration in the LGBT community . Her tough image, her frequent comebacks, and her lack of sentimentality despite a rough and dramatic life story, and her somewhat outrageous sense of fashion have all served as cultural inspirations as she has retained popularity despite a great deal of critical backlash for much of her career. She has shown how someone can succeed in music, television, and movies without succumbing to drug addiction or promiscuity, despite constantly dealing with controlling producers (starting with her first husband) and the desires of others to shape her into their own desired vessels, struggles that are easy for others to relate to.
Why Sonny & Cher Belong In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
Aside from the cultural influence of Sonny & Cher, their music itself is worthy of being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Their discography includes five studio albums, two live albums, and a soundtrack album, several of which have gone gold. Among their singles, one hit #1, while another five hit the top 10 and another five besides that were top 40 hits. Included among this were standouts like: “I Got You Babe,” “Baby Don’t Go,” “Just You,” “But You’re Mine,” “What Now My Love,” “Laugh At Me,” “Little Man,” “The Beat Goes On,” “All I Ever Need Is You, “ and “A Cowboy’s Work Is Never Done .” Some of their songs not released as singles still remain relevant, like their song about divorce, “You Better Sit Down Kids,” which was ironically originally a solo song by Cher but was sung by Bono for the duo . At least a couple of their songs remain easily recognizable today in major rotation, and one song of theirs (“I Got You Babe”) served as a major plot element in the movie “Groundhog Day.” Bands with that kind of lengthy and deep cultural influence deserve recognition.
Why Cher Belongs In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
Besides Cher’s own undeniable cultural influence, her musical career has been immensely successful as a solo artist. Three of her albums have gone multiplatinum in the United States, one has gone platinum, and seven have gone gold. Among her singles, she has four Billboard #1 hits (“Gypsides, Tramps & Thieves,” “Half-Breed,” “Dark Lady,” and “Believe”), 8 more top tens (like “If I Could Turn Back Time,” “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” and others), and ten more top 40 hits, besides numerous other hits on the dance and adult contemporary charts. Her songs continue to be played on classic rock and adult contemporary and easy listening stations and she remains a popular singer in club play for her newer electronic dance music. Her duet partners have ranged from Peter Cetera and Rod Stewart to Eros Ramazzotti and Beavis And Butthead . Her range in music has extended from folk and country to dance and adult contemporary to rock and opera and burlesque. Through it all she has sought to remain herself, and has remained popular and relevant, and certainly worthy of induction.
Why Sonny & Cher/Cher Haven’t Been Inducted Into The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
It seems baffling that Cher hasn’t been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame at least once, much less twice. The singer she is closest to as a solo act is Madonna, and she was an easy induction. Cher’s longevity and popularity as an act is the equal of any artist or band (to the level of Chicago  and Janet Jackson ) that have not yet been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and there is no good reason why she isn’t in as a solo artist. As a duo, Sonny & Cher are at least at the level of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, and they were inducted a few years ago. Are Cher’s popularity with the LGBT crowd and Sonny Bono’s career as a Republican Congressman from California not cool enough for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?
Verdict: Put them in, and probably in different years. Simply for continuity purposes, it would be easier to induct Sonny & Cher as part of the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame’s regular nostalgia inductions, and Cher as a solo artist can be inducted with any other number of deserving artists, whether in the neglected genre of dance music or with other women who deserve induction as part of a diva year.