Charles Schulz’s Peanuts is an essential part of American cartoon history, especially A Charlie Brown Christmas. A blues-inflected look at the holidays, A Charlie Brown Christmas is unique in its ability to evoke both the joy and melancholy of the holidays, and no element has been more important to its success than the brilliant musical score by Vince Guaraldi. Read on to find out how Guaraldi’s definitive work came to be.
In 1963, producer Lee Mendelson was searching for a composer to score a new documentary about Peanuts. While driving across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Mendelson heard Guaraldi’s composition “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” playing on the radio. He contacted Guaraldi immediately, who readily accepted the offer. A few weeks later, Guaraldi played “Linus and Lucy,” the iconic Peanuts theme, over the phone for Mendelson, who was thrilled with the result. Thought the documentary that spurred their collaboration never aired, the soundtrack was released as Jazz Impression of A Boy Named Charlie Brown.
Mendelson and Guaraldi continued to work together on A Charlie Brown Christmas. The recording sessions were quite lengthy, often running late into the evening, and featured a sizable children’s choir. Mendelson himself wrote the lyrics to “Christmas Time is Here” on the back of an envelope, since there was some difficulty finding a lyricist. In short order the special and album each became hits, and in 2016 the soundtrack album was certified quadruple platinum with 4 million copies sold.
Interested in learning to play some swinging piano for your next holiday party? Contact Thompson Tutoring for music lessons today!