The Music Meme

Years ago, as an exercise to get my writerly muscles working, I undertook the task of writing thirty daily pieces about music. I didn't quite succeed--I missed a few days and completed only 25 of them--but this morning, as the flabbiness of those same muscles draws my attention, I see the value in attempting the exercise again. Here, for all you nice people to see.

Music is a topic about which I am almost always prepared to write. Thanks to many years of performing it (let's say 45 years; if it's an exaggeration, it's only a slight one) and even more years of listening to it, not to mention extensive experience selling it and playing it on the radio for other people, I've been exposed to a good deal of it, and that exposure has left me with Opinions. It takes very little prompting to get me to share those Opinions, as readers of this feature will no doubt recall, but doing so in a steady and organized fashion is something to strive for. And it gives me a chance to link to some of my favorite music in the process, which is as close as I get to playing DJ these days. (I also have every intention of setting up a Spotify playlist of these songs for those of you who might be interested.)

The questions were originally sent to me by Friend of the Blog and altogether excellent person Q, whose legal expertise and astonishing fiber-arts skills can be explored right here (or at Lowe Mill in Huntsville, AL, if you're in the neighborhood). I'm sure she won't mind my using them twice. Pretty sure, anyway. Shall we, then?

Day 1: A song that makes me happy

"Red Baron" by Vince Guaraldi


I suppose it's possible that television has had an effect on me. It's strange to admit that, given how divorced from most TV I've been over the past quarter-century, but there's no doubt that my early years were spent in the glowing warmth of TV's warming glow. (Yes, it's a TV reference.) One bit of that warmth was the animated version of one of my favorite comic strips, Peanuts. In addition to introducing me to the Gospel of Matthew, such specials as A Charlie Brown Christmas and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! made me aware of a musical genre I hadn't explored much in the halcyon days before I turned five: jazz.

In my earliest days, the music my parents played for me was almost always folk, with a bit of classical and the occasional show tune thrown in. I myself spent a lot of time listening to records of Disney songs (especially The Jungle Book and various Winnie-the-Pooh soundtracks), but I also indulged in a few Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers LPs. Many of my records did show the influence of other forms music, though I didn't always recognize it; I think I was in my thirties before I realized that the quartet of vultures in The Jungle Book sang in Liverpudlian accents for a reason. And I didn't know until I heard Frederic Hand's lovely harmonica-and-guitar arrangement in the late 80s that one of my favorite Sesame Street segments was set to the largo of Vivaldi's Guitar Concerto in D.

But there was a bit of jazz available to me. My folks owned Getz/Gilberto and Dave Brubeck's Time Out, and later they'd introduce me to Scott Joplin and Claude Bolling and a variety of other artists, but in some ways, the biggest exposure to the genre for me was watching Peanuts specials. The animation was what drew me in--well, that and the familiar comic-strip characters making their way through an angstiest of childhoods as best they could. But throughout, I couldn't help but marvel at the melodic and sometimes mournful songs of the Vince Guaraldi Trio. "Linus and Lucy" remains the best-known tune from those soundtracks, though "Christmas Time Is Here" has also gotten plenty of play over the years, but there's something about this one--maybe the twang of the electric harpsichord playing off Vince's piano--that makes it just plain irresistible. And perhaps because it's so completely divorced from the lives of the Peanuts gang--a fantasy brought to life in a beagle's imagination--it's one hundred percent happy.

I have trouble believing that even Charlie Brown could be glum while this was playing.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on August 6, 2017 9:33 AM.

Beyond the Fringe was the previous entry in this blog.

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