When I was a kid we knew CHER (Cherilyn Sarkisian, born 1946) was an “Indian,” taking Native pride into suburbia while the American Indian Movement fought it out with the Feds out west and taking half of her mom’s heritage to the bank (and finding traditional fashions the first of many good excuses to get naked in public) like all adepts of 1970s cultural exploitation knew best how to do. By the time I was a bad-art student doing a painting based on the Atomic Scientists’ “doomsday clock” juxtaposed with pocket watches stopped dead at Hiroshima (don’t ask), Cher was on the airwaves singing “If I Could Turn Back Time,” having graduated from embodiment of an age to mystic touchstone for whatever was going on in your individual life. It’s that eternal staying power, renewed for every era like golden- and silver-age superheroes or James Bond actors, that earns her whatever immortality rituals she indulges in, like a surgical version of H. Rider Haggard’s SHE — we need her, and haven’t seen the last of her yet. Her spell has as much breadth as length; more than good enough at everything she turns her attention to, everyone can have a favorite Cher song, movie, concert or scandal. Here in the second century of semiotic reality and short attention spans, the creator of an artform is whoever defines it; twenty years after Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust people already tended to think it was the first album in the glam genre; ten years from now the mass public will already think that Cher’s “Believe” is the only techno song ever recorded. She seizes the moment and makes it feel like she’s given it back to every one of us; an ideal of celebrity and a superlative of flamboyance, she went over the top and got fixed in the heavens.
READ MORE about members of the Boomer generation (1944-53).