It’s one of the best-loved, and best-selling, Christmas albums of all time.
In fact, decades after its first release, Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas regularly appears in the holiday music top 10 — and for entire generations of fans, the opening piano melody of “Linus and Lucy” marks the unofficial start to each and every Christmas season.
But it turns out the music wasn’t actually written for the Charlie Brown Christmas special, and without a series of serendipitous events, that show — and the music that helped make it famous — may never have come to be.
So in honour of the classic soundtrack, we’re offering our list of 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Vince Guaraldi’s Music Behind A Charlie Brown Christmas:
1. Long before a TV network proposed a Peanuts’ Christmas special to Lee Mendelson, the producer had made a hit documentary about baseball star Willy Mays (one of the best baseball players) and decided to create another about Peanuts cartoonist Charles Shulz (whose cartoon featured one of the worst). Mendelson was driving across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco when he heard Guaraldi’s Grammy-winning song “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” on the radio, and decided he wanted Guaraldi to write the music for the doc.
2. Two weeks after they met over lunch in San Francisco, Guaraldi phoned Mendelson and said “I’ve got this great song I want to play for you. I hope it fits the documentary.” That Charles Shulz documentary was never officially released, but the song later became “Linus and Lucy.” Remembers Mendelson in a radio documentary, “I knew as soon as I heard it not only would it make the documentary, but something in my mind said that song is going to become very important to me somehow down the line. Didn’t know how, didn’t know why. But it did.”
3. In September 1965, Guaraldi recorded the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas along with bassist Fred Marshall and drummer Jerry Granelli at Fantasy Studios in San Francisco. The label also recorded Dave Brubeck, Chet Baker, beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Lenny Bruce, and became famous when it released Credence Clearwater Revival’s debut album.
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