142) Sonny and Cher – “I Got You Babe”

The Byrds proved the burgeoning counterculture could be prettied up for the mainstream, but Sonny and Cher watered it down and sweetened it enough that conventional pop fans would hardly know what they were drinking. But the hippie generation’s Steve and Eydie weren’t bandwagon jumpers, exactly. Sonny Bono had co-written the proto folk rock “Needles and Pins” for Jackie DeShannon two years before, while Cher had a solo hit earlier that summer with a version of Bob Dylan’s “All I Really Want to Do.” But “I Got You Babe” is hardly trying to be folk rock anyway, apart from a few trendy superficialities: Sonny’s nasal squawk, the Dylanesque “babe,” the duo’s long hair and bellbottoms. The lovey-dovey lyrics are too sentimental, and any guitars that might be floating around in the mix are drowned out by woodwinds and bells. If Sonny and Cher are ripping off anyone, it’s their former boss Phil Spector. With its low-rent Wall of Sound arrangement and us-vs.-the-grownups mentality, “I Got You Babe” sounds an awful lot like a Righteous Brothers record if they crooned Crystals lyrics to each other. Its unabashed corniness is thoroughly charming, and the orchestral build and false ending confirm that Sonny picked up on his mentor’s grasp of dynamics. That the arrangement is more stripped down than Spector’s usual aural onslaught is less a failure of ambition than a concession to the new era of rock.  Sonny and Cher’s voices may seem mismatched – hers low and forceful, his whiny and hardly on key – but they have the vocal chemistry of a couple in love. Even when the pair sounds like they’re trying to out-sing each other, it’s like they’re saying “no, I love you more.” “I Got You Babe” may have knocked off everything about folk rock (except the folk part and the rock part), but it’s so genuinely sweet that it never feels like a sorry imitation.  7

Hit #1 on August 14, 1965; total of 3 weeks at #1
142 of 1011 #1’s reviewed; 14.05% through the Hot 100

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5 Comments

Filed under 07, 1965

5 responses to “142) Sonny and Cher – “I Got You Babe”

  1. This is one of at least TWO old songs forever associated with later films starring Bill Murray.

  2. “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” and Stripes?

  3. I was going to ask if anybody could hear this song anymore without thinking of Groundhog Day, but Sam Huddy beat me to it. That’s what I get for getting behind.

  4. GeorgeL

    This isn’t a bad song, but for some reason it just hasn’t aged that well IMHO. Not sure sure what it is but I’ve grown sort of tired of this song. On their early albums, S&C experimented with different sounds (Specter pop; folk-rock; R&B, etc). Sonny doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a producer. FYI – I actually like their previous hit “Baby Don’t Go” better than this one.

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