Saturday, February 06, 2016

Vince Guaraldi Died Forty Years Ago Today

Vince Guaraldi and Friend
Vince Guaraldi died on February 6, 1976, forty years ago today.

I have written a lot about Vince.  See my pilgrimage to his last gig site and his grave site at this post.  Vince Guaraldi was a talented jazz pianist and head of the Vince Guaraldi Trio (sometimes a quartet).  His most famous tune was probably "Cast Your Fate to the Wind," a cross-over jazz hit in 1962.  It was jazz, but became a popular hit, and played much on radio stations.  For me, the song had a soft, haunting quality to it, a soothing acoustic balm for a harried soul.

Guaraldi became most famous, however, when Charles Schultz of "Peanuts" fame asked him to provide background music for Peanuts televised cartoons.  Vince wrote a bunch of new songs just for "Peanuts" productions:  Charlie Brown Theme, Linus and Lucy, Snoopy and Woodstock, Joe Cool, Little Birdie, and others.  These tunes are smooth jazz.

Guaraldi's Christmas album, recorded in 1965, is still popular and you hear a lot of these songs during the Christmas season.  That's the time of year when more people find their way to this blog, looking for information about the man.

On the day he died, Vince's trio was playing at Butterfield's nightclub in Menlo Park, California, not far from Stanford University.  The band had just finished their first set, and Vince's last song was the Beatle hit, "Eleanor Rigby."  He then retired to his room at the Red Cottage Inn, just next door, to rest between sets.  While walking across the room towards the bathroom, he dropped dead.  The cause was a burst aortic aneurysm, not a heart attack, as so often been erroneously reported.

So every February 6, I think of Vince.  He died young, at age 47.  He had so much more to give, and that is the tragedy of his death, and that of all talented people whose lives are cut short.  His music lives on, however, and Vince is still an inspiration and role model to those of us who strive for musical achievement.

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