Day 11: Charlie Brown Christmas

Charlie Brown, you’re the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy’s right. Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Brownest. – Linus

Of all the Christmas specials, A Charlie Brown Christmas is far and away the most beloved around these parts. Its mix of adult melancholia and childlike sweetness completely irresistible and ensures viewing at least once a season, if not more.

The music isn’t so bad either. All it takes is the slightest hint of Vince Guaraldi’s bass clef rumble and a smile is firmly planted for the duration. Seeing as it has been on television every year since 1965, it seems fair to say that Miss Mussel is not the only one who feels this way.

Before scoring the Peanuts cartoons, Guaraldi was famous for one song: Cast Your Fate Into The Wind. Fate was one of only a couple original compositions created to fill space on Guaraldi’s 1962 album Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus. The album was not a commercial success but for some reason radio DJs turned the record over, Fate became kind of a big deal and earned Guaraldi a Grammy for Best Jazz Composition.

According to Wiki legend, producer Lee Mendelson was searching for music to accompany a planned Peanuts television documentary and heard a single version of “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” by Vince Guaraldi’s trio on the radio while traveling in a taxicab on the Golden Gate Bridge. Mendelson contacted Ralph J. Gleason, jazz columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and was put in touch with Guaraldi. He proposed that Guaraldi score the upcoming Peanuts Christmas special and Guaraldi enthusiastically took the job, performing a version of what became “Linus and Lucy” over the phone two weeks later. The rest, as they say, is history.

Fun Fact: The voice actors in the cartoon are actual children, an unusual practice at the time. The girl who voiced Sally, Kathy Steinberg, was too young to read and needed to be cued line by line during the soundtrack recording – kind of like Pearl. [NSFW but definitely worth the wait]

If you live in the States, you can watch the whole thing on Hulu. The rest of us will have to be content with some ninja proxy server action or trolling about on Youtube.

Should your thirst for Charlie Brown Christmas knowledge be not yet quenched, head over to your favourite bookseller and get 192 pages of trivia, behind-the-scenes secrets and a detailed narrative about how the whole thing went down.

And finally, Miss Mussel recognizes that it is theoretically possible for people to hold other Christmas specials more dear than Charlie Brown & Co. If that’s the case, let’s hear about it. The comments are open for business.

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