It’s hard to resist this song. It automatically makes me happy when I hear it. I see Snoopy dancing on Schroeder’s computer.
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 Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip universe.
The song is most famous for its use in the yearly 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.
No words…just imagine Snoopy Dancing.