Everyone knows the classic ice cream truck song, but not everyone knows that the song that jingle's melody is derived from, "Turkey In The Straw," has a complicated and problematic history laced with some "racist roots," as ice cream purveyors Good Humor puts it. So to try to start anew, the company reached out to the one-and-only RZA of Wu-Tang Clan to write a brand new ice cream truck jingle. Listen to the results below.
In another video, RZA explained how and why he got involved in the project. "I remember the days when I would hear that iconic ice cream truck jingle outside, and I would drop what I was doing to chase it down for a treat. When I learned about that song's problematic history this summer, I knew I had to get involved and do something about it," he said. “And I can assure you that this one is made with love."
A rep for Good Humor said they "wanted to be part of the solution and offer ice cream truck drivers a jingle that can bring joy to every community." They are encouraging all ice cream truck drivers to use the new melody, for free, henceforth, and showing ice cream truck operators how to switch out the old tune.
Back in 2014, NPR published a story about how the melody of “Turkey In The Straw,” which dates back to the early 1800s, had been used in various racist songs over the last 150 years: "As often happens with matters of race, something that is rather vanilla in origin is co-opted and sprinkled with malice along the way," they wrote.
"The first and natural inclination, of course, is to assume that the ice cream truck song is simply paying homage to 'Turkey In The Straw,' but the melody reached the nation only after it was appropriated by traveling blackface minstrel shows," argued writer Theodore R. Johnson. "There is simply no divorcing the song from the dozens of decades it was almost exclusively used for coming up with new ways to ridicule, and profit from, Black people."
Some have since argued that "Turkey In The Straw" was far more famous beyond its racist offshoots, which is why those songs are "a rare archival find and historical footnote," so it isn't clear whether the ice cream truck jingle was related to it. But Johnson countered, "It is important to recognize the impact racism has had on our country, even, perhaps especially, when it hides in the nooks and crannies of wholesome Americana."
Either way, we'll know if RZA's new jingle is really accepted when we hear it coming from a a hacked LinkNYC.