Cher Sues Ex Sonny Bono’s Widow for $1 Million Over Rights and Royalties of 1960s Hits

Cher filed a complaint against Mary, the widow of her now-deceased ex-husband, Sonny Bono, on Wednesday, seeking $1 million in damages. The case contends rights and income from the songs Cher and Sonny recorded as a pair, including “The Beat Goes On” and “I Got You Babe,” are being withheld from Cher.

In the case filed in Los Angeles, Cher argues that Mary has “undone” Cher’s ownership of the rights and revenues of the former couple, of which Cher is entitled to 50 percent as a part of her 1978 divorce deal with Sonny.

While the distribution of their rights and income proceeded smoothly after Sonny’s death in 1998 from a skiing accident, Mary reportedly attempted to exploit a “wholly inapplicable statutory termination provision of the Copyright Act of 1976” to terminate Cher’s rights totally, the complaint states. The case intends to reclaim the royalties that have been allegedly withheld and aims to stop any future attempts to end her stake.

It further alleges that in 2016, Wixen Music Publishing and Sonny’s heirs “issued a notice of termination to various music publishers or other companies to whom Sonny had granted a transfer or license of the renewal copyrights, or rights under them, in the musical compositions.” The notification mentioned effective dates ranging from 2018 to 2026. This was issued without Cher’s knowledge or participation, she alleges.

Last month, the Bono Collection Trust advised Cher’s agents that the notice of termination would end “the stream of composition royalties” that Sonny transferred to her in 1978, according to the complaint.

The statement declared that under the termination clause, she would also no longer have “approval rights with respect to all agreements with third parties respecting the musical compositions and composition royalties; no longer is entitled to direct payment of 50% of record royalties directly from record companies [and] no longer is entitled to object to administration fees in excess of ten percent.”

Cher and Sonny tied the knot in 1964 and performed under the name Sonny & Cher. The former couple also established their renowned CBS variety program together, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, in the 1970s.

They separated later that decade, and Cher went on to become a great actress, receiving an Oscar for 1987’s movie, Moonstruck, while Sonny became mayor of Palm Springs from 1988 to 1992, then a Republican congressman from 1995 till his death.