Salvatore Phillip "Sonny" Bono (February 16, 1935 - January 5, 1998) was an American record producer, singer, actor, and politician, whose career spanned over three decades.
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 then 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.
They had a daughter, Chastity Bono, and divorced in 1974. Sonny continued his acting career, doing bit roles in such shows as Fantasy Island and The Love Boat. He played the part of a mad bomber in Airplane: The Sequel. Bono married Susie Coelho and divorced her in 1984. He married again in 1986 to Mary Whitaker. He became a practicing Scientologist. The couple had two children, Chesare Elan Bono and Chianna Marie Bono.
Bono entered politics after experiencing great frustration with local government bureaucracy in trying to open a restaurant in Palm Springs, California. With local conservative talk radio host Marshall Gilbert as his campaign manager (and later as the godfather of his two children by his new wife), Bono placed a successful bid to become the new mayor of Palm Springs. He was instrumental in making the city more business-friendly and for spearheading the creation of the Nortel Palm Springs International Film Festival, now held each year in Bono's honor. After unsuccessfully running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 1992, Bono was elected to the United States Congress in 1994 to represent the 44th Congressional District of California. He introduced the controversial Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act during his tenure to benefit the music industry and also championed the restoration of the Salton Sea, bringing the giant lake's plight to national attention. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich made a public appearance and speech at the shore of the lake on Bono's behalf.
He died after skiing into a tree at the Heavenly Ski Resort near South Lake Tahoe, California. His widow Mary was elected to fill his unexpired Congressional term, and then was re-elected in 1998 on her own right. She continues to champion many of her late husband's causes, including the ongoing fight as how to best save the aforementioned Salton Sea.
Bono's final resting place is Desert Memorial Park in nearby Cathedral City, the same cemetery in which Frank Sinatra was lain to rest later that same year. The epitaph on Bono's headstone appropriately reads: "The Beat Goes On."