Sonny & Cher: How Bob Dylan, Donovan, and Others Inspired Their Hits
Rock music in the 1960s was so big, it even began influencing bubblegum pop. For example, the Monkees gave the world a less surreal version of the Beatles’ catalog during their early years. In addition, Sonny & Cher found a way to bridge folk-rock and 1960s pop music.
Any good musician has influences. Sonny & Cher may have been a pop act, but their influences were pretty highbrow. One of their biggest hits was inspired by Bob Dylan.
How a bitter Bob Dylan song inspired a happy Sonny & Cher song
“It Ain’t Me Babe” stands as one of Dylan’s many masterpieces. It’s a very bitter song. It inspired a yin to its yang.
According to AllMusic, after Sonny Bono heard “It Ain’t Me Babe,” he decided to write something more upbeat and hopeful. Although “I Got You Babe” is substantially more polished than “It Ain’t Me Babe,” it still retains some musical elements of Dylan’s folk-rock songs. The fact that “I Got You Babe” has a similar title to “It Ain’t Me Babe” is a clever touch.
Dylan himself noticed Sonny & Cher were taking inspiration from his work. After hearing the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood,” he lamented how other acts had mimicked his style. “What’s this? It’s me, Bob. [The Beatles are] doing me,” he said, according to the book Who Is That Man? In Search of the Real Bob Dylan. “Even Sonny & Cher are doing me, but f*cking hell, I invented it.”
Why Cher felt Sonny Bono was ‘clever’ despite being a bad songwriter
According to Cher, Sonny adeptly mimicked songs by others. She told Rolling Stone, “Sonny’s clever. He’s not a good songwriter, but he’s a clever thief. No, thief is the wrong word. Influence … he uses influence well.”
Cher gave lots of examples of Sonny taking influence from other artists. “‘Just You’ was influenced by [the Shirelles’] ‘Baby It’s You.’ ‘Bang Bang’ [sounds like the music from] Zorba the Greek.”
She discussed folk singer Donovan at length. “And, uh, ‘The Beat Goes On,’ you might listen to Donovan’s ‘The Trip… Some are direct; some are indirect.” In addition, Cher said, “I Got You Babe” was “well-timed” because it come out not long after Donovan’s “Catch The Wind.” Some fans feel “I Got You Babe ” has some similarities to “Catch The Wind.”
“I got to hand it to the mother-f*cker for continuing to have perseverance on … ah … on an overabundance of a lack of talent,” Cher added. “No, no, no, I got no complaint with Sonny. Tell me, how’s he doing?”
Cher didn’t seem to mind who Sonny took influence from as long as their career was doing well. In addition, it’s hard to fault a musician for trying to emulate an artist as beloved as Dylan during the 1960s, the decade which most people consider to be the defining decade of Dylan’s career.