Before her ex-husband Sonny Bono emerged as a high-ranking Republican and her daughter Chastity came out as a lesbian, Cher was a cultural lightning rod. Breezily dismissive of traditional mores in the days of girls next door like Olivia Newton-John and Karen Carpenter ("Of course I believe in the institution of marriage," she quipped to Phil Donahue, "but who wants to live in an institution?"), she conducted her highly public post-Sonny affairs with all the solemnity of the costume-change artist and cosmetic-surgery devotee into which she would eventually morph.
Yet despite forays into film and liberal activism, she continued (and continues) to find time not only to record but also to concoct reasonable facsimiles of the sounds that performers half her age are taking to the top of the charts. The Very Best of Cher (Warner Bros./MCA/Geffen), give or take a hit, is the story of her success, its popularity proof that, for better or worse, her beat goes on.