Once Upon a Time in the Top Spot: Sonny & Cher, “I Got You Babe”
53 years ago today, Salvatore Bono and Cherilyn Sarkisian settled into the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 with a single that, even long after the dissolution of the duo, has continued to serve as their signature song. Borrowing a bit from Bob Dylan and a lot from his mentor, Phil Spector, Sonny Bono penned some suitably sweet lyrics for “I Got You Babe,” but it’s the music and the production that made the song into a stone-cold classic, moving from your semi-standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-verse-chorus format before beginning the build-up to an epic climax and then fading to its conclusion. “I Got You Babe” has been covered numerous times over the years, with UB40 and Chrissie Hynde finding the most commercial success with the song, but R.E.M. notoriously (and quite raggedly) covered it in an early – and much bootlegged – performance, which made it all the more amusing for their fans when Cher joined them to sing it in 2002 at their performance at Los Angeles’s Kodak Theater. Still, it’s the version by Sonny and Cher that’s had the most staying power, which is why it never fails to feel poignant when someone plays the clip of the duo performing the track together for what would prove the be the final time, on the November 13, 1987 episode of Late Night with David Letterman.
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