Arizona claims a whole list of artists who hail from, lived in, and got their starts in the state, and their music is more familiar than you might think — especially if you didn't know they're from the area. These artists have lent their music, vocals, and talents to the silver screen, both in low-budget independent films and blockbuster moneymakers. Here are nine you might recognize:
9. Zella Day – “Sacrifice” – Insurgent
This Pinetop-born singer-songwriter grew up spending time in her parents’ café/art space, whose regulars inspired her creative drive. Classic records and the surrounding nature of her town influenced her songs, which she started writing at age 9. Zella Day first gained recognition for her take on The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” but with the release of last year’s Kicker, she proved her worth as an original artist. She appears on the soundtrack of Insurgent, the second installment in Veronica Roth’s dystopian, post-apocalyptic trilogy of young adult novels, with her track “Sacrifice.”
8. Jordin Sparks – “Celebrate” with Whitney Houston – Sparkle
Born in Phoenix and later attending Sandra Day O’Connor High School, Jordin Sparks won various local talent competitions and sang the national anthem for the Valley’s professional sports teams. After winning Arizona Idol, Spark caught her big break and rose to fame after winning the sixth season of American Idol at a mere 17 years old. Her debut album generated hits “No Air” and “Tattoo.” Sparks sings a duet with Whitney Houston on the single “Celebrate” from the 2012 remake of Sparkle, which chronicles the life of singer Sparkle Williams. It was the last song Houston recorded before her death.
7. Miniature Tigers – “The Wolf” – Easy A
Trio Miniature Tigers originated in Phoenix back in 2006, and quickly caught the likes of Rolling Stone and Spin as one of the year’s hottest up-and-coming bands. Their endearing nature — and the fact that frontman-guitarist Charlie Brand kisses either of his bandmates during each performance — make them memorable, and that earned them a spot on fun.’s tour supporting Some Nights. “The Wolf” is a track about a girl who is lusted after by many, and it plays quietly in the background of Easy A, Will Gluck’s Scarlet Letter-inspired film starring Emma Stone.
6. Michelle Branch – “Together” – Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2
Pop artist Michelle Branch hails from Sedona, where she began taking voice lessons at Northern Arizona University at age 8, composing original songs at 14, and switching to home school after her sophomore year of high school to focus on musical pursuits. Her supportive parents helped her book local gigs and even financed her independent debut album, but she signed with Maverick Records in the early 2000s and started cranking out catchy, radio-friendly songs perfect for preteen girls. It only makes sense that her song “Together” appears in the second installment of Ann Brashares’s Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants book-series-turned-movies.
5. Meat Puppets – “Two Rivers” – Crime and Punishment in Suburbia
Alternative rock band Meat Puppets met at Brophy Prep in Phoenix and relocated to Tempe after graduation. The group began as a punk band but experimented with psychedelic and country sounds throughout the '80s on their many tours, while playing venues like The Mason Jar and The Sun Club. When Meat Puppets appeared as guest musicians on Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance, the band got exposure like never before, and experienced their most successful album the following year with Too High to Die. “Two Rivers” appears on the soundtrack for Crime and Punishment in Suburbia, the 2000 film loosely based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel, Crime and Punishment.
4. Jimmy Eat World – “Seventeen” – Never Been Kissed
The beloved Jimmy Eat World formed in 1993 in Mesa and struck gold with “The Middle,” which remains one of the most memorable pop-punk tracks from the early 2000s. The group’s roots are in the punk rock common of local bands during that time period, and the name comes from a drawing made by guitarist Tom Linton’s younger brother, Ed, of other younger brother Jim shoving the world into his mouth. Never Been Kissed, the 1999 film about Drew Barrymore’s painfully single character reporting undercover at a high school, appropriately features JEW’s song, “Seventeen.”
3. Linda Ronstadt – "It's So Easy" — Brokeback Mountain
Tucson-born Linda Ronstadt boasts Grammys, a National Medal of Arts and Humanities, and a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, among her numerous other awards. She grew up listening to her family sing and play Mexican music, but her career started in folk as she fronted The Stone Poneys and later transitioned to post-60s rock as a solo artist. Ronstadt toured with the Doors, Neil Young, and Jackson Browne to garner fame while also singing on collaborative albums. The '70s saw Rondstadt's rise to the decade's most successful female solo artist, and she ended up on the cover of Time in 1977. "It's So Easy" appears in the predicament faced by the two male leads in that film is simple.
2. Waylon Jennings – "Good Ol' Boys" — The Dukes of Hazzard
The late singer-songwriter Waylon Jennings was supposed to play bass for Buddy Holly. After switching spots on the fateful, fatal flight whose crash killed Holly and musicians Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson, Jennings began a DJ career in Coolidge and Phoenix. He also formed rockabilly group The Waylors in 1961 as the centerpiece of JD's, the new Scottsdale club contracted by Jimmy D. Musiel. Jennings developed a fan base here and attracted the attention of local radio stations, which led to national recognition. In the late '70s, he joined the cast of The Dukes of Hazzard, the television series that led to the 2005 film by the same name. Jennings is The Balladeer, the show's narrator, and he composed the show's/film's theme song, "Good Ol' Boys."
1. Alice Cooper – "Feed My Frankenstein" — Wayne’s World
We all know that Phoenix claims Alice Cooper for building his career here. After moving from Detroit in the '60s, he fronted rock band The Spiders, who later changed their name, legend has it, to Alice Cooper after a particularly memorable Ouija board experience. However, the band later debunked the myth in an interview. Alice Cooper (the band) realized their controversial aesthetic would draw attention, and it worked for the rest of the decade. The band released "School's Out" fame in 1972, and their track is still one of the most popular on classic rock radio. Mike Myers, the star of Wayne's World, is said to have requested "School's Out" for the soundtrack of the 1992 film, but "Feed My Frankenstein" was used instead.
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