31 Days of Faves: Sonny & Cher – The Beat Goes On

#11 Sonny & Cher – The Beat Goes On

There is a classic moment in Denny Tedesco’s 2008 documentary about the LA band of studio musicians known as “The Wrecking Crew“, where bassest Carole Kaye talks about when she first played the opening licks of the Sonny & Cher smash, “The Beat Goes On“. The syncopated bass line was totally her invention, in the moment as the session was underway. Such was the atmosphere in 1967, when so many of the enduring pop records of that decade were being born.

Sonny Bono had been writing songs since he was 16. He co-wrote “Needles and Pins” with another of Jack Nitzsch and worked a variety of gigs in the biz before he met 16 year old Cherilyn Sarkisian in 1962. With former Phil Spector record promoter, Sonny, driving the career bus and Cher’s powerful vocal prowess, the duo broke through with “Baby Don’t Go” and the their iconic theme song, “I Got You Babe” in 1965.

The duo’s unique chemistry was perfect for television, leading to appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, American Bandstand, Where The Action Is, Hollywood A Go-Go, Hollywood Palace, Hullabaloo, Beat Club, Shindig!, and UK pop incarnations, Ready Steady Go! and Top of the Pops. By the time the LP In Case You’re In Lovewas released in the Spring of 1967, Sonny & Cher were a pop culture phenomenon. “The Beat Goes On” became an anthem for the changing lifestyle of the times and a catch phrase that entered the lexicon of a generation. It appeared in books, films and even radio jingles over the next half decade and the opening hook became synonymous with American innovation and industrial might.

The tune was covered by a variety of artists from Buddy Rich and Vanilla Fudge to Booker T. & the M.G.’s and Canadian jazz singer Emilie-Claire Barlow.

Sonny & Cher would have long and varied careers, together and separately. They remained close even after their divorce, a friendship that ended only with Sonny’s untimely death in a skiing accident in January of 1998. Cher continues to be a superstar, dubbed the Goddess of Pop, opposite Michael Jackson’s King of Pop moniker at the peak of his fame.

But for many who know the true story, “The Beat Goes On” became an indelible hit record when Carole Kaye first plucked out the memorable bass line with The Wrecking Crew in the fall of 1967.