For more than half a century, children have waited anxiously on hot summer afternoons for the sound of the Mister Softee jingle—a nostalgic, ephemeral tune that's become inextricable from American adolescence. Though the song will surely live on, Lee Waas, the Philadelphia adman behind the iconic melody, died Thursday at the age of 94.
Initially used as a radio advertisement to promote Mister Softee ice-cream trucks over the airwaves, the jingle (and lesser known lyrics) was written by Waas in 1960. Today, the company operates in both the United States and China, with 650 trucks spreading cheer to children across the world. But Wass didn't limit his talents solely to Mister Softee. According to the Huffington Post, Waas wrote over 900 songs, including some for Ford, the Coast Guard, and the Philadelphia Phillies.
Michael Bloomberg, who crusaded against noise polution during his tenure as mayor of New York, notoriously sought to ban the Mister Softee jingle in 2004. Following an outpouring of protest from the public, a compromise was reached, allowing Mister Softee trucks to play their jingles as long as they were in motion. "You're going to traumatize a lot of children in this city," one New York City lawmaker said of the proposed ban.
A master of the classic, straightforward jingle, Waas became a critic of modern-day advertising later in life.
"They don’t go into creativity as much as they used to and I think it was Internet that did it,” he said in an interview with Broadcasting Pioneers. “I don’t see a great deal of innovation and creativity at all in what I see on the computer. The ads and the commercials, they don’t seem to grab your attention.”
Though the Mister Softee jingle is far from Waas' only claim to fame—a "semiprofessional prankster," he also founded the Procrastinators’ Club of America—it will likely remain the corner stone of his legacy.
[via the New York Times]