The ice cream truck song has a racist past. So Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA wrote a new one
Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA is putting the “good” in Good Humor, partnering with the sweets vendor to create a new ice cream truck jingle as a free alternative to the well-known and problematic tune “Turkey in the Straw.”
The rapper-producer unveiled the catchy new song Thursday morning in a video acknowledging the racist history of “Turkey in the Straw,” which has long been associated with minstrel shows and racist imagery.
“Remember that ice cream jingle?” RZA says in a promo video introducing his tune. “Of course — we all know it. I’m not gonna play it right now, though, because we come to find out that it has racist roots.
“But check this out — Good Humor, they called me up and they was like, ‘We gotta do something about this, Riz. We can change the dynamics. We can make a new ice cream jingle for a new era.’”
Cue the new track’s cheery, ethereal melody and distinct rhythm.
“‘Turkey in the Straw’s’ melody originated from British and Irish folk songs, which had no racial connotations. But the song itself was first performed (and gained popularity) in American minstrel shows in the 1800s. Some songs using its same melody contained highly offensive, racist lyrics,” Good Humor explains on its website.
“Throughout the 19th century, minstrel songs like ‘Turkey in the Straw’ were commonly played in ice cream parlors, and later, adapted as ice cream truck jingles. While these associations of ‘Turkey in the Straw’ are not the only part of its legacy, it is undeniable that this melody conjures memories of its racist iterations.”
Also scattered throughout the announcement video are title cards “calling on ALL drivers to STOP playing ‘Turkey in the Straw’ immediately,’” in favor of RZA’s jingle, which Good Humor has released for free and added “to industry standard ice cream truck music boxes” starting this month.
“We wanted to make a melody that includes all communities — that’s good for every driver, every kid,” RZA continues. “And I’m proud to say, for the first time in a long time, a new ice cream truck jingle will be made available to trucks all across the country in perpetuity. That means forever, you know what I mean? Like Wu-Tang is forever. And I will assure you that this one is made with love.”
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