The tune associated with ice cream trucks around the world has a racist past. It was sung in the 19th century by minstrels, actors performing in blackface.

However, the original air was an Irish ballad brought to the US by Scots-Irish emigrants.

“N***** Love A Watermelon Ha! Ha! Ha!" (see video below) begins with a spoken back and forth:

“Browne: ‘You n—– quit throwin’ them bones and come down and get your ice cream!’
“Black men (incredulously): ‘Ice Cream?!’
“Browne: ‘Yes, ice cream! Colored man’s ice cream: watermelon!’”
And then the chorus:

“‘N—– love a watermelon ha ha, ha ha!’
“‘N—– love a watermelon ha ha, ha ha!’
“‘For here, they’re made with a half a pound of co’l’
“‘There’s nothing like a watermelon for a hungry coon.’”

A recent NPR report by Theodore R. Johnson III said the song portrays African Americans as “mindless beasts of burden greedily devouring slices of watermelon.”

The lyrics of the song were written by actor Harry C. Browne in 1916, but the tune is based on the air of an Irish ballad brought to the United States by Scots-Irish immigrants who settled along the Appalachian Trail.

The song's tune is derived from the ballad "My Grandmother Lived on Yonder Little Green," which was itself derivative of the Irish ballad "The Old Rose Tree.” The Irish ballad eventually evolved into the well-known folk song “Turkey in the Straw.”

That “Turkey in the Straw” is today far better known than the shockingly racist song it became a part of may in some ways save the ice cream truck jingle from being completely abhorrent.

However, Johnson suggests that because “Turkey in the Straw” became known nation-wide only after it was appropriated by traveling blackface minstrel shows, “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.

Following its popularity in minstrel shows, the tune was played in ice cream parlors across America. After World War II, with the introduction of the ice cream truck, its association with the summer treat was sealed.

Be warned this video contains offensive language.