Cher – Strong Enough by Josiah Howard
Meticulously researched and a labour of love from Howard but its downside is that it is not the most complete or comprehensive Cher biography out there. It is certainly one that is most focused on the glittery rise and shine of her star-power.
Cher is the ultimate show queen and the mother of re-invention. The Grammy, Emmy and Oscar winner has released over 80 singles and has sold in excess of 100 million records. She has been a darling of the stage and screen and the book, “Cher – Strong Enough” looks predominantly at one chapter in this chameleon entertainer’s life.
Despite the book being named after her biggest hit (1999’s “Strong Enough”) the focus of Josiah Howard’s biography is on her eponymous, 1975 variety programme. “Cher” would come shortly after the demise of her marriage and professional relationship to Sonny Bono. He wrote and sang with Cher on their break-out hit, “I Got You Babe”and stared in the couple’s own variety series from 1971-74.
Howard is no stranger to writing about the arts and has previously written a book on film and a Donna Summer biography. He also wrote the biography about Cher which was used in the program for her Las Vegas residency. In “Cher - Strong Enough” it is obvious that Howard is a big fan of Cher’s. He first watched her in the seventies and details the television series at length.
At times this biography feels more like an episode guide as Howard lists the show’s guest stars: Elton John, Bette Midler, Tina Turner, Steve Martin, David Bowie, The Jacksons and Bill Cosby, to name a few. It couples this with anecdotes and stories alongside descriptions of Cher’s many monologues, sketches and the musical numbers that featured on the show.
Some of the segments that were filmed at the time made it to the cutting room floor (this was due to overzealous censors and the fact that more footage was filmed each week than the hour-long programme required). It is most interesting to read about these lost segments and about the gorgeous costumes she wore. These were designed by Bob Mackie, who has won numerous awards for his creations.
It is also interesting to consider what was happening to Cher during the mid-70s. At the time she faced the end of two high-profile relationships (with Bono and music mogul, David Geffen). There were lawsuits left, right and centre (including a bitter custody battle for her daughter, Chastity). And Cher was also forced to give a testimonial in front of a grand jury for a murder case, all while filming a weekly variety programme, performing tours and recording albums.
There is no denying that Cher has lived one colourful and rich life but “Strong Enough” really only tells one part of this story. While there are on-set interviews with Cher, her guests and the show’s creators, it narrowly hones in on one singular point (it is the time that Howard says Cher went from stardom to superstardom, as most people had thought she would fade into obscurity after her divorce from Bono). The book features excellent and sexy colour photographs from this period, when Cher was at her most glamorous and beautiful. It’s a shame that the 40 years that followed have been condensed into a single chapter when other stuff (and arguably less important things) were covered here in such great detail.
“Cher - Strong Enough” is meticulously researched and a labour of love from Howard but it's downside is that it is not the most complete or comprehensive Cher biography out there. It is certainly one that is most focused on the glittery rise and shine of her star-power. Ultimately, it’s an uneven look at the star’s wild ride as she faced the ups and downs of the Hollywood rollercoaster. It’s also one that will be enjoyed by fans of the artist who await the release of this TV series on DVD and to see what this sassy woman will do next.