Ironically, just about everyone would call this "the Charlie Brown song" even though it's actually titled after Linus and Lucy van Pelt, brother and sister in Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts
comic strip universe.
The song is most famous for its use in the perennial favorite A Charlie Brown Christmas
, which first aired in 1965, but it was written two years earlier for a documentary about Schulz and the Peanuts
gang called A Boy Named Charlie Brown
, which never aired. The San Francisco-based producer Lee Mendelson was in charge of the documentary and asked Vince Guaraldi to compose music for it.
Guaraldi was big in the jazz world and won the 1962 Grammy for Best Original Jazz Composition for "Cast Your Fate To The Wind," which reached #22 US in February 1963 for his group, the Vince Guaraldi Trio, and went to #10 in 1965 when it was recorded by Sounds Orchestral. Mendelson was fretting over what kind of music to play for the documentary when he took a taxi cab and "Cast Your Fate To The Wind" was playing as he crossed the Golden Gate bridge. That was the sound he was going for: adult-oriented but with a child-like whimsy.
Guaraldi wrote a series of songs for the project, including "Linus and Lucy," that he recorded with his group, the Vince Guaraldi Trio. Even though A Boy Named Charlie Brown
was shelved, the soundtrack was released in 1964, which is where "Linus and Lucy" first appeared.
In 1965, Mendelson put together the first Peanuts
TV special, A Charlie Brown Christmas
, using many of the same people who worked on the documentary. "Linus and Lucy" formed the score, and a song he wrote with Guaraldi called "Christmas Time Is Here
" was included in a key scene.A Charlie Brown Christmas
aired on CBS and was a huge hit. It bucked convention, with actual children providing the voices, no laugh track, and an anti-materialism message. The jazz stylings of the music - something that had never been done in a high-profile animated children's special - went over very well with viewers of all generations, and this song quickly became associated with the Peanuts