References in Popular Culture
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In addition to Bernstein's own West Side Story Suite, the music has been adapted by The Buddy Rich Big Band, which arranged and recorded "West Side Story Medley" on the 1966 album Buddy Rich's Swingin' New Big Band, and The Stan Kenton Orchestra, which recorded Johnny Richards' 1961 Kenton's West Side Story, an album of jazz orchestrations based on the Bernstein scores. It won the 1962 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Recording by a Large Group.
Popular artists have recorded songs from the musical:
- In 1996, the album The Songs of West Side Story was released. This album included such diverse artists as Selena ("A Boy Like That"), Little Richard ("I Feel Pretty"), Trisha Yearwood ("I Have a Love") and Salt-n-Pepa, Def Jef, Lisa Lopes, the Jerky Boys, and Paul Rodriguez all collaborating on "Gee, Officer Krupke".
- "America" has been covered by The Tijuana Brass in an upbeat version on an early album; 1960s progressive rock band, The Nice, recorded it as an instrumental protest song and Keith Emerson continued to perform it in concerts with his later groups, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and 3. The song was also sampled at the beginning of the Yes cover of Paul Simon's America and at the beginning of the Metallica song "Don't Tread on Me", from their Black Album (1991). Yes also released "Something's Coming" as a single.
- Alice Cooper incorporated the "Jets Song" into "Gutter Cat vs. The Jets" on their School's Out album.
- P. J. Proby, Len Barry, and Barbra Streisand each had hit singles with versions of the song "Somewhere", while Johnny Mathis, Roger Williams and again P. J. Proby did likewise with "Maria". Ferrante & Teicher scored a top ten hit with "Tonight"; Eddie Fisher also scored a chart hit with the song.
- Michael Jackson's life had been significantly influenced by West Side Story, and he made a tribute to it in "Beat It" and in the "Bad" video. According to a West Side Story cast member David Winters, who met and befriended Jackson while choreographing the 1971 Diana Ross TV Special "Diana!", Jackson watched West Side Story almost every week and it was his favorite film.
- Tom Waits opened his 1978 album Blue Valentine with "Somewhere"; and 19 years later (1997), British singing group Pet Shop Boys recorded their version of the song, using elements of "I Feel Pretty". During their 1997 series of concerts at the Savoy Theatre, London, they used an extended version of "Somewhere" that started with "One Hand, One Heart". From 1988 to 1991, Devo performed a medley of their songs Disco Dancer and Shout based around a suite featuring a cover of "Somewhere". A recording appears on the live 1989 album Now It Can Be Told: DEVO at the Palace and a longer extended demo version appears on the compilation Recombo DNA which also incorporates the song "Social Fools" and the old Devo characters of the Chinaman and Booji Boy.
Curb Your Enthusiasm extensively referenced West Side Story in the Season 7 episode "Officer Krupke."
David Winters, who starred in both the original Broadway production and the motion picture was greatly influenced by West Side Story and had gone on to choreograph, direct and produce hundreds of projects with such stars as Barbra Streisand and Elvis Presley in music and film. The influence that West Side Story had on him can be seen in his choreography and in many of his future projects. Also through a West Side Story production, in Los Angeles, circa 1962, Winters met and befriended Teri Garr and Antonia Basilotta (better known as Toni Basil), both of whom would figure prominently in Winters' life in the future as they would become two of his best dancers when he became a choreographer.
In 1995, punk rock band Schlong released "Punk Side Story" on Hopeless Records. The album was a re-recording of the original soundtrack done in various punk styles, including hardcore, street punk, and third wave ska.
In an episode of That 70's Show, Donna and Jackie reference West Side Story, and Fez's daydream sequence resembles a scene from it.
Photographer Mark Seliger re-created scenes from the film for magazine Vanity Fair called West Side Story Revisited, using Camilla Belle as Maria, Ben Barnes as Tony, Jennifer Lopez as Anita, Rodrigo Santoro as Bernardo and Chris Evans as Riff. Portraying the Sharks are Minka Kelly, Jay Hernandez, Natalie Martinez, Brandon T. Jackson and Melonie Diaz. Portraying the Jets are Ashley Tisdale, Sean Faris, Shane Lynch, Robert Pattinson, Cam Gigandet, Trilby Glover, Brittany Snow and Drake Bell.
Pixar animator Aaron Hartline used the first meeting between Tony and Maria as inspiration for the moment when Ken meets Barbie in Toy Story 3. Glee's third season has also featured a school production of West Side Story with multiple songs from the production, performed in episode 2 "I Am Unicorn", episode 3 "Asian F" and episode 5 "The First Time".
The 50th Anniversary of West Side Story celebration was held at the 2011 Ventura Film Festival and included lifetime achievement awards for Academy Award Winner/Golden Globe Winner George Chakiris and Golden Globe Winner/Academy Award Nominee Russ Tamblyn as well as honoring a number of other cast members such as Robert Banas, Maria Henly, and Gina Trikinos.
In the Friends sitcom episode "The One With Chandler's Dad" (season 7 episode 22) Chandler's dad briefly sings the chorus of "I Feel Pretty" during his cross-dressing burlesque show. The audience shouts the word "gay!" in unison.
In the HBO show The Newsroom (season 1 episode 4), main character Will McAvoy compares the rivalry between day time and prime time news shows as being like "Jets and the Sharks".
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“Popular culture is seductive; high culture is imperious.”
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—Friedrich Nietzsche (18441900)
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