Wednesday, December 7, 2005


Last night CBS aired my absolute favorite Holiday Season television special -- "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

This truly remarkable program was first broadcast on Thursday, December 9, 1965. Forty years later, this uniquely simple, heartfelt production has become the longest-running animated television special in history.

There are two especially remarkable things about "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

One, of course, is the sprightly and poignant jazz riffs by composer Vince Guaraldi -- a smooth trio composition (piano, bass and drums) which form a perfectly balanced accompaniment for Charley Brown's kid-sized universe. Simply put, the music has become an established musical trademark which continues to provide smiles and smiles of recognition worldwide. Perhaps Jon Hendricks, the poet laureate of jazz, described Vince's music best: "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." Unfortunately, Vince Guaraldi passed away on February 6, 1976, at the age of 47.

The other truly remarkable thing is that actual children were used for the voices of all the favorite Peanuts characters (excluding Snoopy whose voice was that of Director Bill Melendez). In fact, many of these children were so young they delivered their lines phonetically, not even understanding what it was they were saying.

While it may be true the kids delivering the dialogue may not have understood what it was they were saying, rest assured that PEANUTS creator Charles M. Schulz fully grasped exactly what was being said. You see, towards the end Linus reveals to Charlie Brown the true meaning of Christmas by quoting Luke 2:8-14 from the King James translation of the Bible. Mr. Schulz was met with considerable reluctance regarding the insertion of such an overtly religious, Biblical reference. When confronted about this and facing considerable pressure to give in, Schulz reportedly won everyone over by saying, "If we don't do it, who will?" Who will, indeed? And that, friends and neighbors, is another reason why this television special is truly "special."