The Secret Jewish History of Cher

9 Reasons Why the Entertainer Is Honorary Member of Tribe

Sonny Days Ahead: Legendary entertainer Cher is hitting the road for the first time in eight years.
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Sonny Days Ahead: Legendary entertainer Cher is hitting the road for the first time in eight years.

By Seth Rogovoy

Published January 06, 2014, issue of January 10, 2014.
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In the beginning, there was Cher. And the Lord saw that Cher was good, and so He made Madonna. And Britney. And Gaga. And Miley. And then, exhausted, spent, and depressed about twerking, He went back to the drawing board and breathed new life into Cher… again.

We’re on the verge of yet another Cher comeback — these happen roughly once per decade. Last fall, she released her first album in 11 years, “Closer to the Truth,” and this year she hits the road for “Dressed to Kill,” her first United States arena tour in eight years. It begins in March and is scheduled to run through July, but will in all likelihood continue well into the rest of the year and span other continents.

Cher has always been a master of invention and reinvention. Her career spans the worlds of pop music, TV and film; she’s been a star as one-half of the famous duo Sonny and Cher (both on the pop charts and on TV), and one of the most successful solo female recording artists of the past five decades (she’s the only artist to have a No. 1 hit in every decade since the 1960s). But more than that, Cher is that rare creature — a celebrity whose fame transcends her artistic and commercial accomplishments (and failures) and in some way becomes her greatest pop culture achievement.

While Cher is of mixed ethnicity, with a mother of Irish, English and German descent and an Armenian father (she was born Cherilyn Sarkisian), she is probably most often thought to be Native American. She’s part Cherokee on her mother’s side, and she played up that heritage in costume and in song quite a bit in the 1970s.

While Cher has no Jewish background, many of the key people in her life — friends, boyfriends and collaborators — have been Jews. Her somewhat exotic ancestry, her distinctive looks, and her assertive independence have on occasion resulted in her taking on roles both in her work and in life that are expressive of her affinity with Jewish people and Jewish causes.


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