You’d think, after slightly more than three decades, that somebody would have noticed and discussed this by now.
But no; it appears to be a recent discovery, brought to my attention by David, a good friend and fellow Guaraldi fan.
Readers of this blog — and probably a good percentage of people throughout the world — undoubtedly know the lyrics of “Christmas Time Is Here” by heart. Goodness, we’ve watched A Charlie Brown Christmas countless times, and played the soundtrack album even more than that.
So we all remember that the show opens with the Peanuts gang ice skating and crooning the tune (actually “ghosted” by young members of the St. Paul’s church choir, from San Rafael, California: a group that included David). It’s a joyous scene, and — following the “Sleigh bells in the air” bridge — this is what we next hear:
Christmas time is here …
Fam-lies drawing near …
A quarter-century passed, before the song was covered by another artist: Patti Austin, on the 1989 compilation album, Happy Anniversary, Charlie Brown!
Following the “Sleigh bells” bridge, this is what she sings:
Christmas time is here …
We’ll be drawing near …
Take a moment. Let it sink in.
Perform an Internet search on the lyricss to “Christmas Time Is Here,” and most results — but not all — show “We’ll be drawing near.” That’s likely due to the way the song is printed — complete with sheet music — on pages 93-95 in Lee Mendelson’s 2000 book, A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition. Because why would anybody assume that Mendelson’s book might be incorrect? After all, he penned the lyrics, back in the day.
“We couldn’t find anybody to write the lyrics,” Mendelson recalled, in a 2008 interview for TV Time Machine. “I called all my Hollywood friends who were songwriters. But nobody took the assignment, so I sat down, and in about 10 minutes wrote the words to ‘Christmas Time Is Here’ on an envelope.
“I sure wish I still had that envelope!”
Well, we may not have the envelope, but we have something almost as good: the song’s copyright deposit, filed with the U.S. Library of Congress on February 7, 1966. You can see the relevant bit at the top of the second page, shown at left:
Fam-lys. Growing (!)
So … what happened?
Did Lee change his mind, at some point between 1965 and 2000? Did he mis-remember? Did he hear and prefer Patti Austin’s slight modification?
(I sure wish I’d learned about this sooner, because he’s no longer around to ask. More’s the pity.)