Soft Serve


“Either the ice cream man and his music are warmly symbolic of ‘Main Street USA,’ an idealized, mythic space resistant to objective curiosity; or ice cream truck music is a scourge on the urban soundscape, produce by tin-eared engineers whose saccharine and invasive noiseboxes drive neighborhoods to distraction. Neither approach seems particularly informative.”—Daniel Neely

A musicologist combed archives and spoke with a number of truck drivers and inventors to chart the evolution of that perennial summer anthem, the ice cream truck jingle.

Daniel Tannehill Neely is a musician and ethnomusicologist specializing in the music of Ireland and Jamaica. He earned a Ph.D. in musicology from New York University, receiving a Fulbright Scholarship for his dissertation on Jamaican mento music. Neely has contributed essays to many books, including Jamaica Jamaica! (Philharmonie de Paris, 2017), Victorian Jamaica (Duke University Press, 2009), and The Concise Garland Encyclopedia of World Music (2008). He writes a weekly column about traditional music for the Irish Echo.