The ice cream truck jingle of your childhood is about to get an upgrade — and RZA is behind it.
The hip-hop icon of Wu-Tang fame has teamed up with the ice cream brand Good Humor to re-imagine the signature “Turkey in the Straw” jingle played by ice cream trucks all over the country. Because as it turns out, the tune has a problematic past.
“Do you remember that ice cream jingle? Of course, we all know it,” RZA said in a promotional video for Good Humor, which is owned by Unilever. “I’m not going to play it right now, though, because we come to find out that it has racist roots.”
“Turkey in the Straw” originated from a traditional British tune brought to the American colonies by Scots-Irish immigrants, according to scholar Theodore R. Johnson in his 2014 article for NPR.
The original song has no racial undertones. But the melody to the “Turkey in the Straw” was used by minstrel show performers in blackface and set to very racist lyrics — and that is how it rose to prominence in the US, Johnson wrote. Ice cream parlors throughout the 1800’s commonly played minstrel songs, which were eventually turned into 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,” Good Humor said in a statement.
Good Humor called on all ice cream truck drivers to stop playing “Turkey in the Straw,” and said the new jingle created by RZA will be made available to ice cream trucks across the country. The jingle will also be added to industry standard ice cream truck music boxes, the company said.
“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 in a statement.
“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.”
Listen to the new jingle here.