'I Got You Babe' by Sonny & Cher: The making of the classic '60s flower power pop duet

14 July 2023, 14:54

Sonny & Cher in 1966
Sonny & Cher in 1966. Picture: Alamy

By Tom Eames

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'I Got You Babe' remains one of the greatest pop duets of all time.

Sonny & Cher became overnight stars around the world when their catchy folk pop ballad topped the charts in 1965.

But who wrote the song, what inspired it and what has it been used in? Here's all the big facts:

  1. Who wrote 'I Got You Babe'?

    Sonny And Cher
    Sonny And Cher. Picture: Getty

    The song was written by Sonny Bono, a composer and record producer for Phil Spector, for himself and his then-wife, Cher, late at night in their basement.

    At the time, Sonny was 35 years-old, and Cher was 19. Sonny was an up-and-coming record producer, and he had got Cher a job as a session singer before they started dating.

    Cher went back to bed after being awakened to perform the lyrics, as she detested the song and didn't think it would become popular anytime soon.

    Sonny changed the key in the bridge to fit her voice and she ended up loving it.

    Cher told Billboard: "Sonny woke me up in the middle of the night to come in where the piano was, in the living room, and sing it. And I didn't like it and just said, 'OK, I'll sing it and then I'm going back to bed.'"

    The instrumental track was made by session musicians referred to as The Wrecking Crew.

  2. What is the song about?

    Husband and wife singing duo Sonny & Cher
    Husband and wife singing duo Sonny & Cher. Picture: Alamy

    The song can be seen as either a beautiful love song or a schmaltzy ballad.

    To Sonny Bono, it was a sincere declaration of commitment and support. He told NME in 1966: "The lyrics of my songs are very important to me. I never write anything until that very moment when I feel the emotion conveyed in the words I write.

    "I know what it is like to be kicked around because you dress differently. I know what it is like to see the girl you love hurt because a hotel refuses you admission because of your dress.

    "I know what it is like to have that one person stand by you. There are a lot of other people who have experienced these things and I'm trying to put our feelings into words for everyone."

    The song "became the duo's biggest hit, their signature tune, and a pivotal composition of the early hippie counterculture.

  3. How did it perform in the charts?

    Sonny & Cher - I Got You Babe (Official Video) [HD] - Live on Top of the Pops, 1965

    The head of the duo's record company, Atco Records, Ahmet Ertegun, didn't think much of this song and intended to release it as the B-side of 'It's Gonna Rain'.

    However, Bono was certain 'I Got You Babe' was a smash, but Ertegun was not persuaded.

    In a time when radio programme directors had more power than record company executives when it came to airplay, Bono took a recording of 'I Got You Babe' to the Los Angeles radio station KHJ and struck up a deal with Ron Jacobs.

    Jacobs could have the music exclusively if it were played once per hour. The song had a positive response when KHJ began playing it, which prompted Ertegun to release it as the A-side.

    In the United States, the song sold more than 1 million copies in 1965, being certified Gold by the RIAA. It also reached number 1 in the UK.

  4. Who else has covered the song?

    UB40 Featuring Chrissie Hynde - I Got You Babe

    For their sixth studio album, Baggariddim (1985), British band UB40 and American singer Chrissie Hynde performed a cover of 'I Got You Babe' 20 years later, in 1985.

    This version peaked at number one in the UK, while it reached number 28 in the US.

    Cher re-recorded a comedy version of 'I Got You Babe' in 1993 with the American cartoon characters Beavis and Butt-Head.

    David Bowie and Marianne Faithfull sang the song as part of Bowie's 1973 special The 1980 Floor Show for the musical variety series The Midnight Special.

    Etta James - I Got You Babe (Official Visualizer)

    Etta James recorded a funk version of the song in 1968.

    Sonny and Cher performed the song one last time when they appeared on The David Letterman Show in 1987. They didn't expect to sing, but the host convinced them to do so, putting their differences aside for a touching performance.

    When Cher began her Las Vegas residency in 2017, she performed the song as a virtual duet with a projection of Sonny Bono.

    Sonny & Cher reunite for the last time to sing 'I Got You Babe' on Letterman (1987)

  5. What films does it appear in?

    I Got You, Babe - Groundhog Day

    The song saw an unexpected return when it served as Phil Connors' (Bill Murray) recurring wake-up music in the 1993 film Groundhog Day. The song was re-released and peaked at number 66 on the UK charts.

    The song has also been included in other films including Buster, Look Who's Talking Too, Just Visiting, Me Without You, Riding in Cars with Boys, Jack and Jill and The Munsters.