Jimmy Crack Corn and Cingular is forced to care
As it happens, I’m currently sitting at #1 in the Google search rankings for “jimmy crack corn commercial.” It’s all based on a comment from a wandering and lost post I wrote some time ago.
In the comments, TripJax mentioned he was a big fan of the Cingular Wireless commercial that at one time featured the old song, “Jimmy Crack Corn.” Tripjax wrote:
I love that “Earl” phone commercial. I also love the one where the soon to be son-in-law is talking to the soon to be father-in law”…
FIL – You’re about to be my SIL, just call me Jim.
SIL – Okay…Jim-Bo…Jimmy-Boy…Jimmy Crack Corn And I Don’t Care.
That commercial still airs in my market and I had noticed that the “Jimmy Crack Corn” reference had been deleted from the ad. I mentioned to my wife that I wondered whether the song’s slave-oriented history had anything to do with the deletion. Later, I figured Cingular had cut a couple seconds off the ad to make room for a new promotional announcement.
I thought about it again yesterday after watching part of a Reno 911 re-run in which Deputy S. Jones, played by Cedric Yarbrough, sings the song and messes up the last lyric. In response, his parter looks at him and deadpans, “My massa’s gone away.”
While that is the end of the scene and the joke is likely lost on most people, the punchline is pretty clear. “Jimmy Crack Corn” (aka “Blue Tail Fly”) is such a part of our popular culture that few people know the songs roots. That is, even a black guy might not know the last lyric but his likely latently-racist white buddy does. No word on whether Bugs Bunny had any idea, but methinks he did.
What’s really interesting about the whole thing is the the lyrics, their origins, and their meanings are lost to time. Check out this thread in which the debate sits as just one of a dozen or so arguments on the site about a song that is widely considered just a silly kids tune.
All of that said, Cingular Wireless apparently stepped in it when the it green-lighted the ad in question. Regardless of whether the song is racist, it at least carried a perception among some folks that it is. And thus, Cingular cut the line from future airings of the ad.
Cingular told a San Francisco TV station, “Cingular had, at most, a half dozen complaints. We took a look at the song itself. We wanted to make sure we didn’t have even the appearance of offending anybody. The commercial was edited. We did the right thing.”
In the long run, I don’t really care. No company wants to offend people just to save one line in a commercial. On all sides, including this post, it is much ado about nothing. However, apparently people care enough to be looking for an answer. And, since I’m the first stop, I figured I’d save everybody a little clicking.