Friday, February 06, 2009

In Memoriam: Vince Guaraldi Died 33 Years Ago Today

One of my biggest music heroes is the famous jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi. Vince died 33 years ago today - on Friday, February 6, 1976. He was playing a gig at Butterfield's nightclub in Menlo Park, California. While relaxing between sets in a room at the Red Cottage Inn, he died of a sudden heart attack. He was 47 years old.

Guaraldi was born in San Francisco and was a Bay Area resident his whole life. He began recording with his jazz trio in the early 1950's and became famous in the 1960's for two reasons: (1) he wrote and recorded an all-time jazz super hit, "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" and (2) he was asked by cartoonist Charles Schultz to write and perform musical scores for television shows about Charlie Brown of "Peanuts" cartoon fame. Guaraldi went on to record such hits as "A Boy Named Charlie Brown," "Linus and Lucy" and others. On the morning of his death, he recorded the score to "It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown," which is available for viewing on YouTube.

Snoopy sometimes played "Joe Cool" ("hangin' round the water fountain playin' the fool") wearing shades, but Vince Guaraldi was the real Joe Cool.

Vince's death was sudden and unexpected and cut short a great music career. No doubt he had much more to give the world had he lived his full life span.

I am off work today so plan to make a pilgrimage to Vince Guaraldi's grave near San Francisco, even though it's raining hard today. But first I will stop by the Red Cottage Inn in Menlo Park. The hotel still exists, though Butterfield's nightclub apparently does not. I will take some pictures.

It's something I feel I have to do. Maybe remembering Vince Guaraldi doesn't mean that much to Vince, who's trying to figure out how to tune harps to play jazz somewhere above the clouds. But it means that much to me.

God bless you Vince Guaraldi. I'll visit you later today.

Meanwhile, you can all listen to Vince Guaraldi play the Peanuts theme in the video below.

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