Sunday, April 18, 2010

The illustrated Hello: Charlie Brown

The son of a dentist, who never grew up. Charlie Brown's life of quiet melancholy could only have got darker once Schulz realised the real money was in tiresome depictions of a dog pretending a kennel was an aeroplane.

It can't have helped that his name was used on this - one of the most irritating songs in the world. Before Simon Cowell was invented, anyway:

Oh, The Coasters, how could you?

Perhaps Charlie Brown's more lasting musical legacy is the soundtracks to the US TV specials - ones where Brown got proper billing in the title, too, rather than coming bemusingly under the name of a popular type of legume.

Created by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, I think it's arguable that the continued affection for Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown; He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown; It's Tax Day, Charlie Brown and the others is down the soundtrack.

This is perhaps the most famous of the Charlie Brown tracks, Skating:

Vince Guaraldi had served in the Korean war - literally, serving, as he was a cook. He was a figure well-liked amongst jazz fans, but lucked out when DJs took a liking to the b-side of his bossa nova single Samba de Orpheus. This was the track on the other side:

Cast Your Fate To The Wind would secure Guaraldi's first Grammy. It was also this track which led to the approach to compose for the Charlie Brown specials, and would secure fifty years and onwards popularity for his music.

His heart, though, remained with jazz:

Guaraldi died in 1976. Playing Butterfield's Nightclub in Menlo Park, between sets he suffered a heart attack. Later Charlie Brown movies would be scored in his style, but none of the later ones quite had the same verve.

[Part of the illustrated Hello]