In a time when many companies are reckoning with their racist past, the Good Humor ice cream company has secured a celebrated hip hop figure to create a new jingle.
RZA is a rapper, producer and all-around creator known for his legendary beats as a part of the Wu-Tang Clan rap group. Thus, it makes sense that Good Humor sought out his talents to replace a jingle that has a racist history. According to NBC News, the song “Turkey in the Straw” gained popularity in American minstrel shows and Good Humor has been using it as their jingle.
“Do you remember that ice cream jingle?” RZA questioned 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” first circulated as a British and Irish folk song, and it was a popular tune among fiddle players going back to the early 1800s. However, by the 19th century, the song was adopted by minstrel shows, which featured racist tropes performed mostly by white people in Blackface. Much of the contemporary public was unaware of the racist history of “Turkey in the Straw” until public policy scholar Theodore R. Johnson penned a viral NPR article 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 reflected Johnson’s take in a statement, saying the melody “conjures memories of its racist iterations.” This caused the company to link with RZA to reimagine an ice cream jingle free from such a history.
“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 explained. “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.”
You can check out the new jingle in a video posted on RZA and Good Humor’s social media. According to Good Humor, it will be made available to trucks across the country as Good Humor celebrates its 100th anniversary year.
“We wanted to make a melody that includes all communities — that’s good for every driver, every kid,” RZA says in the video. “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.”