Vince Guaraldi: Cast Your Fate to the Wind

6 Feb


On the anniversary of the death of Vince Guaraldi. If you thought Peanuts was cool, he’s probably the reason why. Legend has it that producer Lee Mendelson was in a taxicab on the Golden Gate Bridge and heard Guaraldi’s Cast Your Fate to the Wind (link above) and decided to make Guaraldi the music behind probably the world’s most famous comic strip.

But there was much more to his work. Born in 1928, Guaraldi was a West Coaster. He went to San Francisco State and soon became known as “Dr. Funk.” One of his first gigs was sitting in for the great Art Tatum in the early ’50s. “It was more than scary,” Guaraldi said. “I came close to giving up the instrument, and I wouldn’t have been the first after working with Tatum.”

(Oscar Peterson felt the same after listening, as a teen, to Tatum).

Before long Guaraldi abandoned the studios for a short time and played around town, fitting into San Francisco’s Beat scene. It was a West Coast thing. Soon he was working with Woody Herman and Cal Tjader and then he formed his own trio. Cast Your Fate to the Wind was released on a 1962 album, but became a hit single only as an afterthought. It was released as a B side to another song which fell far shorter; it eventually cracked the pop charts (as did a cover version).

It all led Guaraldi to the music for which he is best remembered (often at George Winston concerts, Winston will do a Peanuts number or two as tribute to Guaraldi).

Wynton Marsalis in the liner notes to his album Joe Cool’s Blues:  “When I was a boy, the only time you would hear jazz on television was when Charlie Brown came to town . . . I didn’t think of the comic strip on the page apart from the television cartoon and Vince Guaraldi’s music, which I liked because it was happy and upbeat.”

Guaraldi died of  a heart attack in 1976, just 47 years old. At the funeral, the music was from Charlie Brown.

Andrew Thomas, director of the film Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi: “He was full of innocent hopes and dreams, but the world sometimes worked against him.”


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