Join 3,495 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


You scream, I scream, we all scream...
May 14, 2014 4:59 AM   Subscribe

The song "Turkey In The Straw" is one known to millions of Americans as well as many, many others around the world. Here's a National Public Radio article that shines some light on the virulently racist lyrics that attended that familiar old melody in its earlier incarnation. WARNING: Do not go to the link if you wish to avoid racist imagery and slurs.
posted by flapjax at midnite (117 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Weird. I only know that song as Turkey in the Straw. I've read about Zip Coon, but I had no idea that the Zip Coon song was the same as Turkey in the Straw. I wonder if the lyrics were re-sanitized after the racist lyrics became unacceptable? Or did the Turkey in the Straw lyrics survive at the same time as the racist lyrics?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:11 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]


You got your racism in my reel! You got your reel in my racism!
posted by The White Hat at 5:12 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]


I had no idea that the Zip Coon song was the same as Turkey in the Straw.

NPR, Metafilter and flapjax at midnite, at your service!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:17 AM on May 14


This is not Buzzfeed. You do not need to bury the lede.
posted by schmod at 5:17 AM on May 14 [7 favorites]


You do not need to bury the lede.

I wouldn't be so sure of that if I were you. At any rate, MetaTalk is the place to go, I reckon, if you have problems with the post framing.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:19 AM on May 14 [8 favorites]


Suddenly grateful for the Mr. Softee jingle.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:19 AM on May 14 [7 favorites]


At least the Mr. Softee song is still pure and good.

"The creamiest, dreamiest soft ice cream,
You get from Mister Softee.
For a refreshing delight supreme,
Look for Mister Softee.
My milkshakes and my sundaes and my cones are such a treat,
Listen for my store on wheels, ding-a-ling down the street.
The creamiest, dreamiest soft ice cream,
You get from Mister Softee.
For a refreshing delight supreme,
Look for Mister Softee.
S-O-F-T Double 'E', Mister Softee."
posted by inturnaround at 5:20 AM on May 14 [5 favorites]


I was a bit conflicted on whether the song warranted a listen.
As painful and awful as these things are, I'm glad the author decided to listen and write the article.
The lyrics of "Zip Coon" follow the namesake through encounters with possums, playing the banjo and courting a woman whose skin was so black that he calls her "ol Suky blue skin." A century later, it was still celebrated and inspiring America's music. The recognizable melody aside, we've all sung a variation of the lyrics. The chorus goes:

O zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.

(If this sounds similar to the Academy Award winning "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah," it's because that song was derived from this chorus.)
OMG, I've danced the cakewalk to that song. Down public streets! And it's not like I've never heard of the Zip Coon character or seen Song of the South - how did I never make that connection?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:21 AM on May 14


Oh for heaven's sake.

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.

No. Simply no. The fact that the melody was appropriated for racist songs does not mean that nobody knew about "Turkey In The Straw" before, during and after. It didn't make "Turkey in the Straw" disappear. The fact that the melody — notice that the article doesn't specify with which lyrics — was used in minstrel shows does not transform a string of notes into a racist tune, and it does not mean that the ice cream trucks are playing a racist melody. That fact that the racist songs appropriated the melody is evidence that it was already a popular tune. There are plenty of worthwhile articles to be written about shamefully racists songs in American popular culture without building the whole thing on Johnson's extremely fragile assumption.

While we're at it, the watermelon title is, very unfortunately, not the most racist song title in America. I can (but won't) name several that are at least that bad and, to my mind, worse.
posted by Longtime Listener at 5:22 AM on May 14 [51 favorites]


Our local ice cream truck owner has insulated himself from this by only playing 6 or 8 bars of "The Entertainer" over and over (possibly to defend himself from ASCAP via the Fair Use exemption). I have to admit, in my weaker moments near the end of the summer he could be playing the soundtrack to Triumph of the Will and I'd be glad for the relief.

Specific to the article, this is a dip-shitty Freshman year "I will show you the truth!" expose. I doubt the nation's ice cream trucks are to the last manjack stuffed full of racists. Given the music belongs to a number of songs, it's about the racism of the listener, not the player, isn't it?
posted by yerfatma at 5:22 AM on May 14 [5 favorites]


You ever notice what flavor Mr. Softee is?
posted by spitbull at 5:22 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]


Of all of the American folk songs with virulently racist origins, this seems like an odd one to point out, where the song was originally the traditional Anglian tune "The Rose Tree" transported to the US as "Turkey in the Straw."

You can imagine my surprise however at a formal Belgian binge drinking event called a Cantus, where everyone gets drunk enough to sing traditional songs and only talk in either Latin or what they believe to be Latin, when all of the old stanzas of inherently racist American songs like "Oh Susanna" and "Short’nin Bread" were not removed. I felt a lot better though after getting the chance to sing John Brown's Body a little extra loud.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:23 AM on May 14 [11 favorites]


Our local ice cream truck owner has insulated himself from this by only playing 6 or 8 bars of "The Entertainer" over and over (possibly to defend himself from ASCAP via the Fair Use exemption).

Scott Joplin's The Entertainer is in the public domain.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:26 AM on May 14 [5 favorites]


A little more historical context for both "Turkey in the Straw" and "Zip Coon" can be found here, in the liner notes to the Library of Congress's "American Fiddle Tunes."
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:27 AM on May 14 [5 favorites]


yerfatma: Specific to the article, this is a dip-shitty Freshman year "I will show you the truth!" expose. I doubt the nation's ice cream trucks are to the last manjack stuffed full of racists. Given the music belongs to a number of songs, it's about the racism of the listener, not the player, isn't it?

Not All Ice Cream Men.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:27 AM on May 14 [19 favorites]


I was an ice cream truck chaser in the seventies, and back then, the trucks announced themselves with a rack of bells over the cab that the driver operated by pulling merrily on a rope.

Fuck these beepity boppity HELLO! synthetic chiptune nightmares—I want the damn bells back, which aren't racist at all.
posted by sonascope at 5:30 AM on May 14 [8 favorites]


I agree that it's not proof positive, but given that the watermelon song specifically makes an association between the tune and ice cream, I also don't think it's a case of "there couldn't possibly be any connection whatsoever."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:31 AM on May 14 [14 favorites]


I was an ice cream truck chaser in the seventies, and back then, the trucks announced themselves with a rack of bells over the cab that the driver operated by pulling merrily on a rope.

John Gotti rang that bell all the way home.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:39 AM on May 14


Specific to the article, this is a dip-shitty Freshman year "I will show you the truth!" expose. I doubt the nation's ice cream trucks are to the last manjack stuffed full of racists. Given the music belongs to a number of songs, it's about the racism of the listener, not the player, isn't it?

It's a good thing the article doesn't say anything about present-day truck drivers, then.

Instead, it argues rather convincingly that the tune became associated with ice cream via a racist song, and suggests some of the reasons why that may have happened.
posted by kewb at 5:44 AM on May 14 [9 favorites]


I was an ice cream truck chaser in the seventies, and back then, the trucks announced themselves with a rack of bells over the cab that the driver operated by pulling merrily on a rope.

When I was living in Lowell, MA in the '90s, the local truck would blare Santana's "Oye Como Va" at top volume, because I think the old Philippino dude driving the truck liked the song, and then the next year it was the stupid chiptune "Turkey in the Straw," over and over and over and over. I knew it as "Do Your Ears Hang Low", which was taken from a Tory dis-track from the American Revolution, "Do Your Balls Hang Low."

So, as it's insulting the Continental Army, it must be banned. Also, I want the bells back.

RING-RING! RING-RING!

Mom! I need a dollar! I neeeeeeeeeeeeed a dollar! OK! Fifty cents! A quarter? Moooooommmmm!

posted by Slap*Happy at 5:44 AM on May 14 [6 favorites]


I never saw an ice cream truck in real life until I was in my late twenties. When I was a kid, I thought they were something made up for kids' movies, like Santa Claus.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:54 AM on May 14 [7 favorites]


The linked article and its framing is problematic, as is this post. Noting that a discussion is about racist imagery and songs doesn't excuse one from being careful about wording usage. Note how the author, after putting up a perfunctory warning about the discussion, then proceeds to casually use the word 'nigger' as if it has no significance or history, despite the fact the entire article is about racism!

Throw in the fact author of this Mefi post seems to have a thing for making posts about racist songs and this all just comes off as weird. Not at the flaps is racist, but I do have to wonder why this controversial subject has to be put on Metafilter.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:55 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]


I wondered how such a prejudiced song could have become the anthem of ice cream and childhood summers.

The answer, unsurprisingly, is "racism."

Note: this answer is only surprising if you want to pretend that the USA is not a deeply racist society built on slavery and misery. Think of this as lancing another boil; sunshine is the best disinfectant, as they say.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:59 AM on May 14 [6 favorites]


Think of this as lancing another boil; sunshine is the best disinfectant, as they say.

That's certainly my philosophy vis-a-vis addressing and discussing the racist aspects of history and culture of the United States.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:01 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]


Scott Joplin's The Entertainer is in the public domain.

How did Disney, Inc. let that happen? Heads will roll.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:02 AM on May 14


One of the things I find coolest about Rupert Grint is that, when he was old enough to start buying cars with his Harry Potter money, one of the first things he bought was an ice cream truck. Just because he always wanted one when he was a kid.

The problem, as he discovered, is that when you drive around in an ice cream truck, you're going to get swarmed by kids wanting ice cream. So he just figured, okay, and stocked it with ice cream which he occasionally drives around and gives out.

And I DO NOT want to hear about how he's actually a secret racist who drives around playing Prussian Blue through the speakers and doesn't give any ice cream to black children. just keep it to yourself.
posted by Naberius at 6:08 AM on May 14 [23 favorites]


given that the watermelon song specifically makes an association between the tune and ice cream, I also don't think it's a case of "there couldn't possibly be any connection whatsoever."

Seconding this. The argument wasn't "Ice cream trucks are racist because reasons," it was "here is how 'Turkey In The Straw' became the ice cream song".

And upon reflection - I think this may end up being the kind of piece the author is slightly embarrassed by in a few years. It makes a good point and a fair argument, yes, but it also speaks of a level of discomfort which I suspect, in a few years, the author would move past naturally anyway, whether or not he had happy kids getting ice cream to start thinking about instead. There are a lot of things in world culture that we've all naively accepted without knowing about the racist/sexist/classist/otherist origins, and we all get a bit of a mental wedgie when we learn The Shocking Truth.

But with some things, you move past it when you realize that the innocent people who perpetuated that song were truly that, innocent, and those cases are also part of the experience too. Not everything, mind - there are indeed some blatantly racist things out there. But with something like "Turkey In the Straw" - which had a tune which was borrowed for a racist song, and through a chain of events got associated with ice cream trucks - you realize that this racist past is a sidebar rather than the main point. And there are just way too many things out there with racist or sexist or what-not sidebars to be at a full-scale offense level for all of them all the time. It's good to know the truth and be aware of it - you can't and won't ever un-know it - but any pain will most likely have faded.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:08 AM on May 14 [6 favorites]


I was going to link to Daniel T. Neely's paper on ice cream truck music, “Soft Serve: Charting the promise of ice cream truck music”, but it looks like he's taken it down in favour of the final published version in The Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music Studies, Volume 2, “Ding, Ding!: The Commodity Aesthetic of Ice Cream Truck Music”. Anyone got a copy of either?

Neely does point out that Theodore T Johnson III's research seems to draw heavily on an article in Lucky Peach #10:
Given the troubling range of opinions about Theodore Johnson III’s May 11, 2014 NPR piece about the song “Turkey in the Straw,” (which seems to draw very heavily on Richard Parks’s piece “Turkey in the Straw,” published in Lucky Peach earlier in 2014), it’s clear that the music played from ice cream trucks and the reasons for its continued use are more nuanced than most people realize.
Other ice cream van history links:

WFMU: Bust A Gut
WFMU: Ice Cream Truck Music, Revisited
The real song of the summer: a brief history of ice cream truck music
All that to say, when you hear an ice cream truck playing “Little Brown Jug,” you’re hearing an updated version of a 30-year-old digital unit that replicated the sound of a 55-year-old electronic unit, based on a 65-year-old mechanical unit, which was based on the music box, which was invented more than 200 years ago. And they’ve been using the same song for 70 years, and that song was written 75 years before that. A lot of technology went into making it sound so archaic, like the sonic equivalent of Instagram.
posted by zamboni at 6:10 AM on May 14 [17 favorites]


So, when technology finally reached the point where ice cream trucks could play a tune instead of just ringing bells, some executive at Ice Cream Truck headquarters sat there pondering which tune the trucks should play. Finally he said, "I've got it. We can use the tune from this 60-year-old minstrel record that is racist as hell, because even though the song is about watermelon, the spoken intro mentions ice cream. The kids will never have heard the record. Their parents weren't born when it was released. But somehow they will associate it with ice cream. Also, it gives us a chance to be racist, which we always strive for when we can get away with it."

It's a stretch, to say the least. I've collected thousands of recordings from the past 100-plus years. I can't recall this tune ever being associated with ice cream in popular culture. This was not "the ice cream song" until ice cream trucks started broadcasting it incessantly. If the companies wanted to use a tune that at least some old-timers would associate with the product, it would have been the tune in the title of this post. That song was an actual hit record.
posted by Longtime Listener at 6:11 AM on May 14 [7 favorites]


No. Simply no. The fact that the melody was appropriated for racist songs does not mean that nobody knew about "Turkey In The Straw" before, during and after. It didn't make "Turkey in the Straw" disappear.

Let's try a non-racist* parallel: What's Opera, Doc?

Wagner's operas were popular before, during, and after that Looney Tunes bit. But you can't deny that a lot of people's conceptions of opera were shaped by it (especially the idea that opera = Wagnerian opera), and that more people know that melody as "Kill the Rabbit" (or, maybe, that scene from Apocalypse Now) than know it as "The Ride of the Valkyries".

If the author's right that the racist version of the song was more popular at the time than "Turkey in the Straw", then he's not wrong in saying that it's likely that it was the racist version that people were thinking of when they decided to use it for ice cream trucks. Similarly, if I have a little opera scene in a cartoon and have a fat woman wearing braids and with horned helmut on, odds are I'm reacting to general conceptions of opera as shaped by "What's Opera, Doc?", not necessarily the Wagnerian originals.

*Well, as much as any discussion of Wagner can be "non-racist"
posted by damayanti at 6:16 AM on May 14 [9 favorites]


It is times like this that i miss W Kamau Bell s show.
posted by eustatic at 6:18 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


Mr Softee may be nonracist and pure, but I ordered a milkshake from one of their trucks a few weeks ago and they charged me seven fucking dollars.
posted by jonmc at 6:20 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]


> Seconding this. The argument wasn't "Ice cream trucks are racist because reasons," it was "here is how 'Turkey In The Straw' became the ice cream song".

The problem with the NPR piece is that a connection is established, but causation isn't.

Is "Turkey in the Straw" an ice cream truck standard because of a popular variation with racist lyrics, or because it's a catchy, simple public domain tune? There's a lack of continuity provided in the NPR piece that would make the first argument the stronger one. Because if history is the reason, then why is a song about alcoholism ("Little Brown Jug") another standard?

(On preview, zamboni provides more links. hmm.)
posted by ardgedee at 6:20 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Damn, damayanti, that puts it way better than I did.

Yeah - this sounds like a Looney Tunes fan suddenly discovering the Nazi-Wagner associations and getting upset and writing about The Shocking Truth about "What's Opera, Doc", and then a while later remembering that "wait, Mel Blanc wasn't racist though and the cartoon is funny on its own merits," so while they may not be able to completely forget or dismiss the Wagner/Nazi thing, Bugs Bunny will win out again in the end.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:20 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


If the author's right that the racist version of the song was more popular at the time

At what time? And when exactly did ice cream trucks start endless looping the classic earword fiddle tune turkey in the straw? How well known were these lyrics? I'd never heard them before. The author, a man steeped in this sort of thing, hadn't. (No real surprise, we are talking about an obscure, poor quality novelty record dating back almost a hundred years.)

The case fails Occam's razor.

Unless this is meant as satire. Hard to tell these days.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:24 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


And thus was coined the phrase, "Occam's satire"
posted by phaedon at 6:26 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]


This was not "the ice cream song" until ice cream trucks started broadcasting it incessantly. If the companies wanted to use a tune that at least some old-timers would associate with the product, it would have been the tune in the title of this post. That song was an actual hit record

Turkey in the Straw had the advantage of being public domain even then. Admittedly, I'm not sure how/if copyright laws of the era would apply to Ice Cream Trucks.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:27 AM on May 14


Yes, a lot of people were introduced to Wagnerian opera through Warner Brothers cartoons. The difference here is that "Kill the Wabbit" was embedded into the popular culture through decades of repetition on television, beamed straight into the noggins of little kids. The watermelon song in the FPP was not. I've spent several decades pawing through tens of thousands of old records. There are some records that show up regularly. You'll find some songs recorded by multiple artists on multiple labels. In that way, you understand that this was a song that was part of the popular culture, at least for a time. The watermelon disc is not one of them. You never see this disc. You do see "Turkey in the Straw." So even if you could firmly establish that the turkey song was derived from the watermelon song, I have seen no evidence that the broader culture adopted this as "the ice cream song" until the trucks started using it.
posted by Longtime Listener at 6:28 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


ChurchHatesTucker: "Admittedly, I'm not sure how/if copyright laws of the era would apply to Ice Cream Trucks."

Copyright holders would sue the Beals Music Company. If it hadn't been in public domain.
posted by zarq at 6:30 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


I've always associated Turkey in the Straw with rednecks. It was never MY ice cream truck song. The Mr. Softee Jingle was always the ice cream truck song of my youth.
posted by evilDoug at 6:31 AM on May 14


Found a link for Neely's first paper. The first music box truck is apparently 1927, with Good Humor trucks in LA playing a Polish folk song. Ice cream truck music as we know it appears to not really get going until 1947, with John Ralston and the Nelson Company.

I'd like to have a look at both the Lucky Peach article and Neely's updated paper, but I'm increasingly unconvinced that you can draw a direct line between the minstrel song and ice cream trucks.
posted by zamboni at 6:34 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


> Of all of the American folk songs with virulently racist origins, this seems like an odd one to point out, where the song was originally the traditional Anglian tune "The Rose Tree"

Well, that's interesting! It sounds almost identical to the Irish tune Portlairge -- much closer than it does to Turkey in the Straw, to my ear. I didn't realize it was known in England at all.
posted by my favorite orange at 6:38 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Lots of wonderful things are coopted for disagreeable or downright evil works.

After years of flying the US flag during the summer, I was made to feel guilty some years after 9/11 because the mere image of the flag on a lawn or lapel made those around you feel you must be a member of the GOP. I refused to let those I disagree with take control of something I found symbolic and important to me and my differing beliefs.

On the other hand, the swastika has a similar history, a symbol of largely good intentions turned terribly evil, and nobody dare fly the symbol now as it really cannot be dissociated with its well known WWII era past.

Where on the spectrum do you place things like this song? When do you abandon a positive or innocent piece of imagery due to its association with terrible things?

Perhaps the answer lies in popular knowledge. Here, I doubt very few people actually associated Turkey in the Straw with its racist history. The very "huh, I didn't know that" factor of these stories tend to prove out that fact. Consequently, unlike imagery soaked in negative thoughts and acts, Turkey in the Straw really is divorced from a portion of its past. Does that mean we should not learn of the history and therefore learn from it? Certainly not. However, there is something distasteful in how this story is framed and being circulated around the web. It is morphing from a simple history lesson into something I fear will become a rally cry to ban the song. I don't fear this because I have nostalgia for Turkey in the Straw, but rather for what it suggests these stories morph our society in reactionary ways.

There seems to be a fine line between editorial education solving or uncovering a problem versus creating one. Sometimes a story does both, and it isn't always necessary. To answer the author's question, don't saddle ice cream trucks in the summer with a heavy handed race lesson about a song that, as heard from the tinny speakers of a truck in ignorance of its history, in no way overtly channels racism. There are plenty of other places and times to talk about race, and thankfully the best way to counter whatever racist influence the song has had over time is just letting your kid get ice cream from the truck right along with all the other kids of every origin and background.

Adults make things too complicated.
posted by Muddler at 6:40 AM on May 14 [9 favorites]


[Post text edited to be more descriptive, thanks flapjax. Metacommentary really belongs at the contact form or in MetaTalk and not here, however. Thank you.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:45 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]


There are plenty of other places and times to talk about race, and thankfully the best way to counter whatever racist influence the song has had over time is just letting your kid get ice cream from the truck right along with all the other kids of every origin and background.

Which is virtually the same conclusion the author reached, and elucidated in his closing sentence.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:45 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]


You're all familiar with the theory that you can link any two people together in no more than six steps?

The US has a pretty racist history. I suggest that you can link just about anything in our popular culture to racism in less than that, especially if the popular culture element is over 50 years old.
posted by tyllwin at 6:51 AM on May 14 [5 favorites]


Well, that's interesting! It sounds almost identical to the Irish tune Portlairge -- much closer than it does to Turkey in the Straw, to my ear. I didn't realize it was known in England at all.

For the exhaustive family of songs related to The Rose Tree, see its entry in The Fiddler's Companion.
ROSE TREE [1]. AKA and see “Bhíosa lá I bport láirge,” "The Dainty Besom Maker," “Forgive the muse that slumbered,” "The Gimlet," “I’d mourn the hopes that leave me,” “I’ll Cloot My Johnny’s Grey Breecks,” “Johnny’s Grey Breeks [2],” "The Old Lea Rigg," "Little Mary Cullinan," "Little Sheila Connellan,” “Maureen from Giberland,” “Moore’s Favourite,” “Phelim O’Neill [2],” “Port Láirge,” “The Rose Tree in Full Bearing,” “The Rose Tree of Paddy’s Land."
It also covers the American branch of the family:
The melody appears in the music manuscript copybook of Henry Livingston, Jr. Livingston purchased the estate of Locust Grove, Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1771 at the age of 23. In 1775 he was a Major in the 3rd New York Regiment, which participated in Montgomery’s invasion of Canada in a failed attempt to wrest Montreal from British control. … “The Rose Tree” also appears in Riley’s Flute Melodies (New York, 1814). The first part of the tune has a "pronounced likeness" to the American chestnut "Turkey in the Straw," according to Sandburg, Bayard (1981), Jabbour (1971), Winston Wilkinson and others, and is perhaps a progenitor to the family of American tunes known as "(Old) Zip Coon," "Natchez Under the Hill [1]," and "Turkey in the Straw." The low part of the melody is shared with the old-time Kentucky tune “Briarpicker Brown.” “The Rose Tree” shows up as a shape-note hymn printed in John B. Jackson’s Knoxville Harmony (1838), and in the white Appalachian spiritual “My Grandma Lived on Yonder Green” (George Pullen Jackson, White Spirituals in the Southern Uplands, 1933).
posted by zamboni at 6:51 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]


When I was growing up, a lot of ice cream trucks were also secretively selling drugs. "Turkey In The Straw" meant the driver had cocaine. "The Entertainer" meant marijuana. At least, that is what I was told. I wasn't buying drugs from anyone, not even ice cream trucks, back then.
posted by hippybear at 6:52 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


I'm imagining a series in which the histories of all the leading ice cream songs (the entertainer, little brown jug, camptown races, etc.) are used to teach lessons about U.S. history.
posted by Area Man at 6:53 AM on May 14 [5 favorites]


turkey in the straw is such a prevalent tune in american culture, i don't think some also-ran recording artist from 1916 appropriating it for a racist novelty tune that mentions ice cream can be anything more than coincidence

besides, the ice cream trucks around here don't play that song - they play "pop goes the weasel" or "the entertainer"

on preview, hippybear, i'm almost certain that "pop goes the weasel" meant the driver had heroin
posted by pyramid termite at 6:54 AM on May 14 [6 favorites]


HELLO!
posted by ennui.bz at 6:54 AM on May 14 [8 favorites]


There's probably an amusing parallel to be made with the Star Spangeled Banner and Archeon in Heaven, but I haven't had enough coffee to give it a go.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:55 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


We have competing ice cream trucks in my neighborhood. One plays Christmas songs, the other plays "Home on the Range". HotR just last week added an annoying spoken, "Hello!" between the strains. I don't think either sells drugs, but HotR does have snowcones.
posted by candyland at 6:56 AM on May 14


So even if you could firmly establish that the turkey song was derived from the watermelon song, I have seen no evidence that the broader culture adopted this as "the ice cream song" until the trucks started using it.

Yeah, that's actually what the article is examining, which is why trucks started using that song in particular as opposed to other songs.

But it does kind of fall down when you run into the fact that ice cream truck songs vary kind of a lot. I think "Turkey In The Straw" is specific to Good Humor trucks, which may have been the only game in town in some communities - maybe the authors'. But in other communities, it may have been another company's truck, and they used "The Entertainer" or "Music Box Dancer" (I think that's what the one in my hometown used). Or they grew up somewhere where you had competing trucks with different songs; here in New York I most often hear "Mister Softee" or this thing, and maybe something else once in a blue moon.

But then I just checked out Wikipedia's article on ice cream trucks and they had quite a list of potential songs -
A distinctive feature of ice cream vans is their melodic chimes, and often these take the form of a famous and recognizable tune, usually "The Mister Softee Jingle", "Turkey in the Straw", "Do Your Ears Hang Low?, "Pop Goes The Weasel" "The Entertainer",[1] "Music Box Dancer", "Home on the Range", "It's a Small World", "Super Mario Bros. theme" or "Camptown Races"; or, in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, "Greensleeves", "Whistle While You Work" in Crewe and Nantwich, "You Are My Sunshine" in Vale Royal, "Teddy Bears' Picnic" in Sheffield, and "Match of the Day" in other places. In some places in the US, ice cream trucks play the song "Ice Cream" by Andre Nickatina (essentially just Turkey in the Straw with bass).
That Andre Nickatina thing is an interesting point, but it also takes the "Turkey In the Straw"/ice cream thing one remove more from its unsavory associations.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:58 AM on May 14


The only words I've ever known to this had something to do with pouring hot water on a chicken to get hard boiled eggs. I had no idea there was a version with a turkey, or anything less savory. I guess if I'd thought about it, the verse that had to do with using chocolate milk to get Cadbury eggs was pretty clearly of recent vintage.
posted by Sequence at 7:01 AM on May 14


Watermelon seems more appropriate for sorbet than ice cream.
posted by mullacc at 7:02 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


That's not the song that trucks around here play, so while the racist tradition of that song sounds pretty solid, it's by no means a universal thing. And since even those trucks are playing chip tunes of a song that almost no one alive has heard the words to (I mean, I knew the Turkey in the Straw version, but never the watermelon one), the connection gets weaker every year and at some point it becomes more of a historical curiosity than anything else.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:05 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Here's the illustrations for the Lucky Peach article.
posted by zamboni at 7:06 AM on May 14


When I was growing up, a lot of ice cream trucks were also secretively selling drugs. "Turkey In The Straw" meant the driver had cocaine. "The Entertainer" meant marijuana. At least, that is what I was told.

No offense, but this is right up there with "sneakers looped around telephone lines in front of a house mean a drug dealer lives there" and "if you flash your high beams at an oncoming car that happens to have gang members in it, one of them will hunt you down and kill you as part of an initiation rite."
posted by aught at 7:16 AM on May 14 [11 favorites]


When I was growing up, a lot of ice cream trucks were also secretively selling drugs.

Hell, some of them were actually made out of marijuana. I saw a documentary about this on cable TV.
posted by thelonius at 7:22 AM on May 14 [14 favorites]


The only words I've ever known to this had something to do with pouring hot water on a chicken to get hard boiled eggs.

That's how Sharon, Lois, and Bram used to sing it.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:27 AM on May 14


i got your documentary proof of drug dealing ice cream trucks right here!
posted by pyramid termite at 7:31 AM on May 14


Everything you ever loved as a child has a horrible, horrible story behind it.
posted by tommasz at 7:31 AM on May 14 [10 favorites]


Up next on NPR, Mister Softee: nazi war criminal.
posted by dr_dank at 7:32 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Hell, some of them were actually made out of marijuana.

There's always money in the ice cream stand.
posted by Pizzarina Sbarro at 7:37 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]


I've always associated this melody with geographic literacy.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:39 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


the way i heard it, the drug dealer doesn't deploy the sneakers in front of his house, that would be dumb. he deploys them on the street corner he's claimed as his turf. when an oncoming car flashes its high beams at you, it means "watch out, you're approaching a speed trap."
posted by bruce at 7:39 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


not knowing Turkey in the Straw, I always associated that melody with the song "do your ears hang low" that I learned in Cub Scouts.
posted by Dr. Twist at 7:39 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


There are plenty of other places and times to talk about race, and thankfully the best way to counter whatever racist influence the song has had over time is just letting your kid get ice cream from the truck right along with all the other kids of every origin and background.

Which is virtually the same conclusion the author reached, and elucidated in his closing sentence.hich is virtually the same conclusion the author reached, and elucidated in his closing sentence.


I agree that's where the author ended up, and it's of course where people on here tend to go as this is a more thoughtful forum than most. It's not so much this author, and certainly not this thread, but the snippet meta reporting that's happening around the article that's leaving out the punchline. Such is the web.

See some of these re-reportings of the article.

For the most part, those articles condemn the song, highlight the tarnish the racism puts on ice cream trucks, and forget to discuss the nuance of whether we're importing racism back into a song where it was forgotten and whether this should be used as a racism lesson for kids who really just want their ice cream. Instead they glibly say racism=bad, ice cream=good, but here's a sensational story mixing the two.
posted by Muddler at 7:42 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


also, having now listened to the "nigger love a watermelon" version linked in the article, if someone had showed me the song out of context I would have assumed it was a hoax of some sort.
posted by Dr. Twist at 7:49 AM on May 14


absolutely not, dr twist - as someone who's listened a lot to records of that era, the sonics, musicianship and even the racism are very much geniune
posted by pyramid termite at 7:52 AM on May 14


when an oncoming car flashes its high beams at you, it means "watch out, you're approaching a speed trap."

Notice to other drivers: when I flash my brights, I intend to communicate one of three things.
  1. slow down, hazard ahead
  2. it's dark, turn your headlights on
  3. turn your bloody high beams off, you idiot
    posted by zamboni at 7:55 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]


    There's an ice cream sandwich food truck in DC where I don't think they're selling drugs, but I do think the employees are always high. One time, my wife ordered something (apple ice cream on snickerdoodle cookies) and the guy just said "that sounds really good" and starred at us for a while before finally realizing he needed to ring us up.
    posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:15 AM on May 14 [10 favorites]


    My easy bake oven perpetuated women's subservient role as homemaker, my baby doll communicated that I was destined to be a wife and mother, but not work outside the home, my all white barbies meant that I had no concept of integration or racial equality, and my ice cream truck is a front for the KKK. My past is haunted.
    posted by Kokopuff at 8:21 AM on May 14


    From zamboni's excerpt from The Fiddler's Companion: “I’ll Cloot My Johnny’s Grey Breecks”.

    Dare I ask what breeks are and how one would go about clooting them?
    posted by skyscraper at 8:24 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


    The clickbaity article fails a number of tests, most prominently understanding just how transferrable melodies were before our modern copyright era. By this writer's standard, "My Country 'Tis of Thee" is an ode to the British monarchy, or possibly German nationalism.
    posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:24 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]


    My past is haunted.

    Just be thankful it's not haunted by GI Joe...
    posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:32 AM on May 14


    I prefer this ice cream song.

    I also agree that there are potentially more racist songs out there; I thought about some examples but then saw where Brandon Blatcher pointed to flapjax at midnight's earlier (deleted) post which had the songs I was thinking of and then some.
    posted by TedW at 8:40 AM on May 14


    (Am I on shrooms or are the tunes to "Turkey in the Straw" and "Do Your Ears Hang Low" one and the same?)
    posted by Mooseli at 8:45 AM on May 14


    (Am I on shrooms or are the tunes to "Turkey in the Straw" and "Do Your Ears Hang Low" one and the same?)

    They are the same. Just like "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", "Baa Baa Black Sheep" and the Alphabet Song also all use the same tune.
    posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:48 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


    From zamboni's excerpt from The Fiddler's Companion: “I’ll Cloot My Johnny’s Grey Breecks”.

    Dare I ask what breeks are and how one would go about clooting them?


    "I'll patch my Johnny's Grey trousers."

    OED:

    breek, n.

    1. A garment covering the loins and thighs;
    a. Formerly in singular. Obs.
    b. Now only in pl. breeks = breeches at breech n. 1c, trousers.
    clout, n.1

    I. gen. Piece, patch, flat piece, shred.
    1. A piece of cloth, leather, metal, etc., set on to mend anything; a patch. arch. and dial.
    posted by zamboni at 8:51 AM on May 14



    understanding just how transferrable melodies were before our modern copyright era.

    Indeed, even "Old Zip Coon" has been turned back on itself to complain about the tune's popularity.
    posted by tyllwin at 8:56 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


    If Turkey in the Straw is racist because of a parody, does that mean Michael Jackson's "Beat It" is anti-obesity and the rallying anthem of public transit planners everywhere should be "Another One Bites the Dust"?
    posted by brentajones at 8:57 AM on May 14 [5 favorites]


    Just nth-ing that melodies were super-transferable earlier than the 20th century and all sorts of different lyrics would be used with the same melody. The more popular or well known the tune, the more likely this would happen. Just one example. Wikipedia has a decent rundown of the situation with Turkey in the Straw/Zip Coon.

    More to the point, though, life and culture in the U.S. was (and still is, to a certain extent) simply steeped in racism and racial overtones of various sorts. It makes for a history that is very complex and difficult to talk about, because things that are completely abhorrent today were simply commonplace back then. And our existing culture all has its roots in this completely racist culture. So we need to understand it and how our current culture relates to it, yet at the same time it is almost impossible to even talk about it.

    Just one example: Coon Songs--and yes, that extremely racist term is the name by which they were are are known, even in academia--are filled with vile racist stereotypes and simultaneously the basis of whole genres of American music and culture. Any number of them would be well in the running for the most racist song title in America.

    Yet African-American composers and writers wrote a good number of them, and the genre gave these composers and actual authentic African-American culture an exposure it would not otherwise have had. And, by giving prominence to those African-American voices, the genre had a positive effect on American popular and folk music that is still felt today.

    In short: You don't have to listen to the ice cream truck to hear American music that has its roots in racism. Just turn on the radio or TV any time of day.

    The question isn't so much where it came from--because just nearly everything from that era in American had huge racist overtones--but how we are adapting and transforming its meaning today. Short of jettisoning every bit of our culture before, say, 1970 (or should we make that 2014?) that's the only possible way to move forward.
    posted by flug at 9:24 AM on May 14 [6 favorites]


    And I DO NOT want to hear about how he's actually a secret racist who drives around playing Prussian Blue through the speakers and doesn't give any ice cream to black children. just keep it to yourself.
    posted by Naberius at 2:08 PM on May 14


    " 'As much as anything, I like the fact that I can attend my brother’s rally meetings.'

    Rupert Grint’s new film, ‘Into The White’, is out later this year"

    Sorry Naberius, the truth is out.
    posted by Decani at 9:59 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


    I have never heard an ice cream truck play this song.
    posted by thelonius at 10:19 AM on May 14


    I might be a bit skeptical of the connection myself if I hadn't learned this song in grade school:

    Jimmy crack corn, and I don't care
    Jimmy crack corn, and I don't care
    Jimmy crack corn, and I don't care
    The master's gone away.

    This was late sixties-early seventies, in other words, post-civil-rights-era America. (It's not just down south where old times are not forgotten, at least very quickly.)
    posted by Halloween Jack at 10:31 AM on May 14


    For another amusing tune borrowing:
    Columbia University graduation is attended by students from all the different colleges, including Columbia, Barnard, and the Jewish Theological Seminary, as well as, of course, their proud relatives. Most of whom had never heard the school's alma mater. So when it was sung at the beginning of discovered that the Columbia song shares its melody with a somewhat better-known anthem.
    posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:39 AM on May 14


    I know that as the tune to "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken" but had no idea it was used in the other context.
    posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:43 AM on May 14


    So when it was sung at the beginning of discovered that the Columbia song shares its melody with a somewhat better-known anthem .

    For those disinclined to watch a video to find out, Stand, Columbia is set “to the tune of the "Austrian Hymn" (Haydn's Emperor Quartet, which also serves as the melody for the German national anthem, both with the old lyrics of "Deutschland über alles" and the present less jingoistic version beginning "Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit").”
    posted by zamboni at 10:50 AM on May 14


    For what it's worth (and it took me a long time to track this down), the ice cream trucks in Denver play the chorus of a 110-year old song called "Red Wing," a not-too-racist song about an Indian maiden.
    posted by kozad at 11:45 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


    There are plenty of other places and times to talk about race, and thankfully the best way to counter whatever racist influence the song has had over time is just letting your kid get ice cream from the truck right along with all the other kids of every origin and background.

    I strongly agree with the underlying sentiment of this comment, and please don't take what I'm about to say as critical in any way, but it forces us to confront what I think of as the inherent racial awkwardness of the business of ice cream trucks, because "Seventy-five percent of all African-American, Jewish, Mexican-American, and Native American adults are lactose intolerant," and that means you are choosing to cater to mainly white customers in the first place by having an ice cream truck, that no one can accuse you of racism if you choose not to drive through minority neighborhoods, and that if you do sell to the occasional minority child, you could be making them sick by means which elude parental supervision and with an illness which might be hard for parents to detect the cause of.
    posted by jamjam at 11:47 AM on May 14


    Jimmy crack corn, and I don't care

    That song is interesting because of its subtext - the slave is rejoicing in the death of his master, and may have actually caused it and gotten away with it.

    Still not appropriate to teach first graders.
    posted by Slap*Happy at 11:52 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


    jamjam: "...you are choosing to cater to mainly white customers in the first place by having an ice cream truck, that no one can accuse you of racism if you choose not to drive through minority neighborhoods, and that if you do sell to the occasional minority child, you could be making them sick by means which elude parental supervision and with an illness which might be hard for parents to detect the cause of."

    o.O
    posted by zarq at 11:56 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


    Genetic lactose intolerance due to nonwhite ancestry often does not present fully until preteen years.
    posted by elizardbits at 12:03 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


    ...the ice cream trucks in Denver play the chorus of a 110-year old song called "Red Wing," a not-too-racist song about an Indian maiden.

    Whose melody got re-purposed to "I'm Sticking With the Union". (Learned that at an Oscar Brand performance at the church where Alice of Alice's Restaurant lived. Can't get better than that.)
    posted by benito.strauss at 12:09 PM on May 14


    Genetic lactose intolerance due to nonwhite ancestry often does not present fully until preteen years.

    I've heard that before but have not seen actual statistics. Most mammals develop it immediately after weaning, however, and a number of black people I know personally have been lactose intolerant from an early age-- not to mention that pre-teens are a prime demographic for ice cream trucks.
    posted by jamjam at 12:13 PM on May 14


    are choosing to cater to mainly white customers in the first place by having an ice cream truck, that no one can accuse you of racism if you choose not to drive through minority neighborhoods, and that if you do sell to the occasional minority child

    Huh, I guess ice cream truck routes and driver demographics must vary greatly around the country. I'm used to ice cream trucks primarily driving around in the more densly populated city areas, which also tend to have more minorities. I don't think I've every seen one out in the mostly white suburbs where my sister lives. Also, the drivers themselves seem to be mostly non-white. Lately, they have been Somalis.

    Also, the ice cream trucks here sell many varieties of popsicle. So, even a kid who is lactose intolerant could buy a cold treat on a hot summer day.
    posted by Area Man at 12:19 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


    I suggest that you can link just about anything in our popular culture to racism in less than that, especially if the popular culture element is over 50 years old.

    Like say, the name of widely used piece of construction equipment.
    posted by Ham Snadwich at 12:22 PM on May 14 [7 favorites]


    the slave is rejoicing in the death of his master, and may have actually caused it and gotten away with it.

    I feel like we were explicitly taught that interpretation, in 3rd or 3th grade, in my (BLINDINGLY white) grade school in far-northeastern WA in the 70's. Even if we weren't, it's still obviously a happy song about the massa dying, and the protagonist being pretty much fine with that.

    Then again, we also learned "Get Together" by the Youngbloods - "Love is but the song we sing/ And fear's the way we die" etc, for some reason. Appropriate? I dunno... land of contrasts, the 70's were.
    posted by hap_hazard at 12:24 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


    IIRC (from camp) the ORIGINAL lyrics were about a small chicken with reproductive issues who was subjected to excessive amounts of animal cruelty until she was compelled to make breakfast. Followed by a short advertisement for men's grooming services for the low, low price of only 25 cents.
    posted by sexyrobot at 12:24 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


    Ham Snadwich: "Like say, the name of widely used piece of construction equipment."

    Whoa. Did not know that.
    posted by zarq at 12:35 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


    It was surprising to me as well.
    posted by Ham Snadwich at 12:36 PM on May 14


    And to save everyone rushing to their library log-ins: the OED backs it up.

    bull-dose | bull-doze, n. and v.
    orig. U.S. colloq.
    A. n.
    ? A severe dose (of flogging).
    1876 American Newspr., If a negro is invited to join it [a society called ‘The Stop’], and refuses, he is taken to the woods and whipped. This whipping is called a ‘bull-doze’, or doze fit for a bull.
    1881 Sat. Rev. 9 July 40/2 A ‘bull-dose’ means a large efficient dose of any sort of medicine or punishment.

    b. trans. To coerce by violence, intimidate.

    posted by The corpse in the library at 12:43 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


    From the Wikipedia article on Turkey in the Straw:
    "Turkey in the Straw" is a well-known American folk song dating from the early 19th century. The song's tune is derived from the ballad "My Grandmother Lived on Yonder Little Green" which was derivative of the Irish ballad "The Old Rose Tree."[1] Originally a tune for fiddle players, it was first popularized in the late 1820s and early 1830s by blackface performers, notably George Washington Dixon,[2] Bob Farrell[2] and George Nichols. Another song, "Zip Coon", sung to the same tune,[3] was popularized by Dixon and flourished during the Andrew Jackson administration.
    References are in the WP article if you want to dig deeper.

    I think it's a huge stretch to somehow link "Zip Coon" to the melody heard from modern ice cream trucks. They both draw from the same source — Turkey in the Straw, The Old Rose Tree — but they branch off in different directions.

    That's kind of how folk music works. People take the same original work and run with it in various directions. Some of those directions aren't pretty. But if you allow that to retroactively poison the source material, and particularly to poison other derivative works made from the source material, you're not going to have a whole lot of folk culture left.

    I don't think I've every seen one out in the mostly white suburbs where my sister lives.

    I don't think that's universal, although in some areas they may be so heavily regulated as to drive them out of existence. I live in an old 1950s suburb and we definitely have a bunch of trucks that circulate around. Though if you don't flag one of them down and stop them early in the season, they tend to drive right by your house the rest of the summer without stopping. (But if you buy from them once, you'd better bet they'll be there every day it's not pouring rain out.)

    There is a weird hierarchy of ice cream trucks as well, with the sketchy magnetic-stickered call-your-kids-back-into-the-house vans at the low end, progressing up through the franchise Good Humor novelty trucks, and then the creme de la creme are the actual soft-serve trucks, which are the size of ambulances and can generally do stuff like milkshakes. The economics of each one are slightly different, with the bigger trucks having to stay in areas where they know there are going to be a lot of customers. During the summer I think they do a route of summer camps and pools, not individual houses. Most of the real soft-serve trucks have a generator that they have to run in addition to the engine if they're not plugged in, so trolling through neighborhoods isn't economical like it is for the frozen-novelty ones. So perversely, the more spread out a neighborhood is (i.e. tends to be wealthier areas) the crappier the ice cream trucks will probably be.

    My neighbors when I was a kid had an ice cream truck, which was pretty much as awesome as it sounds, and the source of my ice-cream-truck-related knowledge. IIRC they had "Happy Birthday", "Turkey in the Straw", "The Entertainer", "Yankee Doodle", and I think a couple of Christmas songs (pretty optimistic, whoever decided to put them in there) on their speaker system. They were hardcoded and all you had was a rotary switch to decide which 10-second loop you wanted to listen to.
    posted by Kadin2048 at 1:06 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


    but it forces us to confront what I think of as the inherent racial awkwardness of the business of ice cream trucks

    i blame cows and their psychic, non-verbal hold on our minds that forced us to take them in and milk them, all to satisfy their evil racial agenda
    posted by pyramid termite at 1:41 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


    pyramid termite is a cowist.
    posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:22 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


    We didn't have ice cream trucks where I lived either. We had people on bikes with a big refrigerated compartment mounted on the front, and a row of bells they'd ring. It was called the "Dickie Dee".

    Why does writing this out make it sound like I grew up in the 20s or something?
    posted by Hoopo at 4:38 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]


    pyramid termite is a cowist.

    no, i'm a true american who stands against the cowmunist menace
    posted by pyramid termite at 5:54 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


    I dunno, pyramid termite… word is out around the farm that you're a Trotskyite. Bet you're wondering how I knew? I heard it through the bovine.
    posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:11 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


    "DO YOUR [ears] HANG LOW DO THEY WOBBLE TO AND FRO? CAN YOU TIE THEM IN A KNOT? CAN YOU TIE THEM IN A BOW? CAN YOU THROW THEM OVER YOUR SHOULDER LIKE A CONTINENTAL SOLDIER? DOOOO YOOOOUR [ears] HAAAANG... LOW? (Bum-dum!)"

    Tory pricks. Well, I bet you don't got another one like...

    'YAAAAAAANKEE DOODLE KEEP IT UP! YAAAAANK(ME) DOOOODLE DANDY! MIND THE MUSIC AND STEP, AND WITH THE GIRLS BE..."

    Sons. Of. A. Bitch.
    posted by Slap*Happy at 7:05 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


    word is out around the farm that you're a Trotskyite

    says the person who posts an FPP about a turkey trot - be warned, the only splitters we allow on this farm are axes
    posted by pyramid termite at 8:47 PM on May 14


    I heard it through the bovine.

    you're just like a chicken, flapjax - you ain't too proud to egg
    posted by pyramid termite at 8:54 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


    benito.strauss, that song is Union Maid by Woody Guthrie.

    Here's some background.

    The ice cream vendors in south Seattle in the 1960's roved around in three wheeled scooters playing a super-amplified jewelry box version of Brahms's Lullaby.
    Which probably would have been terrifying if we hadn't been so jacked up for the enormous multi-flavored popsicles the guys sold.
    posted by Pudhoho at 10:55 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


    One of my friends grew up quite poor, and to head off uncomfortable arguments about money, her mother told 5 year-old her that, "The ice cream truck only plays music when it's out of ice cream."

    I have yet to decide if it's evil or genius, so I've settled on simply calling her mother a evil genius.

    I mention this only because as a somewhat-serious student of 20th century music, the racist lyrics didn't surprise me as much as the revelation of one mother's brilliance.
    posted by 1f2frfbf at 9:11 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


    bull-dose | bull-doze, n. and v.
      A severe dose (of flogging).
      A large efficient dose of any sort of medicine or punishment.
      To coerce by violence, intimidate.

    Henry Thomas' Bull-Doze Blues.
      I'm going where I never get bulldozed
      I'm going where I never get the bulldoze
      I'm going where I never get bulldozed

    . . and presumably, the water tastes like wine.
     

    posted by Herodios at 7:50 PM on May 15


    And speaking of "Turkey in the Straw," the Library of Congress's blog, Folklife Today, examines the song's history. I had forgotten this particular use of the tune:
    When the tune entered twentieth-century pop culture, it usually didn’t refer to African American people, or at least it didn’t seem to. In fact, it sometimes didn’t refer to people at all: it was a major part of the Disney animated short Steamboat Willie, which introduced the characters of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. In the film, while Minnie turns a goat’s tail into a crank and plays the animal like a barrel-organ, Mickey plays music using a variety of found objects, including other unfortunate animals: a cat becomes a musical saw, a goose becomes a bagpipe, a litter of suckling piglets becomes an organ, and a cow’s teeth become a xylophone. On all of these hapless animals, Mickey plays “Turkey in the Straw”—although, strangely, no turkey appears in the sequence! As the first cartoon with synchronized sound, Steamboat Willie gave “Turkey in the Straw” very prominent placement in the history of film.
    Really, go read the whole thing. Interesting stuff.
    posted by MonkeyToes at 7:07 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]


    « Older Australia's 2014-2015 budget was just released. Am...  |  Oldest known sperm discovered,... Newer »


    This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments