Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Forgotten Movie Songs #11: "A Boy Named Charlie Brown" from A BOY NAMED CHARLIE BROWN

I've always been a fan of Charles Schulz's barely-veiled version of himself, Charlie Brown. Of course, Charlie first came to life on television in 1965, via the holiday perennial A Charlie Brown Christmas. But it took four years for this success to hit the big screen. In 1969's A Boy Named Charlie Brown, our hero dares to take on the challenges of the school spelling bee, making it all the way to the state finals, with gloriously predictable results.

A lot of people have nothing but bad things to say about the big-screen Peanuts movies. But I still love them (I think the franchise should be revived a la the upcoming Winnie the Pooh, which looks brilliant). A Boy Named Charlie Brown has many fine moments, my favorite being this magnificently colorful tribute to the piano-playing Schroeder and his idol, the imposing Ludwig Von Beethoven (who composed the accompanying "Moonlight Sonata"); I seriously think this is one of the greatest animated sequences in movie history--right up there with anything in Fantasia, which is obviously an influence here:

But I must give credit to Rod McKuen. He wrote and performed the first song heard in A Boy Named Charlie Brown, and thus garnered his second Oscar nomination (the same year, he was nominated for Best Song for performing his tune "Jean" on the soundtrack for the Oscar-winning The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie). He was nominated also that year for contributing to the Charlie Brown soundtrack, but was there relegated to the Best Original Song Score category. Thus, this track meets my Forgotten Movie Songs criteria for not being an (a) top 40 hit, or (b) being an Oscar nominee.

Even in watching the following clip again--which suitably begins Bill Melendez's feature film--I'm moved by both McKuen's scratchy vocal performance and his undeniably syrupy-sweet song (wonderfully arranged by John Scott Trotter). While being a tad unctuous, I think McKuen's words still perfectly express what all fans truly feel about Charlie Brown, and so I decided to include his song here. It deserves to be a Tony Bennett-styled standard, in my opinion.

The song is called "A Boy Named Charlie Brown," and the music and lyrics are performed by Rod McKuen (who was endlessly referenced henceforth in Schulz's daily comic strip).

Like the shadows of the morning
That climb up to the August afternoon
Charlie has a way
Of pickin' up the day
Just by walkin' slowly in a room

Maybe it’s a kind of magic
That only little boys can do
But seeing Charlie smile
Can make you stop a while
And get you feeling glad you’re you

He’s only a boy named Charlie
A boy named Charlie Brown

He’s just the kid next door
Perhaps a little more
He’s every kid in every town

Well, the world is full of lots of people
Here and there and all around
But people after all
Start out as being small
And we’re all a boy named Charlie Brown

Now the shadows of the morning
Have gone beyond the August afternoon
And Charlie's had his day
His very special day
His morning and his evening and his noon

The world is full of lots of people
Here and there and all around
But people after all
Start out as being small
And we’re all a boy named Charlie Brown

1 comment:

Jeff Harter said...

What a great song. I'm an enormous fan of Schulz, Mendelson and Melendez. Thanks for sharing!