Oliver Anthony was a nobody four weeks ago.
He’s the smash hit writer of a song posted on YouTube on Aug. 8 that in two weeks racked up 35 million views. Raw lyrics, powerful, clean voice, accompanied only by his guitar and surrounded by trees and his three napping dogs, Anthony belts out the plaintive cry of today’s average American against the “new world” stacked against him.
His song Rich Men North of Richmond is an obvious reference to the swamp of Washington D.C., where government decisions increasingly cater to the new aristocracy, the elite that is upending the American dream and ignoring government for the people and by the people.
The lyrics are powerful and you can see and hear that Anthony means every word of it. He sings:
Well, I’ve been selling my soul
Working all day
For bullshit pay
So I can sit out here
And waste my life away
Drag back home
And drown my troubles away
It’s a damn shame
What the world’s gotten to
For people like me
And people like you
Wish I could just wake up
And it not be true
But it is
Oh, it is
Livin’ in the new world
With an old soul
These rich men north of Richmond
Lord, knows they all
Just wanna have total control
Wanna know what you think
Wanna know what you do
And they don’t think you know
But I know that you do
‘Cause your dollar ain’t s—
And it’s taxed to no end
‘Cause of rich men
North of Richmond
Six weeks ago, Anthony was a 31-year-old Virginian living in a trailer he purchased online for $750 U.S. He suffers from depression and worked for years in factories until he had an accident and suffered a head injury. He purchased the wooded land he is living on for just more than $100,000 U.S. and still owes $60,000. Knowing his story and seeing the pain in his eyes as he roars, it’s hard not to love him.
His song has made people cry because he’s sincere. He lives their frustration. His story gets better when you learn that he turned down an $8 million deal from a major music company. You feel that he’s truly one of us. Not one of them. It gets even better when you hear the mainstream commentators trash him and criticize his singing, his playing, his life. An American columnist criticized Anthony’s word choices and the song’s rhyming pattern. Dude, millions of people love his song. Give him some credit.
People from countries all over the world have written him – check out some of the more than 150,000 YouTube comments ‒ to thank him and tell him that their own governments are oppressive and even hate their own people. Here is a sampling:
“The pain, frustration, and anger of every person that is witnessing the death of their nation, in one song! Well done Mr. Anthony!”
“Just want you to know I cried on my way home from the plant listening to this. I haven’t ever heard someone making music really talk about how it truly is out here. Had chills the whole time, I really hope you make it dude, because you’re what we need right now.”
“Canadian military member here……thank you so much for this, you are speaking for more people than you think. And it is fantastic.”
“He’s talking to many of us around the world. Lots of us are feeling this song deeply. Cheers from Canada.”
“When you can make a grown man cry you know that you have something special.”
“All the worst people hate this song. What a gem.”
“This song is not just for workers, it’s for a lost culture.”
“I think this guy just released the world anthem.”
So, what is it about this song? In Canada and the U.S., we haven’t lived to see the rise of totalitarianism. Until now. We thought government was looking out for us. Until now. And it is tearing both countries apart. Anthony sees the real divide for what it is. It’s not white privileged vs. non-whites, a divide that no one had ever heard of until the elites hatched the theme. It’s not haters vs. the marginalized and the gender sensitive, another concocted fantasy. Anthony nails it. Millions of people are suffering from the great divide that is the politically-connected rich people vs. everyone else.
In Canada, we see it in the form of new taxes and new regulations, but exemptions for the elite. There’s vast government spending and we don’t see results. Roads don’t get any better, calls to service centres don’t get answered, waiting lists for health care get longer, crime goes up, so does substance abuse and suicide. But the wealthy politically-connected go to the front of the line, secure the best contracts and get the heads-up on where to invest to stay ahead of inflation.
Governments are being usurped by a new ruling class that doesn’t care about you or me. And, yes, it’s a damn shame.
Patrick Meagher is editor of Farmers Forum and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org