Today is Charles Schultz’s birthday; he would’ve been 90. He died about a week after his final original Peanuts strip appeared in the papers, and as sad as I was at the news, I thought it was rather fitting. Peanuts was a masterpiece–a witty, charming, funny, existential portrait of America over the course of fifty years. I grew up reading Peanuts, loving and laughing at and identifying with Charlie Brown and his friends. It shaped a great deal of both the cynicism and optimism I have about the world.
No, Charles Schultz was not a musician, but he has forever been linked with one of the finest jazz musicians ever to grace the world. Vince Guaraldi played other music beside this (my dad is a big fan of “Cast Your Fate to the Wind”), but “Linus and Lucy” will be the one piece he is always associated with. It is one of the most iconic, recognizable songs. Ever. That should tell you something about the influence of Charles Schultz and Peanuts. And A Charlie Brown Christmas.
It’s sometimes referred to as the Peanuts theme, it’s so attached to the comic strip. It was first heard in the 1965 Christmas special on CBS, but originally, Guaraldi composed the music for a proposed TV documentary about Peanuts and its creator. That documentary was either never aired or never produced (I can’t remember which), but “Linus and Lucy” was used as part of Guaraldi’s score for A Charlie Brown Christmas. It was annual viewing at my house. I’m pretty sure my father ignored everything about it except the music, but the rest of us loved it. My mom was the one who introduced me to Peanuts. My brother and I would both read her seemingly endless collection of books. Seeing them come to life on TV was special. To this day, I cry whenever I see it. I like the blend of humor and sentimentality, with just the right dash of spirituality and humanity that reminds us that everyone just “needs a little love.”