Sonny Bono was a gifted and versatile record producer, singer, actor, and politician, whose career spanned over three decades. In each of those incarnations, he was underrated by elite journalists, though more widely admired by the public.
Bono began his music career working for the legendary record producer Phil Spector in the early 1960s. Later in the same decade, he achieved commercial success, along with his wife Cher, as part of the singing duo Sonny and Cher.
Bono wrote, arranged and produced a number of hit records with singles like I Got You, Babe and The Beat Goes On though few people knew he did more than sing. Cher got more attention as a musical talent.
Sonny and Cher starred in a popular television variety show. But there again, Cher seemed lively and funny, and Sonny a bit slow. Since the act worked, they stuck with it, but Bono never got his due as a TV performer.
They divorced in 1974. Sonny continued his acting career, doing bit roles in such shows as Fantasy Island and Love Boat.
Sonny Bono entered politics after experiencing great frustration with local government bureaucracy in trying to open a restaurant in Palm Springs, California. In 1994, Bono was elected to the U.S. Congress. Again, he was ridiculed when first elected, but showed himself a politician of no mean skills.
He died after skiing into a tree at the Heavenly Ski Resort near South Lake Tahoe, California. Finally, Sonny Bono had done something truly stupid, and in death people talked about his humor, success and humanity.
See also: Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act