Charlie Brown Christmas Soundtrack: Rolling Stone's Number # 4 Greatest Christmas Album of All Time

A Charlie Brown Christmas
Soundtrack: Vince Guaraldi
Released: December 1965
Genre:  Christmas Jazz Soundtrack

A Charlie Brown Christmas is the soundtrack to the American Christmas television special. Jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi composed most of the music. He included traditional carols "O Tannenbaum," "What Child is This," and "Hark, The Herald Angels Sing."

The Grammy Hall of Fame inducted the LP in 2007. In 2012, the Library of Congress added the album to National Recording Registry for being  "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant." Billboard named the record the greatest of 200 Holiday Albums of All Time. Rolling Stone ranked the soundtrack as the fourth greatest Christmas LP.

The Peanuts

Charles Schulz's Peanuts comic strip debuted in 1950 and became a worldwide phenomenon by the mid-1960s. The main Peanuts character is Charlie Brown. He's a "lovable loser" that wears a zigzag-patterned shirt. In 1962, Schulz published his first book, Happiness Is a Warm Puppy.

Happiness Is a Warm Puppy

The publication landed on the New York Times bestseller list. Peanuts characters made their first animated appearances in Ford Motor Company commercials. Lee Mendelson produced those commercials, and Bill Melendez animated them for a cartoon studio with Ford as a client.


A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1963)

In 1963, Lee Mendelson hired Bill Melendez to animate A Boy Named Charlie Brown, a documentary about Schulz's Peanuts comic strip. Vince Guaraldi provided the music. 

A Boy Named Charlie Brown 1963 movie poster


A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Before Mendelson finished the documentary, Coca-Cola asked if he had a Christmas TV special. He said, "yes." The next day he called Schulz. Mendelson collaborated with Schulz and Melendez on A Charlie Brown Christmas. The storyline follows the title character, who is depressed at the commercialism he sees around him and is trying to find a deeper meaning to Christmas.

A Charlie Brown Christmas television special poster

The special aired on CBS on December 9, 1965. It received high ratings, acclaim from critics, an Emmy, and a Peabody Award. It is presented on television in the United States annually during Christmas. In 2022, Apple TV+ holds exclusive rights to everything Peanut-related, including the Christmas special.


Vince Guaraldi Trio

The jazz soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio was nominated for the 1978 Grammy Award for Best Recording for Children. The album has sold five million copies in the US.  
"Guaraldi showed how a piano, bass and drums can
capture a feeling and character in living color." Chris Barton of the Los Angeles Times, 2012
Guaraldi created an entire piece, "Linus and Lucy," to serve as the theme for the special that never aired. Even though that project was shelved, the soundtrack was released in 1964. When Coca-Cola commissioned A Charlie Brown Christmas Special in the spring of 1965, Guaraldi recycled the track.

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Hark! The Herald Angel Sing

Guaraldi composed "Skating" and "Christmastime is Here," two new originals for A Charlie Brown Christmas. The vocals for "Christmas Time Is Here" and "Hark! The Herald Angel Sing" was provided by children chosen from St. Paul's Episcopal Church in San Rafael, California.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Barry Mineah directed the youth and demanded perfection. Mendelson and Guaraldi disagreed, preferring to let the "kids sound like kids." So, they used a slightly off-key version of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" in the final cut.


Christmas Time Is Here
A Charlie Brown Christmas is a joyous and festive meditation for the holiday season. Allmusic review
A Charlie Brown Christmas used two versions of "Christmas Time Is Here," an instrumental and one with vocals. Mendelson recalled, "When we looked at the show about a month before it was to go on air, I said, 'That's such a pretty melody; maybe we find someone to put lyrics to it.'"  Unable to locate a lyricist, Mendelson "sat down with an envelope at our kitchen table and wrote 'Christmas Time Is Here' in about ten minutes."

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