Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe” may have been their debut hit on the Billboard Hot 100, but it wasn’t the first time they were heard on smash singles.
Sonny Bono was working for producer Phil Spector in the early 1960s, and, after meeting Cher in 1962, the pair sang background for Spector on the Ronettes’ 1963 hit “Be My Baby” and the Righteous Brothers’ 1964 chart-topper “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.”
The couple soon signed with Atco Records and released “I Got You Babe,” written and produced by Bono, in 1965. The tune topped the Hot 100 on Aug. 14, 1965 – 50 years ago today – and spent three total weeks at No. 1. It was the first of 18 hits for the duo, who, according to Bono’s memoir And the Beat Goes On, didn’t marry until 1969.
The pair’s onstage banter turned the twosome into variety TV show stars in 1971 with CBS TV’s The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. The same year, Cher notched her first solo No. 1 with “Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves.”
By 1977, however, the couple – which had divorced in 1975 – was off the air and went its separate ways. Bono became the mayor of Palm Springs, Calif., from 1988 to 1992 and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994, where he served until his death in 1998 following a skiing accident.
Cher sailed on to a spectacular solo career, earning six straight decades of No. 1 singles on Billboard‘s charts. (She’s also collected an Academy Award, Emmy Award and a Grammy Award.) She celebrated her highest-charting solo album ever on the Billboard 200 with Closer to the Truth, which debuted and peaked at No. 3 in October 2013.
Was it a big deal for Sonny & Cher to hit No. 1 with their signature classic? “Are you kidding? I mean, Jesus, it was everything that we were living for,” Cher recently told Billboard. “It was what we were breathing for. It was our goal to do it. We struggled and struggled and struggled because of the way we looked. I mean, we looked different than anyone else. We got thrown out of every place. We had songs that didn’t do anything, and then all of a sudden we had all these songs on the chart …”
A version of this article first appeared in the Aug. 16, 2014 issue of Billboard Magazine.