It’s been a pretty big week on the Cher front. Not only did she receive the Kennedy Center Honors alongside Philip Glass, Reba McEntire, Wayne Shorter and the creators of Hamilton, but her Broadway musical The Cher Show opened on Monday night. The show received fairly mixed reviews, but most of the press focused on actor Jarrod Spector, who plays Sonny Bono, gently admonishing Kanye for being on his phone throughout much of the night. “Please pardon my lack of etiquette,” Kanye wrote in a rare apology. “We have so much appreciation for the energy you guys put into making this master piece.”
The Cher Show chronicles the many ups and downs of the singer’s tumultuous career. One of the first big dips came in 1975 when she severed all ties with Sonny Bono, signed a new deal with Warner Bros. and recorded the LP Stars with producer Jimmy Webb. She was working on her own variety series at the time, finalizing her divorce from Bono and preparing to marry Gregg Allman. All of this generated endless media attention, but the album was largely an afterthought and it never rose higher than Number 153 on the Billboard 200. It was the first true bomb of her career.
“It’s not what we expected,” says Margaret Stevens, a former promotion staff member at Warner Bros. “Her personal life was too high-profile and no one could take her seriously as a recording artist…No matter how strong the product, a bias had developed.”
Stars has never officially been issued on CD and isn’t available for streaming or purchase on the iTunes music store, which is a shame since many of the best session musicians of the Seventies play on it – including drummers Hal Blaine, Jeff Porcaro, Jim Gordon and Jim Keltner, pedal street great Orville “Red” Rhodes, guitarist Fred Tackett, future Bob Dylan backup singer Clydie King and Van Dyke Parks, who is credited as the steel drum arranger.
Hearing the album today requires tracking down an ancient vinyl or 8-track copy or simply going to YouTube. Check out her cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul” from Stars right here. That may seem like an odd choice for her to tackle, but Neil Young wrote it about the pressures of fame and in 1975 that was certainly a topic on Cher’s mind. In fact, it makes even more sense considering that Neil Young was a pretty unknown by the broader public when he wrote “Mr. Soul” in late 1966 and Cher was one of the most famous people on the planet when she sang it a little under a decade later.
Unsurprisingly, “Mr. Soul” appears nowhere in the new Cher Broadway musical. It does, however, have Gregg Allman singing “Ramblin’ Man” even though that one was written and sang by Dickey Betts. If Kanye had bothered to look up from his phone, maybe he would have picked up on that.