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Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA releases ice cream truck jingle to replace old, racist song

You probably know the song “Turkey in the Straw.” It’s often an ice cream truck’s tinkling jingle, a siren song used to draw out sugar loving children from inside their homes.

“Turkey in the Straw” has a long history. It was popular with fiddle players who started to play it around 1820, but from the 1870s through the 1930s, the song was performed in minstrel shows by performers in blackface. Perhaps even worse, there is an extremely racist version of the song recorded by Harry C. Browne in 1916, put out by Columbia Records, called, “[N-word] Love a Watermelon, Ha! Ha! Ha!”

The seemingly innocent ice cream truck jingle, associated with sweet treats, smiles, and summertime, has impossibly racist roots and associations. So to help celebrate its 100th anniversary, the ice cream company Good Humor teamed up with RZA, rapper and producer from the Wu-Tang Clan, to create a new jingle.

“Good Humor, they called me up and and they was like, ‘We gotta do something about this, RZA.’ You could change the dynamics, we could make a new ice cream jingle for a new era,” RZA said in a video released by Good Humor. “We wanted to make a melody that includes all communities, that’s good for every driver, every kid. 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?”

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Good Humor retired its ice cream trucks in 1970, but they claim to be the creators of the ice cream on wheels concept, so they feel a responsibility to be proactive and inspire change. They’re making the new song available to all ice cream truck companies for free, and will provide educational materials to teach drivers about the problems with “Turkey in the Straw.”

“I assure you that this one is made with love,” said RZA. “Peace.”

Listen to Rachel Belle’s James Beard Award nominated podcast, “Your Last Meal,” featuring celebrities like Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, Rainn Wilson, and Greta Gerwig. Follow @yourlastmealpodcast on Instagram!

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