Sonny Bono was born Salvatore Philip Bono on February 16, 1935 in Detroit, Michigan. Both of his parents were Italian immigrants and the family moved to the Los Angeles area when he was seven years old.
Bono married Donna Rankin in 1954 and had one daughter Christine. He and Donna divorced in 1962. He began working in promotions and as a percussionist for Specialty Records for Phil Spector, and co-wrote “Needles and Pins” with Jack Nitzsche.
By 1963 Bono teamed up with Cher and they got married. Together they recorded several pop hits, including “I’ve Got You Babe” and “The Beat Goes On”. Their immense popularity led to a television variety show from 1971 – 1974. Bono was writing and producing their music, and they grew famous for their dramatic personalities.
Sonny had long hair and a big moustache and was charming with self deprecating humor, and Cher stood tall and intriguing while she teased Sonny about his inept ways. Together they won the heart of many weekly viewers that could not resist watching their banter and listening to their music.
Both Sonny and Cher had solo careers. Sonny played a major role in assisting Cher and she was very successful. He, however, only had one hit single as a solo artist. It was ironically titled “Laugh At Me” mirroring his public image and humor.
In 1969 Sonny and Cher had a daughter Chastity who appeared on their show regularly. She clung to her mother with her precious blond hair and beautiful face and added to the couple’s glamorous image. Chastity made the news later in her life after gender transition and a name change to Chaz.
Sonny and Cher divorced in 1975, but brought back the Sonny and Cher Show from 1976 – 1977 despite their marital status.
Later, Bono continued his acting career on his own. He appeared in “Fantasy Island” and “The Love Boat” as well as “Men In Black” and “The Golden Girls”.
Bono married wife number 3, Susie Coelho, and they divorced in 1984. By 1986 he married once again, to a much younger woman by the name of Mary Whitaker. Together they had two children, Chesare Elan Bono, and Chianna Marie Bono.
It was at this time that Bono entered the political arena. He was elected as the mayor of Palm Springs and served for four years, from 1988 – 1992. His goal as mayor was to make the city more business friendly and he played a role in creating the Palm Springs International Film Festival, which continues to be held in his honor.
Bono was eventually elected to the House of Representatives. While he still used self deprecating humor to charm others, his political goals were taken very seriously.
On January 5, 1998 Sonny Bono sustained serious injuries in a skiing accident which led to his death. Mary Bono requested that Cher speak at his funeral, and his headstone reads “And the Beat Goes On”.
Mary was elected to fill the remainder of Sonny’s Congressional term and continued to fight for many of the causes that Sonny believed in.