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Cher files federal lawsuit against Sonny Bono's widow over Sonny & Cher royalties

Money from songs like "I Got You Babe" and "The Beat Goes On" are at stake in the potentially million-dollar civil action against Mary Bono.
Cher and Sonny Bono perform in 1968.
Cher and Sonny Bono perform in 1968.ABC Photo Archives / Getty Images

Cher filed a potentially million-dollar lawsuit Wednesday accusing Mary Bono, the widow of her ex-husband Sonny Bono, of wrongly withholding royalties for songs like "I Got You Babe" and "The Beat Goes On."

Cher and Sonny Bono, who made up the 1960s and '70s pop duo Sonny & Cher, were married from 1967 to 1975 before they divorced and agreed to "an equal division of their community property," which included an even split of music royalties, according to Cher's federal lawsuit filed in Los Angeles.

The 50-50 split carried on after Sonny Bono died in a skiing accident on Jan. 5, 1998, Cher said.

Last month, Mary Bono, through the Bono Collection Trust, told Cher that she would be cut off from royalties for Sonny & Cher hits like "I Got You Babe," "The Beat Goes On," "Baby Don't Go," "Little Man" and "Bang Bang."

The "notice of termination" stunned Cher, as she "has been the unchallenged owner of her fifty percent of all musical composition and record royalties," her lawsuit said.

The civil complaint did not name an exact dollar figure being sought, saying only that Cher is sustaining "damages, and will continue to sustain damages, in an amount not presently known but believed to exceed $1,000,000."

Mary Bono, who public records show lives in Colorado, could not be reached for comment Thursday at any of her listed phone numbers.

Sonny Bono was mayor of Palm Springs, California, before he won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994 and 1996.

After Sonny Bono's death, Mary Bono won a special election for her late husband's seat, which she held until she was ousted in 2012.

Whitney Lee contributed.