I don’t know about you, but I grew up watching the Peanuts holiday specials. They’re a part of who I am, and a large part of that is due to the music that was composed and performed for the original specials by jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi. It helps to elevate the animated specials to a higher art form, especially in combination with Charles Schultz’s not-just-for-kids writing, and the fantastic watercolor sky backgrounds created by Shultz and his team of animators (which appear in most of the outdoor scenes in those 1960’s specials).
Guaraldi, who died young from a heart attack, already had a productive jazz career going when he was asked to write and play the music for the first Peanuts special – the Christmas one. The story goes that Lee Mendelson, one of Schultz’s partners in bringing Charlie Brown to the screen, was in a taxi driving over San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge one day and heard Guaraldi’s “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” on the car’s radio. He immediately tracked the artist down and a contract was signed, with Guaraldi going on to contribute music to 17 Peanuts specials.
In addition to Peanuts, Vince Guaraldi did a fair amount of latin and bossa nova influenced work, along with the straight-ahead jazz he’s more known for, as in songs such as “Rio From The Air”.