Hip hop icon RZA has released a new ice cream truck jingle in collaboration with Good Humor in the hopes of replacing the iconic "Turkey in the Straw" tune that first gained popularity in American minstrel shows.
"Do you remember that ice cream jingle?" RZA asks in a promotional video posted to Good Humor's website. "We've come to find out that it has racist roots."
"Turkey in the Straw" originated from British and Irish folk songs and was a popular tune among fiddle players dating back to the early 1800s. Yet, in the 19th century, the song was adopted in minstrel shows, which relied on racist tropes and were performed by mostly white people wearing Blackface. Many people were unaware of "Turkey in the Straw's" racist history until public policy scholar Theodore R. Johnson wrote a viral NPR piece unearthing its legacy in 2014.
"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," Johnson wrote. "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."
Good Humor agrees with Johnson's assessment of the song, writing in a statement that the melody "conjures memories of its racist iterations," which is why the company has partnered with Wu-Tang Clan's RZA to reimagine an ice cream jingle free from such baggage.
"Good Humor has not owned ice cream trucks since the 1970s, nor did we create 'Turkey in the Straw' or any other jingles," the company wrote. "However, as a leader in the industry, and the creator of the original ice cream truck, we want to be part of the solution on this issue, particularly since we work closely with so many ice cream truck drivers across the country."
The new jingle can be heard in a video posted to RZA and Good Humor's social media accounts and will be made available to trucks across the country, according to Good Humor, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
“We wanted to make a melody that includes all communities — that’s good for every driver, every kid,” RZA added. “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."