1961 The movie version of the Broadway musical “West Side Story” is released. The movie is based on the 1957 musical, written by Arthur Laurents, with music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and choreography by Jerome Robbins. The story is based on William Shakespeare’s tragedy “Romeo and Juliet.”West Side Story poster

The film, starring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer, becomes the second highest grossing movie of 1961. It goes on to win ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture. West Side Story won more Oscars than any other musical film to this day.

Some of the best-known songs from the musical include “Jet Song,” “Maria,” “Tonight,” and “I Feel Pretty.”

Both “Romeo and Juliet” and “West Side Story” deal with themes of love, fate, chance, and tragedy. But where the violence in Shakespeare’s play is centered around feuding households, “West Side Story” brought an element of racial awareness into the tale.

More than 50 years later, “West Side Story” is still a favorite.

Natalie Wood in "West Side Story"

Natalie Wood in “West Side Story”

Other events on this day in history

1956 21-year-old Elvis Presley slapped upside the head by irritated gas station manager after his presence draws small crowd of autograph seekers – Presley decks him
1957 McCartney and Lennon play together for first time in John’s band, “The Quarrymen”
1961 Movie version of Broadway musical “West Side Story” released
1964 The Beatles record 6 album tracks, including “Eight Days a Week” and “Rock and Roll Music”
1966 The Jimi Hendrix Experience plays first major show, opening for French pop star Johnny Hallyday at Paris’ Olympia Theatre
1968 John Lennon and Yoko Ono arrested for marijuana possession at London apartment
1969 Rod Stewart joins The Faces (formerly The Small Faces)
1969 The Animals kick-off first headlining tour; also touring are Gene Vincent, Carl Perkins, the Nashville Teens and Tommy Tucker
1969 The Jackson 5 first TV appearance on variety show “Hollywood Palace”
1974 Soul singer Al Green attacked by flight attendant wielding boiling grits
1975 Simon and Garfunkel perform for 2nd time on “Saturday Night Live” – the duo broke up in 1970, but reunited for the show
1979 Musical “Beatlemania” opens in London
1991 Los Angeles declares “Rocky Horror Picture Show Day” in honor 1975 cult classic
1997 Hanson sings National Anthem for World Series opening game in Miami
2000 Lead singer Zack de la Rocha quits Rage Against the Machine
2005 Charlie Daniels honored as Icon at BMI Country Awards

Billboard #1 Singles

1950 “Goodnight Irene” Gordon Jenkins and The Weavers
1955 “The Yellow Rose of Texas” Mitch Miller
1960 “Save the Last Dance for Me” The Drifters
1965 “Yesterday” The Beatles
1970 “I’ll Be There” The Jackson 5
1975 “Bad Blood” Neil Sedaka
1980 “Another One Bites the Dust” Queen
1985 “Oh Sheila” Ready for the World
1990 “Praying for Time” George Michael
1995 “Fantasy” Mariah Carey
2000 “Come on Over Baby (All I Want is You) Christina Aguilara
2005 “Gold Digger” Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx
2010 “Just the Way You Are” Bruno Mars


1926 Chuck Berry
1938 Ronnie Bright (The Coasters)
1943 Russ Giguere (The Association)
1949 Gary Richrath (REO Speedwagon)
1949 Joe Egan (Stealers Wheel)
1952 Keith Knudson (The Doobie Brothers)
1956 Dirk Crippen (Tenpold Tudor)
1961 Wynton Marsalis
1975 Baby Bash
1979 Ne-Yo
1987 Zac Efron


2000 Julie London (American actress, jazz and pop singer), age 74
2007 Lucky Dube (South African reggae star), shot by car thieves, age 43
2008 Dee Dee Warwick (American soul singer, sister of Dionne Warwick), age 63
2010 Marion Brown (American jazz musician), age 79