Virginia country singer Oliver Anthony, a former factory worker, is going viral thanks to his song “Rich Men North of Richmond,” a scathing tale of greed and injustice that is rapidly being embraced and promoted by right-wing pundits.
“I’ve been selling my soul, working all day/ Overtime hours for bullsh– pay,” he sings in the song’s opening lines. A video, posted by radiowv, shows Anthony offering an acoustic performance, funneling the pain, frustration and angst of the working class into lines that rage against greedy rich men. The song takes on high taxes, abuse of welfare, and selfish politicians, with lyrics that have resonated mightily with music listeners. Elsewhere, he sings, “Lord, we got folks in the street, ain’t got nothing to eat and the obese milking welfare/ Well God, if you’re 5-foot-3 and you’re 300 pounds/ Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds.”
In a YouTube video posted Aug. 7, Anthony shared that the performance video of “Rich Men North of Richmond” was his “first song to get out there that has been recorded on a real microphone and a real camera, and not just on my cell phone.” He also noted that he began writing his own music in earnest in 2021.
“Things were not good for a lot of people and in some respects I was one of those people,” Anthony said. “I had wasted a lot of nights getting high and getting drunk and I had sort of gotten to a point in my life where even things that I did care about didn’t mean anything to me anymore. This is certainly no Dr. Phil episode, but I found an outlet in this music. I started uploading a couple of songs.”
Of “Rich Men North of Richmond,” he said it centers on the problems of the working class, noting, “The universal thing I see is no matter how much effort they put into whatever it is they’re doing, they can’t quite get ahead because the dollar’s not worth enough, they are being over-taxed. … I want to be a voice for those people. And not just them, but humans in general.” He went on to add, “As long as you’re above the dirt, you’ve got a fightin’ chance.”
Anthony’s grizzly, acoustic sound and straightforward songwriting style is already drawing stylistic comparisons to artists including Zach Bryan and Tyler Childers.
Here, five things to know about Anthony and “Rich Men North of Richmond”: