Schulz's Beethoven strips are both amusing and educational. Over the decades Schulz taught his fans about the essential components of the composer's biography, which he gleaned from several biographies of Beethoven that he owned. In 1975 Schulz explained, "I have read several biographies of Beethoven - being strangely fascinated by the lives of composers, much more so than the lives of painters - and from these biographies have managed to come up with different things that have concerned Schroeder." They also seemingly captivated Schulz.
Beethoven's turbulent biography is indeed fascinating. Born in Bonn, Germany, in 1770 into a family with a father who became an alcoholic, Beethoven had to assume full responsibility for his brothers' welfare when he was just a teenager himself. At the age of 21, he set out for the musical capital of Western Europe (Vienna) where he conquered the aristocracy with his musical prowess. Tragedy struck with the first signs of hearing loss when he was 27. By the age of 46 he was totally deaf. Star-crossed in love, Beethoven never married, but at the age of 45 in 1815, he became the legal father and guardian of his teenaged nephew. Ill-equipped for this task, he drove his nephew to a suicide attempt months before his own death. Beethoven died in Vienna in March 1827 from cirrhosis of the liver, kidney disease, and complications from lead poisoning. Despite these travails, and partly because of them, Beethoven churned out masterpiece after masterpiece in miraculous fashion.