Tuesday 22 August 2023

The Song That Everybody In The USA Is Talking About: "Rich Men North Of Richmond" by Oliver Anthony.


He's a working-class Christian from the American South with a simple message of hurt and frustration that has touched the hearts of Americans of all classes, races, and genders. He has translated into words and music what so many of them feel and wish their leaders could grasp - that the status quo serves nobody but "rich men north of Richmond".

Video courtesy of YouTube

This posting is exclusive to Bowalley Road.


whetu star said...

Thank you Chris.

When the song finished it was replaced on my computer by 'North by North' by the Bats. Pretty sure that was from my own feed, but apposite.

Understated, scathing.

The Labour Party.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Know your culture wars are there to distract while libertarian billionaires avoid paying tax" Billy Bragg.

And Billy bless his heart, has written a response. Including advice to join a bloody union if you're sick of working on shit jobs for little pay. Couldn't have put it better myself.

American conservatives are pretty damn good at getting working class people to vote against their own interests. Tell them that somebody they despise is getting free stuff, and a bit of the good old US myth about individualism and social mobility seems dead easy. An so-called left-wing parties all over the world have lost touch with the working class.

I think it was Robert Reich who said that the right has seized on culture war populism, while the left has abandoned economic populism. If people weren't quite so hopeless and helpless, they'd probably hate a bit less.

We now have manufactured outrage, manufactured fear, manufactured jealousy, – all of which have been created by the right in order to make people more likely to vote for them.

:....fascists galvanize public rage at presumed (or imaginary) cultural elites and use mass rage to gain and maintain power. They stir up grievances against those elites for supposedly displacing average people and seek revenge. In so doing, they create mass parties. They often encourage violence." Robert Reich

It's beginning to remind me of the 1930s.

The Barron said...

For fuck sake Chris, this is Q.Anon racist dog whistle.


It is targeting and exploiting cultural divides not expressing working class values.

Tiger Mountain said...

While there are reasonable sentiments in the song, Mr Anthony’s fan club is substantially right wing. Anyone can have a good old whinge or point out problems as the MAGAs and others do–the thing is they rarely intend to do anything about those issues in terms of working class community and political organisation and action.

Major points deducted also for Oliver’s gratuitous Bennie Bash…

“And the obese milkin' 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”

File under over rated.

Terry Coggan said...

Whoa Chris, you might like to temper your enthusiasm for this song, which contains some very mixed messages, to say the least. Take a look at the song that Billy Bragg wrote in response to Anthony's: https://youtu.be/qGNFR7pgxDY

Tom Hunter said...

I covered this just a few days after the song was released, when it had already hit 14 million views on YouTube, Back in your cagie, cagie, wagie, wagie.

Even then the likes of Rolling Stone were taking shots at him - as political scientist Political scientist Charles Lipson patiently tries to explain to his class in Washington D.C. once again what’s going on with “Rich Men:"
It’s a battle cry for people who want to resist the control of big money and big government but know they are losing the fight. They resent being investigated by the FBI as potential terrorists when they speak out at school board meetings or affiliate with a traditional branch of the Catholic Church. They see a government eager to prosecute political candidates from one party but not the other. They see violent street riots go unprosecuted and the southern border left open in violation of the law, fairness, and public safety. They see their children shut out of public schools for over a year by teachers unions and so-called experts with more power than evidence.

You can bet that he will soon be accused of xenophobia, racism, and all the rest of it, now that the song is popular. The people who will dump that sludge at the New York Times and on cable channels are the same people Anthony is targeting. They will use their megaphones to damn him.

Understand from those lyrics that this is not a shot at just the Democrats but the GOP as well. It’s the shout that was first heard all the way back in 2008 when Washington D.C. bailed out the banks after the GFC and again in 2016 with the election of Donald Trump. Amazingly the people who dived into reading J. D. Vance’s book “Hillbilly Elegy” in an effort to understand what had just happened to them, still didn’t get it, so here's another hint:

Trump didn’t despise them, and that really was his secret. In the end, Donald Trump did not judge his own voters. Trump ate McDonald’s and his voters were very grateful for it. You’d be grateful for it, too, if everyone else hated you.

Tom Hunter said...

Actually in looking back at those older NM posts of mine I see that I dragged you into one of them with your post on he Message From Messenger Park, where you talked of the anger of the Coasters at what government was doing to them, as with your comment:

It’s precisely this widening gulf between those with actual experience of things like guns, chainsaws and drilling machines, and those who regulate their use, that accounts for the angry crowd at Greymouth’s Messenger Park. In the rarefied atmosphere where decisions to shut down whole industries are made, hands-on experience is not only rare – it’s despised. What do workers know about anything?

What struck me was the similarity of the following comments that I collected in Continental Drift and Its Victims:

Wah wah wah, cry me a river. I am heartily sick and tired of the whining exceptionalism of coasters and farmers. Plenty of people work hard for sweet f**k all, try being an all night cleaner in Tamaki’s industrial sprawl.

The world is changing. Coasters seem to think they have a right to do what they want because, reasons. Nobody forces them to live in that rainy and dreary place. Yes, their way of life is out of date. So stop whinging that the rest of us have some sort of obligation to support a dying way of life, like some sort of giant outdoor paean to the 20th century and accept it.


The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs. Forget your goddamned gypsum, and, if he has a problem with that, forget Ed Burke, too.

The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul.

And finally...
Taking full advantage of free education, being ambitious to enjoy a full life, making sacrifices for the long term pay-off; all obvious actions totally lacking in the no-hoper sector in our varyingly soft Western societies. Thus, at the cost to the majority, governments insist on doing for these failures what they make no effort to do for themselves

The authors of those comments are hardline National Review Rightie, Kevin Williamson, our very own Bob Jones, and well known blog commentator Sanctuary.

I'll leave it to readers to figure out which comment was made by which of those men.

Tom Hunter said...

Also - in case you think I'm just attacking the Left - here's this quote:

Where Carlson gets it wrong, though, is the unspoken assumption that at some point, before all the icky people became visible, that the GOP establishment stood up for and protected Americans. That is false.

Who sent our manufacturing overseas? Who coddled Communist China’s theft of intellectual property? Who allowed nearly unbridled illegal immigration to help their buddies in the US Chamber of Commerce drive down wages with cheap labor? Who pushed to increase the number of H1B visa holders using the myth that there are not enough STEM grads to fill the jobs when a large majority of US STEM grads never find employment in that field?

Don’t look at the Democrats. Look at the GOP.

Kat said...

Here is a better song to crow about Chris.....


David George said...

Tiger: "gratuitous Bennie Bash"

Yes; The (real) working class are no fans of bludgers, always have been in my experience.

Strange how the wokesters were so dismissive of this guy's pain, a bit like the reaction to J D Vance's Hillbilly Allegory from certain quarters. It's almost like they couldn't care less; then they wonder why the workers are abandoning the Left?

The Barron said...

Thanks TM. We might wish to focus too on his lyric '...not just minors on an island " is the Q.Anon dog whistle to reference Democrat pedophile conspiracy. The island is Epstein, linking it to the politics north of Richmond just revisits "pizzagate".

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Trump didn’t despise them, and that really was his secret."

Delusion. Trump pretended not to despise them. The religious love him, but in private he says that religious leaders are all scammers – I guess he should know. What Trump did was recognise that they were hurting, or at least perceived they were, and pretend to sympathise with them. Plus of course he played on their prejudices.
Hatred of the great unwashed does seem to cross party lines these days I must admit but let's not kid ourselves that Trump loves his supporters. He doesn't even love the people who worked for him given how he regularly throws them under a bus. Trump values people only for their usefulness to Trump. Up to and including family members I suspect.
It didn't help that because this disdain crosses party lines Clinton used the term deplorable. Some of them certainly are, but it was stupid to apply to all of them, and stupid to say the quiet part out loud anyway.
But Trump has gone beyond authoritarian to full out fascist. Someone said a while ago that the left uses the word fascist too much. Personally I think that on the contrary, there's a reluctance on the right to apply the word when necessary. Perhaps because it cuts a little too close to the bone.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

One thing you can say about Trump though – he's an expert at identity politics isn't it? Yet somehow no one from the right seems to criticise him for it.

The Barron said...

Yep, on the Playlist just below Barry Sadler's "Ballad of the Green Berets"

John Hurley said...

My workmate is 72 and he's a walking Dr's appointment. He's overweigh, coughs, swollen legs but for one reason or another is in debt and needs to keep on working. His P Class license is under review and I can't see him getting a med certificate. His rent is $400/week.

If you ignore the vested interests who tell us "immigrants are doing us a favour" and listen to the dissidents like Leif Van Olensen, it is clear that immigration outstrips house building. Besides that, we are heading to a dense environment with a lower quality of life.

Who to blame: left and right.

What working people want is nationalism. Nationalism provides people with a unique identity as part of a collective within territorial bounds. It's leaders truly are "in it for them" compared to Clark and Ardern who are "in it for their careers".

The left are to blame because when an American protestor yells at migrants across the border "you can't have my country" they are disgusted. They are above all that and in their moral conviction can overlook the (especially) white working classes as just an inferior model of themselves.

The key component of nationalism is status and status relates to security (in every sense)

Tom Hunter said...

Since Kat's little song goes into history for some good old fashioned smearing of Fred Trump I figure Woody Guthrie should get some historic exposure as well:

Woody Guthrie was so pro-Soviet that when Stalin’s Soviet Union concluded a pact with National Socialist Germany in August 1939, Woody dutifully followed the Stalinist line and started writing antiwar songs about how badit would be for the United States to support Imperialist Britain and get into a war against Hitler. He didn’t want to see America throwing its military might against a state with whom the Workers’ Paradise had a non-aggression pact.

Of course after June 22, 1941 he did a 180 and fully supported Britain and the USA, including putting This machine kills fascists" on his guitar.

Yeah, I really want to hear the moral judgements of him and his followers

David George said...

Tom, quoting:
"You can bet that he will soon be accused of xenophobia, racism, and all the rest of it, now that the song is popular. The people who will dump that sludge at the New York Times and on cable channels are the same people Anthony is targeting. They will use their megaphones to damn him."

Right on cue, The Barron said...

"For fuck sake Chris, this is Q.Anon racist dog whistle."

Let's fight division with more division?

You don't suppose that demonising the "deplorables" could be part of the problem?

Terry Coggan said...

The trouble with Anthony's song is not just the insult to the obese, or the failure to point to building unions as the way forward (it's a song, after all, not a programatic political document), but the whole "North of Richmond" thing. Some say this is a reference to Washington D.C., but I'm not so sure. It sounds a bit like the old theme of the protest of the Southern working man against the depredations of the Yankee carpetbaggers, as for instance in the Band's song "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down". Legitimate in itself, but very quickly turns into its opposite when you identify your cause, however unconsciously, with that of the slaveholders, as the Band's song does with nostalgic references to "the Robert E. Lee". Remember that Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy. I may be doing Mr. Anthony a disservice, but I wouldn't be surprised if he had a Confederate flag decal on his bumper.

AndyF said...

James Macmurtry is the real deal.

"We can't make it here"

Oliver Anthony doesn't come up to his knee.


sumsuch said...

Much appreciate your comment, GS. Great fan of Reich, though his thing like Sanders is avoiding the Left conflicts and speaking the positive alone. Left economic populism abandonment allowing Right culture wars populism hits the spot.

You remember more details than me, and put it to good use.

Your 30s comment does justice to ... Ardern's comment about climate change being our nuclear free moment -- in no way near to this crisis. And she didn't come near, let alone with her for-the-poor puke.

David George said...

All the obsessing over this man and his song; the assumptions, the praise, the hate. But what does he think?

Oliver Anthony:

"I. Don't. Support. Either. Side. Politically. Not the left, not the right. Im about supporting people and restoring local communities.

Now, go breath some fresh air and relax. Please? :) I'm not worth obsessing over, I promise. Go spend time with your loved ones."


Guerilla Surgeon said...

Smearing Fred Trump? It's not smearing if it's true. Good old Fred was arrested at a KKK rally in 1927. Racist to the core. Son's the same.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"I. Don't. Support. Either. Side. Politically. Not the left, not the right. Im about supporting people and restoring local communities."

It might even be true. I wouldn't be surprised if it was. But then Jordan Peterson claims to be a "Classical Liberal" which to the uninitiated – and I suspect he knows this – means an ultraconservative.

The Barron said...

If the division is a Q.Anon / reality divide excuse me for being on the side of this dimension.

Tom Hunter said...



The title of needs to be more precise: nobody called Trump a racist until he quit the Democrats and joined the Republicans.

Luckily for the Left they have lots of simple-minded partisans to appeal who have no long-term memory, often no short-term one either....

“I mean, you got the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,”


David George said...

Apparently judgement is all too often being made, not on merit but on the ingroup/outgroup status of those that like a song or movie etc. - as per the " Q.Anon racist dog whistle" comment above.
Indicative of the contrived nonsense we're expected to swallow is this recent review of the Sound of Freedom movie. It ends: "Sound of Freedom has become just another front in a divisive and delusional culture war."*

So naturally I had to go and see it. There is nothing "culture war" about it, they're just making stuff up now.

It really is a great movie, very moving. It's the classic good and evil confrontation typified in the hero's journey myths (St. George and the dragon, Tamure and the Taniwha) that have enthralled us since forever. The last part is the best, if not actually part of the real life story. Our hero courageously ventures into the dark and dangerous jungle, up a river that looks like the entry to the underworld itself to rescue the innocent from the clutches of the evil drug/war lord "The Scorpion". Classic, archetypal, enthralling. Recommended.

* https://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/stuff-to-watch/300956500/sound-of-freedom-a-thriller-blighted-by-culturewar-controversy-and-fictionalised-finalthird

David George said...

An interview with Oliver Anthony by Rupa Subramanya just up on The Free Press.

Apparently, it doesn’t matter that Anthony is singing about the plight of a multiracial tapestry of working-class Americans across the nation. Nor does it matter that their anger—the anger that gave rise not only to Trump but to Bernie Sanders and RFK Jr.—is warranted, that jobs are evaporating, fentanyl is proliferating, family breakdown is rampant, and the mortality rate is rising. Nor does it matter that many Americans, regardless of political stripe, decry inflation (your dollar ain’t shit) and bemoan Washington, D.C. collaborating with technology companies to steer public behavior (they all just wanna have total control / Wanna know what you think, wanna know what you do).

All the partisans could think to do was to lionize or vilify Anthony. To weaponize him one way or the other—which he found mind-bogglingly infuriating.

“I know two people who are biological brothers who won’t talk to each other because they both have different political opinions about politicians who don’t care about either one of them,” he told me. He said he thought Americans had forgotten about the enormous achievement of America, that they had succumbed to their “differences” and “distractions.”

“If there’s anything anyone could do immediately to start fixing things, it would be to stop looking at their phones so much and start looking at people around them and trying to just have conversations with them,” Anthony said. “The best way we heal in the immediate is for us to start having actual conversations with each other. I think that’s probably a good start. We know very little about each other.”

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"nobody called Trump a racist until he quit the Democrats and joined the Republicans."


"The federal government sued Trump for allegedly discriminating against Black apartment seekers in the 1970s. Black pastors also accused Trump of racism during the “Central Park Five” rape case in the 1980s. Native American groups criticized him for making derogatory remarks about tribes seeking to build casinos in the 1990s. Trump was also a leading voice of the “birther” conspiracy that baselessly claimed former President Barack Obama was from Africa and not an American citizen."

"Kip Brown, a former employee at Trump’s Castle, accused another one of Trump’s businesses of discrimination. “When Donald and Ivana came to the casino, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor,” Brown said. “It was the eighties, I was a teenager, but I remember it: They put us all in the back.”


That's a hell of a lot of nobodies.