The diva talks about the freedom her online release allows her -- and her fans

By Chris Willman
November 06, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST
Cher: Kevyn Aucoin

As Internet pioneers go, Cher’s an unlikely one: She can’t operate a computer, much less log on to her own site. ”I’m not very Web savvy because I’m dyslexic, so I can’t make heads or tails of it,” she says. ”I can’t type. I have a hard time seeing letters. If they make the software where you can talk into it, I would love that.”

Net head or no, Cher is among a handful of major artists who’ve released a CD for sale strictly via the Web, with no plans for a retail release. The album, ”,” was recorded on a whim in 1994 and shelved for six years after Warner Bros. deemed the unusually personal work — you guessed it — ”not commercial.” Cher shrugged and set it aside, half agreeing. ”If commercial is a Barbie doll,” she says, ”then it’s not commercial.”

The stunning revival of Cher’s career with the dance floor hit ”Believe” in 1999 may have led to the decision to bring back ”,” which is the first album the diva has cowritten. In it, she shares her thoughts about the death of Kurt Cobain, homelessness, and her unhappy childhood at an orphanage, among other things. It’s not like she never writes at all, she hastens to point out: ”I write all the time. I wrote one of the verses in ‘Believe.’ I rewrite things in my movies all the time because I have a pattern of speaking that people don’t get exactly.” But she’d never done any concentrated writing before, she confesses, ”because I’m a little flighty.”

As a bonus track, the Web only release includes a song that spent almost 30 years in a vault — written not by Cher, but by Sonny Bono. Titled ”Classified 1A,” it’s about a dying soldier in Vietnam. ”We tried to put it out [in 1971], but no one would play it because they said it was un- American,” Cher recalls.

It’s somewhat ironic that ”,” after years of neglect, is getting a second chance at life entirely because of the success of the Net’s decentralized format. Says Cher: ”Artists have more than one side, and sometimes people get locked into one thing, and there’s no place for anything else, because [radio and video channels] are so regulated…. That’s a brilliant thing that the Web can do: It’s a place for things that have no place.”