Thursday, December 25, 2008

Vince Guaraldi, It wouldnt be Christmas without you!

Besides celebrating the birth of My Lord, Christmas "just wouldn't be Christmas" without watching my favorite animated classic,"A Charlie Brown Christmas", and that "Charlie Brown MUSIC!"

I'm positive that I'm not the only one who feels that way. just hearing that music brings childhood memories back so thick that you literally have to brush the tears away from your eyes. You simply cannot imagine watching a Peanuts cartoon without hearing that cool hot piano played magnificently by Jazz Pianist, Vince Guaraldi.

Like all things in our culture we've come to love and appreciate it, this music, which has become so ingrained in American pop culture, almost didn't happen.
In 1962, Lee Medelson, a San Francisco based television producer, had was wrapping up the final stages of a TV Documentary on cartoonist, Charles Schultz, whose work was becoming a stable in pop culture. Medelson was contemplating what musician he would choose for the background score of his film, when he heard the song, "Cast :Your Fate To The Wind." by jazz pianist, Vince Guaraldi. The two met, and Vince immediately went to work on the score, composing the first song, "linus and Lucy" (which I have dubbed, "the Charlie Brown theme song"

Medelson's documentary included his interview with Charles Schultz, some rough animation of his Peanuts characters, and of course,Vince's song.

It was a documentary that never saw the light of day.

Three networks rejected the film on the basis that people didn't want to see little kids talking like adults. We take it for granted today just how revolutionary a concept Peanuts was. Schultz maintains that he never intended to have the strip appeal to kids but to adults. The "intelligent people" in Hollywood didn't think people would like that, which just goes to show you once again WHY you SHOULD follow your dream.

But lets continue...

Three years following the rejection of the Documentary, Medelson was contacted by an advertising exec who saw the film, and thought that it would be great if the characters could be used in a Christmas special. Medelson agreed, and immediately knew who the musician would be for the score.

The rest, as they say, is history.
The film broke a lot of new ground to say in the least, but one of things it also did was "introduce Jazz" in a sense to a new audience in prime time. To juxtapose cool jazz into a cartoon just wasnt done, and "would not work" on paper. Just goes to show what can happen when you think outside the box.

I chose to draw this caricature of Vince in a Hirschfeld'esque type of style because I feel it just "fits". I have the CD playing in the background as I write this , and also as I drew the caricature. I feel that "Charlie Brown music" is the perfect backdrop to artistic inspiration. Make sure you buy yourself a copy before they're gone off the shelves until next year!