Trucks across the country often use a song that has roots in racism—this new track will be made available to anyone who wants to use it.

By Adam Campbell-Schmitt
August 14, 2020
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Credit: Good Humor

As Black Lives Matters protests have continued across the country in an effort to demand action toward racial justice, the movement has persuaded some major brands and institutions to revisit their histories and traditions. Famously, the Washington Football Team decided to change its name from a slur used against indigenous people. Pancake mix and syrup brand Aunt Jemima is getting an overhaul, along with Uncle Ben. And organizations like the Court of Master Sommeliers are even rethinking using the word "master" to address its members. Now, one ice cream brand has teamed up with a hip hop legend to makeover another ubiquitous yet racially insensitive icon: The ice cream truck song.

Good Humor joined forces with Wu-Tang Clan founding member RZA to create a new jingle for trucks to play as they pass through neighborhoods this summer. While there are a few commonly used ice cream truck songs out there (just mentioning it, I now have the Mister Softee song stuck in my head) many use a variation of the folk song "Turkey in the Straw"—a melody with a problematic past.

The 200-year-old song was co-opted by minstrel performers in the early 20th century and given lyrics that included racial stereotypes and epithets against Black people. That usage only fueled the tune's popularity, as it later became a staple of cartoon soundtracks and children's songs.

"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," RZA said in a statement. "I'm excited to share this new jingle with a new era of ice cream truck fans and continue to spread that joy with Good Humor."

What RZA created is a new truck-ready track that "borrows from traditional ice cream truck music and adds jazz and hip-hop elements. Expect trap drumbeats, some old-school bells that reference Good Humor's original ice cream trucks, and a distinct RZA hook that you will not be able to get out of your head," the brand states. There's even a subtle beat drop that's almost as satisfying as an ice cream bar on a hot summer day.

I'm no music critic, but I'm comfortable saying it slaps. Check out the full song below:

"Good Humor invented the ice cream truck and is the maker of some of today's most iconic ice cream truck treats. And while we have not owned ice cream trucks since 1976, we wanted to be part of the solution and offer ice cream truck drivers a jingle that can bring joy to every community," Russel Lilly, Senior Director, U.S. Ice Cream at Unilever, said in the announcement. "So, to create a new jingle, we knew we had to team up with the mastermind behind some of the most memorable melodies of our time."

Starting this month, the RZA-penned song will be made available for drivers and ice cream truck fleet owners to use nationwide on the Good Humor website. The track is also being provided to Nichols Electronics, a "family-owned, Minneapolis-based manufacturer of ice cream truck music boxes." Additionally, the brand has pledged to "providing resources to help educate drivers about 'Turkey in the Straw's' history and instructions for how to replace it in their trucks."

Good Humor isn't the only ice cream brand to grapple with racially-insensitive marketing. Earlier this summer, the maker of Eskimo Pies also announced it would also be changing the product's name.