MALIBU, Calif. -- Although her first album in a dozen years, Closer to the Truth, won't be released until Sept. 24, its sensual cover, featuring Cher in flowing blonde tresses and a skimpy nightie, is already generating talk--which suits the 67-year-old icon just fine. She recently curled up on a sofa (donning rocker chick gear instead of a negligee) in a rented home nestled high above the shores of Malibu to reflect on her life, her career ... and Betty White.
It's interesting that you, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry all have new CDs being released within weeks of each other, because you all have a similar sense of theatricality and style. Have either of them ever come forward and personally given you props?
I think Gaga has, but I don't know enough about Katy to know if she has, but look -- I set a place for Madonna, Madonna set a place for them. We try to move the bar to have more freedom of expression. That's what it is, being able to express yourself in any way you want to, in any look you want to, because, when I was growing up, when Sonny and I first started, people hated us for the way we looked. We got into lots of trouble. We got thrown out of restaurants and we got beaten up. It was hard to be who you wanted to be and look too different. And we looked really different! I mean, the Beatles still had their little haircuts and their suits but nobody looked like us. I thought we looked fabulous!
Your new album is very strong and you're sounding in remarkably supple voice!
I think I am. And I do like the songs and can actually listen to it and not shudder.
There are a couple of tracks in particular -- You Haven't Seen the Last of Me (from Burlesque) and Sirens -- where you hit some really lovely notes.
And no one's more surprised than I am. People ask me to do things that I've never done before and didn't think I could. And I love songs where you don't know that it's me. I really do. Because I have a distinctive voice and it's no fun to just go, "Oh, that's Cher."
But that's also what people like about your voice -- it's your own.
True, but when we did Believe, I was so excited when the record company said, " 'We don't know it's you right in the beginning,' and I went, 'I know!' "
You were recently quoted as saying you've never been a huge Cher fan. Was that taken out of context?
No, absolutely not. I like to sing but I don't want to hear my speaking voice!
Yeah, I mean, if I'm acting I'm OK, but if I hear it just as something."
But you're OK seeing yourself on screen?
I haven't seen every movie I've made. Like, I've waited a year to two years to see some films, but they're going to be there, so it's not like I have to rush out. I've never really liked looking at pictures of myself. I kind of look at it with a detached eye because I have to finalize them -- and I can look at them in retrospect, like, I was just looking at some pictures in a book and I thought, "Oh, I remember that. That was really fun. God, Bob (Mackie) did a fabulous outfit and, whoa, look at my body. It was hot!"
Whatever you might think of your voice, your singing has never sounded better.
It was pretty bad in the beginning. But I'm happy with it now "¦ I mean, I'm happy with the notes, and my vocal teacher's made a huge difference. It's so freaky people because people my age are having to lose notes and I'm gaining notes, so that's pretty shocking.
Maybe you'll be like Tony Bennett.
I like Tony Bennett. Wouldn't that be fabulous? Like Tony Bennett and Betty White. She's the best. She's the most fun person.
And she's got a wicked sense of humour.
Come on! Yes! Totally, totally wicked! And a mouth like a sailor! She's my hero.
What you and Betty White already have in common is that you're both adored. Whenever I mentioned that I was going to be speaking with you, people always said, "I love Cher!"
That's cool. I like that. It's nice to be liked. I mean, there are many artists that you don't really have to like because the art is really great and you can't confuse the art with the artist. I remember we once went to dinner with a comedian who shall remain nameless. Huge comedian. We should have never gone to dinner, because after dinner I couldn't laugh at anything he said again.
Seeing as If I Could Turn Back Time has become your signature song, are there certain things in your life that, if you could turn back time, you'd want to take back or do over?
Oh, countless, I'm sure, but you just can't. I kind of think that even the bad things are your path and do something for you one way or another. But there are millions of things that I wish hadn't happened or I reacted to in a different way or I made a different choice, but, what belongs to you comes
It's been a pretty cool career"¦
Yeah. I mean, it's had really high highs and really low lows and there's either laughing or crying or waiting or going, well f--- it! You know? I don't know what's going to happen. I mean, at some point, I won't be relevant, but I'm not sure. I want to be like Betty White and everybody can't be Betty White, but I'll go for as long as I want to and as long as people want me to. I've just been here so much longer ... I thought I'd be dead right now! If I had known I was going to live this long, I think I would have done less sleeping and more activities. But you know what? I've crammed five lifetimes into my life.
Over the course of her remarkably enduring music career, Cher has logged 32 Top 40 hits (counting those with Sonny) to date. Here are five of our faves:
1) I Got You Babe
Her first and only number one hit with Sonny--it topped the charts for three weeks over the summer of '65--I Got You Babe would go on to be a part of cult classic history three decades later as the song that Bill Murray would wake up to every morning (again and again) in Groundhog Day.
Perfectly timed to tap into the country's attempt to address social injustices against Native Americans through song and film (see also Paul Revere and The Raiders' Indian Reservation and Billy Jack), the catchy tune casting Cher as the biracial daughter of a Cherokee mother hit No. 1 in the U.S. and Canada.
3)Take Me Home (1979)
Cher swapped rocker chick for disco queen, with the gravity-defying head-dresses to prove it, and landed her 12th top 40 solo hit as well as cementing her status, along with Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand, as a beloved gay icon.
4)If I Could Turn Back Time (1989)
By the end of the '80s few female singers could belt out a power ballad quite like Cher, and the anthemic single would become her signature song. Of course, having a banned video in which you're straddling a USS Missouri cannon clad in a fishnet body stocking and flanked by hundreds of cheering sailors certainly didn't hurt.
Representing yet another shift in musical direction for Cher, the dance smash topped the charts in 23 countries, while its pioneering use of Auto-Tune--subsequently known as the "Cher effect"-- would become a highly sought-after recording studio tool for dozens of pop and hip-hop stars right up until today.