16. Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas (Fantasy, 1965)

Peanuts has always had an curiously significant presence in my life. As a kid, I didn’t care about collecting Transformers or obtaining tickets to Wrestlemania; I was more content with tracking down every last available Peanuts reprint book and taping all the television specials. As an adult, I’m collecting the strips all over again (via Fantagraphic’s stellar reissue series). As for the specials, the first and best, A Charlie Brown Christmas continues to resonate with me more as an adult, and I think that’s partially due to Vince Guaraldi’s score. In 1965, the last music you’d expect to hear in a television cartoon was a jazz piano trio, yet the results nailed (if “nailed” isn’t too gauche a word) the thoughtful, understated tone of Charles Schulz’s clean, modernist style. To this day, Guaraldi’s gentle, wistful interpretations of chestnuts like “O Tannenbaum”, “What Child Is This” and “The Christmas Song” stand in sharp contrast to the bulk of plastic, cheery, loud holiday music. Along with “Linus and Lucy” (alone surely a case for Guaraldi's genius) and other originals, they provide a warmer, more melancholy and far more realistic soundtrack to the season.