The Ice Cream Truck Song Gets a Makeover

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Side view of an ice cream van. (Atlaspix/Shutterstock)

There's no doubt about it—the familiar jingle played by many of the nation's ice cream trucks is a lot like a de facto summer soundtrack for many Americans. The ice cream truck tune is every kid's favorite song, signifying the promise of a cold sweet treat to cool you down.

But a blog post that has been getting a lot of buzz lately uncovered that this sickly sweet tune actually has a racist origin. The song, which played on some very ugly stereotypes about black people, was released in 1916 by Columbia Records. 

With the weather heating up and that sound on the horizon of neighborhoods across the country, The Takeaway decided to come up with our own ice cream truck song. We aimed to find an alternative that kids will love, won't drive parents or the truck drivers crazy, and isn't overtly racist. 

But it turns out our friend Michael Hearst already did the job for us. Michael is a vocalist and instrumentalist for the band One Ring Zero. Back in 2007, he released a whole album of songs for ice cream trucks.


Michael Hearst

Produced by:

Allie Ferguson


T.J. Raphael

Comments [7]

Lou from Rego Park, NY

As was already mentioned, the racist song was "Turkey in the Straw", not the Mister Softee song. Secondly, we equate the music with our childhood. Even if your mother was not a great cook, you can fondly relate her food to your childhood. So can you fondly relate the Mister Softee song. So hurray for the "Horray for Mister Softee" song and long (legally not more than one minute at a time) may it play.

May. 15 2014 08:45 AM
GaryBoy from Harlem

You really are against racism?! Then how about criticizing the young black men who blare songs, from their cars, with the lyrics, "My nigga"? I hear them say it loudly on the subway, and even in the gym, and then gleefully watch as the white people squirm. Of course, the liberals would never dare publicize that, or identify that the people, targeting Jewish women for their "knockout" game, are always young black men. Partial truth, some of the time, right, WNYC? And you want me to contribute?!

May. 15 2014 07:50 AM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Years ago in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, one Mr.Softee guy was playing whatever he wanted and it was great to get an ice cream and listen to free jazz. One day, the Cops surrounded his vehicle, he was also dealing heroin.

Try ice cream man by Johnathan Richman

May. 14 2014 02:16 PM
Rhoda Auerbach from San Antonio, TX

It was mentioned on the show that the need for a new ice cream song is because the usual one used to have racist lyrics. I remember the lyrics to that song from when I was a child. They went like this:

Oh, I walked around the corner and I walked around the block and I walked right into a doughnut shop. I picked up a doughnut and I wiped off the grease and I handed the waitress a five cent piece. She looked at the nickel and she looked at me and she said dear sir, can'[t you plainly see? There's a hole in the nickel, there's a whole right through. And I said there's a hole in the doughnut too!

That was how it was sung in the 40s on Long Island, NY. But as a song. The ice cream trucks (or bicycles) just had bells that sounded like bicycle bells and were not amplified. We ran anyway.

May. 14 2014 12:50 PM
art525 from Park Slope

Oh and by the way, The Mr Softee jingle is not "Turkey In THe Straw" which is the racist song you referenced. Your article seems to imply that that is the jinge and it's not. You need to clarify that.

May. 14 2014 09:55 AM
art525 from Park Slope

I just Googled the Mr Softee music and was able to cleanse my palette. I feel much better now.

May. 14 2014 09:50 AM
art525 from Park Slope

Oh my god that music was AWFUL! So dreary, so unimaginative, so uninspired. It is soooo dreary, so pedestrian it would make me run not to but away from the oncoming truck. It feels like melting ice cream to me. I look forward to hearing the sound of the Mr Softee truck coming. It feels like summer. And I don't think that that song is in any danger of being replaced by this guy's stuff.

May. 14 2014 09:48 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.