Sonny & Cher
Listen – Cher – There But for Fortune – MP3
During the period in the 80s when I was deeply immersed in 60s sounds and iconography, there wasn’t (at least for me) a stringer symbol of the mid-60s Sunset Strip than Sonny & Cher. I still have an old postcard of the duo in their early prime, Sonny in his fur vest, Cher with her beatnik girl hair, hip huggers and Cleopatra eye makeup, one glance of which is enough to send you to Pandoras Box.
Though there are those that would dispute their musical validity – I used to be one of them – their Lps, as well as Cher’s early solo albums are a storehouse of late-period imitation Wall of Sound-isms, Sonny having studied at the tiny little feet of the master himself.
That said, while Cher’s albums are often weighted down by ill advised versions of standards (but then so were any number of Motown LPs), there is almost always something cool waiting their for those willing to take the time to look.
During a recent fleamarket dig I grabbed a bunch of cheap, dusty, sunburned vinyl (nothing more than a dollar). One of the LPs I brought home was Cher’s 1968 LP ‘With Love, Cher’. I grabbed it because it included a version of ‘Hey Joe’ – which was pretty cool – but the tune that really hit me was her cover of Phil Ochs’ ‘There But For Fortune’.
Oddly enough, the first version I ever heard of this song was a quiet, pretty cover by Francoise Hardy (Cher-like in her own Gallic way). Though I was familiar with Ochs, and owned a couple of his albums, I’d never heard this song.
As I said earlier, thanks to Sonny’s (and Cher’s) time with Phil Spector, there are many Sonny & Cher recordings that bear the mark of the Wall of Sound. An extra added bonus is the fact that their musical director was none other than New Orleans expatriate, Harold Battiste who brought many Crescent City players, like Earl Palmer, Alvin Robinson, Jesse Hill and Mac Rebennack out West. It has long been rumored that the first ‘Dr. John’ LP was recorded during leftover Sonny & Cher studio time.
‘There But for Fortune’ is a great showcase for Cher’s voice – not always my favorite, but outstanding when showcased properly, a la her version of ‘Alfie’ that runs over the end credits of the film of the same name – as well as a nicely layered arrangement.
I hope you dig the tune, and I’ll be back soon with more.