I laugh when I remember myself as a small child watching Linus sit and play his miniature piano on my television screen. I was really jealous of him, and I knew I had to learn how to play the piano.
Vincent Anthony Guaraldi was born on July 17, 1928 in San Francisco, California, USA. He was a jazz pianist who described himself as "a reformed boogie-woogie piano player”, although his fellow band mates used to refer to him as “Dr. Funk” during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.
Vince Guaraldi began performing on the piano during his early years at Lincoln High School, and then later while attending San Francisco State College.
His first serious gig came at a local San Francisco club called the “Black Hawk” where he played during intermissions between the music sets of the legendary Art Tatum.
During the 1950’s, Vince Guaraldi developing his unique piano style by playing in the harsh “beatnik” club scene of San Francisco, and forming a succession of jazz trio bands.
In the early 1960’s, Guaraldi won a Grammy for Best Original Jazz Composition for his song "Cast Your Fate to the Wind", which was inspired by an Academy Award winning French/Brazilian film called “Black Orpheus”.
It was this tune that would eventually lead to one of the most recognized and loved tunes in any classic cartoon series.
Lee Mendelson was the writer, director, and producer of an upcoming Peanuts T.V. documentary called “A Boy Named Charlie Brown”, and needed to find the right music score for the television special.
While riding in a taxi traveling across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, Mendelson heard Guaraldi’s "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" on the radio. He decided that the unique and upbeat piano style of Vince Guaraldi was precisely what he was looking for.
After contacting Guaraldi about possibly composing the music for his Peanuts Christmas special, Mendelson was presented with an early version of the now world-famous "Linus and Lucy" tune just two weeks later.
On December 9, 1965, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was broadcast to a delighted national television audience and has since been the most loved of all holiday jazz recordings to date.
Vince Guaraldi’s Christmas music truly embodies the feeling of the holiday spirit with elegant tunes like “Skating” which brilliantly gives you the musical sensation of falling snowflakes.
Other delightful numbers include, “Christmas is Coming”, “Greensleeves”, and another all-time favorite “Christmas Time is Here” features the young members of the Peanuts gang caroling along with the melody.
Vince Guaraldi’s Christmas music special touched and inspired many other famous piano players after him, such as David Benoit, who went on to continue scoring the Peanuts series after Guaraldi’s untimely passing.
On February 6, 1976, Vince Guaraldi died of a sudden heart attack at the Butterfield's nightclub in Menlo Park, California, just 11 days before of his 48th birthday.
He left behind the musical masterpieces for sixteen Peanuts television specials, including the music for the original documentary “A Boy Named Charlie Brown”.
A jazz poet named Jon Hendricks once said:
"Vince is what you call a piano player.
That's different from a pianist. A pianist can play anything you can put in front of him.
"A piano player can play anything BEFORE you can put it in front of him".