The Reason We All Love a Charlie Brown Christmas: It’s the Music

I betcha I’ve seen almost every one of these shows since they started in 1965. unravels the mystery of the show’s enduring appeal.

A Charlie Brown Christmas had rocky start. Although the comic strip was huge in the early 60s, CBS passed on its transition to TV. It was slow, choppy, and kind of weird. Coca-Cola stepped in to sponsor the show, and the 1965 debut came in second in the ratings behind Bonanza. UnlikeBonanza, however, the Vince Guaraldi soundtrack remains a seasonal bestseller 50 years later. A Charlie Brown Christmas is basically the Dark Side of the Moon of holiday favorites. Credit for this goes to producer Lee Mendelson, a jazz enthusiast who heard “Cast Your Fate to the Wind,” a fluke Guaraldi-penned B-side that DJs started playing. That choice went a long way toward turning a special into a franchise.

The show has a strange tempo inherent within it: the child actors, for one, don’t sound like they actually know what they’re saying, so you can hear all kinds of cuts and edits in their dialogue. The result is a stammering cadence that comes off as endearing when it’s applied to a child’s voice. (Were a grown-up to speak in a similar fashion, it would come off as a stroke. But then, as we all know, there are no adults in Peanut land. Their universe is a fully operational, barely benign Lord of the Flies.)

Read the whole thing here. Then have a listen to the official soundtrack.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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