Linus and Lucy

Album: Jazz Impressions of a Boy Named Charlie Brown (1964)
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  • 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.
  • With the exception of a limited 2013 release, this song was never released as a single, although thanks to steady airplay every December, it remains a holiday favorite, eliciting fond memories of the TV special.
  • The Vince Guaraldi Trio worked on more Peanuts projects and did a reworking of this song on a 1968 album called Oh Good Grief!. In 1976, Guaraldi died from a heart attack at age 47.
  • Amongst the many honors this tune has enjoyed over the years, it was the wake-up alarm music for the crew of the Space Shuttle Endeavour's March 2008 mission "STS-123." That was played on Day 2 of the mission. Since Day 2 is traditionally the day on which the crew does an inspection for launch damage to the ship - a precaution looking back to the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia's disaster - the crew could probably appreciate some lighten-up music that day.

    And for years, this served as background music for The Weather Channel's local forecasts.
  • Vince Guaraldi wasn't the only artist in the 1960s to base their music on Charles M. Schulz's comic strip characters. Another group was The Royal Guardsmen, who released many songs based on characters and themes from the strip, including Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron" and "Snoopy's Christmas." See, not all '60s songs were about sex and drugs!
  • According to his widow Jean, Charles Schulz loved this song, as he thought it captured the movements of his characters perfectly. She says that if they went anywhere with a piano player and were recognized, the piano player would play this tune - it became their theme song.
  • This surely wasn't what Vince Guaraldi had in mind when he wrote the song, but radio stations often use it as a "bed," meaning background music when disc jockeys are talking. It works because the tune is recognizable, well-loved and unobtrusive - a perfect underscore for a live hit from the local car dealership.
  • When Mendelson was putting together the next Peanuts holiday special, the Halloween-themed It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Guaraldi suggested "Linus and Lucy" as the unofficial Peanuts theme. The composer came up with a new arrangement, featuring prominent flute playing from Ronald Lang, to accompany Linus and Lucy's romp through a pumpkin patch during the movie's opening sequence. Joined by his regular trio members Monty Budwig (bass) and Colin Bailey (drums), Guaraldi recorded the song, and other cues for the film, at Desilu's Gower Street Studio in Hollywood. Additional musicians included Emanuel Klein (trumpet) and John Gray (guitar).
  • Before The Great Pumpkin, the Charlie Brown team was still finding its footing and Guaraldi's cues didn't quite match the on-screen action. Hoping to streamline the process, Bing Crosby's longtime musical director John Scott Trotter was brought in to oversee the scoring for the Halloween program. "John tried to organize the music a little better," Mendelson explained. "He'd stand on this little podium in this big recording studio, and direct the jazz musicians. It was kind of fun. I don't know who was paying attention to whom, but it did help."

    Trotter also composed the brief orchestral pieces "Snoopy and the Leaf" and "Breathless" for the movie.

Comments: 2

  • Patrick from Wahiawa, HiOn duty at Sears, Roebuck Ala Moana in December, I slipped the "Happy Anniversary, Charlie Brown!" CD into a player that otherwise played sub-par "Xmas Muzak." As Japanese tourists passed the camping setup, "Linus and Lucy" played, and they happily called out: "Charlie Brown!"
  • Willie from Scottsdale, AzTakes me back to my childhood...sweet!!!
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