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”:
A Performance Video That’s Become a Sensation
A performance video of “Rich Men North of Richmond,” posted by radiowv, has surpassed 2 million views, just two days after its release on YouTube. “Rich Men From North Richmond” has also surged to No. 1 on the iTunes Country chart, outpacing the former chart leader, Jason Aldean’s controversial track “Try That in a Small Town.”
He Has Plans to Start a Farm
Anthony lives in Farmville, Virginia, just over an hour outside of Richmond. According to the YouTube channel radiowv, Oliver lives on a piece of land with his three dogs and has plans to turn the property of land into a small farm with livestock. He also counts Hank Williams Jr. as an inspiration.
There’s More Where That Came From
Though “Rich Men” is at the pinnacle of the iTunes chart, it’s not the only song from Oliver that is gaining traction. His previously released songs including “Ain’t Gotta Dollar,” “I’ve Got to Get Sober” and “I Want to Go Home” are also on the iTunes Country chart.
Anthony also hinted that there is a full project on the way, saying, “There’ll be a lot of positive songs, too, and there already are some — ”90-Some Chevy,’ ‘Ain’t Gotta Dollar’ and ‘Between You and Me’ — there’ll be more songs like that.”
He Says He’s “Dead Center” Politically
In a video, Anthony discussed his now-viral song, saying, “It touches base on human trafficking and the atrocities that… I’ll say this, I sit pretty dead center down the aisle on politics and always have. I remember as a kid the conservatives wanting war and me not understanding that, and I remember a lot of the controversies when the left took office, and it seems like both sides serve the same master and that master is not someone of any good to the people of this country.
“But I think one of the worst things a human can do is take advantage of a child. I can’t begin to conceptualize what has to happen to someone in order for them to think that’s okay. I think I drew the line on being quiet when I started to see that becoming normalized and I’ll leave that at that.
“The last part of the song, it touches on suicide rates and really on mental health and depression. There’s no reason why young men and women in this country should be committing suicide. There’s obviously a problem. People talk about epidemics in this country — homelessness and drug use, lack of skilled labor and the suicide rates. Those aren’t problems, those are symptoms of a bigger, universal problem. … It’s common sense, but we don’t talk about it enough.”
A John Rich Connection?
One social media user, entrepreneur Jason Howerton, claimed to have spoken with Oliver, and noted that country music singer-songwriter and outspoken conservative John Rich has offered to produce Oliver’s album. Billboard has confirmed that Rich has made the offer to produce the album.
The video is also gaining traction through various media personalities, including Rich, Joe Rogan and Matt Walsh, as well as Barstool Sports and conservative outlet Breitbart posting it on social media.