Discover more from Mania Inc.
The Message behind Rich Men North of Richmond by Oliver Anthony
In this article, we'll dissect the message behind 'Rich Men North of Richmond' by Oliver Anthony
Viral country song ‘Rich Men North of Richmond’ has captured the imagination of Americans, and has slapped some reality into all of us. Its writer and singer Oliver Anthony, real name Christopher Anthony Lunsford, has caught the storm in a bottle bringing to life what I think is the current state of the United States and the world as a whole. Here’s the song:
Rich Men North of Richmond has a lot of themes that it touches on and I felt that there’s a need to try and relay as many of these as deeply as possible. You can check out the stats behind what the song talks about in’s ‘The economics of Rich Men North of Richmond’. What I want us to delve into instead is the message of the song and we’ll start by talking about its themes.
Themes in Rich Men North of Richmond
Inequality in America
The first and most appalling theme that the song touches on is inequality. Oliver Anthony talks of the ‘rich men north of Richmond’ contrasting these figures with normal working-class Americans whom he refers to as ‘people like me and people like you’. America has increasingly become ingratiated with inequality as the rich get stupendously richer with the poor getting even poorer.
The message the song is relaying is that the American dream has become a preserve of the rich and that for them, America is heaven but for the majority, it is hell. The more unequal a society becomes in terms of the social classes and the distribution of wealth, the more the dual extremes feed into one another. As more and more people get even richer, more and more products and services get even more expensive; essentially making life even harder for the poorest in society.
That is not to say that everyone should be poor. Far from it. The message is that the government as the custodian of the economy should ensure that as the wealth in the country increases, the poor are also empowered to become wealthy themselves. A practical and relatable way of doing this would be to increase the minimum wage and create jobs. The more people get jobs and get better pay for their work, the more the inequality gap is narrowed and the more they are able to empower themselves to get wealthy.
Corporate Control of America
Another theme in Rich Men North of Richmond is corporate control of the masses and in a sense, the government. Rich Men North of Richmond decries that the rich men North of Richmond “[Lord knows they] all just wanna have total control” and “wanna know what you think” and “wanna know what you do”. He adds “and they don’t think you know, but I know that you do”. In essence, Oliver is talking about increasing corporate control of Americans’ lives and the government’s reluctance to curb it, and also its subjugation by corporate interests and entities, especially big tech.
Big tech, through its heavy lobbying of Congress, has managed to capture the digital space and consequently, users’ data in an unchecked and unregulated way with the U.S. government failing to make any concise steps to ensure user privacy, the protection of personally identifiable data, and stop the mining of data from Americans and global users of some of the biggest tech companies. A perfect example is Google.
The U.S. government has watched on as Google has monopolized the search and digital advertising market and mined Americans’ data without putting in place any meaningful measures to ensure user privacy, fair competition, and fair distribution of market opportunity when it comes to these technologies. It is only now that Google is facing an antitrust lawsuit that only has prospects of the company being broken apart without any assurances that anything meaningful will be done.
Working-Class Americans Being Overworked and Underpaid
A dominant theme in Rich Men North of Richmond is poor wages and the under-compensation of overtime work. Oliver sings “I’ve been selling my soul, working all day, overtime hours, for bullshit pay.” What Oliver is saying essentially is that the working-class American is grossly overworked and at the same time, grossly underpaid. It’s no secret that the usual working-class adult in America needs at least 2 to 3 jobs to just survive, and not necessarily thrive.
The American labor market is in tatters with big tech and supermarket chains continually fighting against unionization. Amazon, for instance, has constantly undercut workers’ unions and has used underhand tactics to fight the unionization of its workers. What’s even sadder is that the government has done little to nothing to ensure such practices are punished and disincentivized.
The Plight of Miners and Minors
Rich Men North of Richmond also talks of the plight of miners, with Oliver singing “I wish politicians would look out for miners, and not just minors on an island somewhere” alluding to the terrible plight of miners who toil for all sorts of minerals, including coal to ensure that we all can light and warm our homes. Oliver sings that on top of being underpaid, the working-class American is overtaxed. As he puts it “your dollar ain’t shit, and it’s taxed to no end.. Cause of the Rich Men North of Richmond”.
Over-taxation is another dominant theme in the song where Oliver sings about the dollar losing its worth and also being overtaxed. Essentially, Oliver Anthony is saying that despite most working-class Americans being overworked and underpaid, the little money they earn is then overtaxed by their government, on top of the dollar continually losing its value due to inflation, the undervaluation of the dollar, and the increasingly volatile fed interest rates.
The second part of the line talks about child trafficking and how organized crime syndicates, that allegedly have ties to the brass in Washington have continually instigated child trafficking rings, with little to no government action against them. The line “I wish politicians would look out for miners, and not just minors on an island somewhere” could also be taken to mean that politicians or the ‘rich men’ are looking out for minors in a perverted way.
Oliver Anthony speaks to this below.
Suicide Rates and Increasing Obesity
Rich Men North of Richmond also talks of the increasing suicide rates in America with Oliver singing “young men are putting themselves six feet in the ground, cause all this damn country does, is keep on kicking them down”. Suicide is increasingly becoming an epidemic in the United States and all over the world, especially when it comes to suicide among young males. It affects Americans disproportionately, however, with black young males at most risk. Even so, suicide rates among white young males are much higher than in comparably rich countries in Europe and elsewhere.
The same can be said for obesity as it has become one of the leading causes of death in America. The problem ties to another problem of big food corporations who’ve been let to run amok, stuffing food products with all kinds of sugars and fats. Junk food is obviously not healthy but it is increasingly containing even higher levels of sugar and unhealthy fats, leading to even more adverse health outcomes amongst consumers, all while the government and FDA do little to ensure reasonable levels of these ingredients. Oliver sings “Lord we’ve got folks in the streets, [who] ain’t got nothing to eat, 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 drowned.”
Disenchantment with the New World
Rich Men North of Richmond also talks of a new world, recognizing how American society and the world as a whole has shifted from the old ways into the new. Oliver sings “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, living in the new world, with an old soul.” What the song is alluding to is a shift from the old America and the old and noble ways of governance to an America that is today doing little for its own citizens.
The song beckons memories of a prosperous America where the corporations were in check, with the government doing its best to ensure Americans live a dignified and financially prosperous life. The ‘old soul’ that the song talks about hints at the new generations that came from those Americans who lived at the time of splendor and how they have become disenchanted with their country’s governance and modern American life.
What Oliver Anthony has to say about Rich Men North of Richmond
For Oliver Anthony, the song Rich Men North of Richmond was a song he sang mirroring his experiences as a working man in factories. Anthony says that the song was not a political song and that he is neither aligned to the left nor the right.
For Anthony, the song speaks of the government’s failure in numerous aspects and how a wealthy elite has been let to take advantage of and exploit the working class and poor. Anthony also remarks saying that he finds it “funny” that his song was played at the Republican debate and that despite the song having nothing to do with Joe Biden, he was amused that those at the debate had to sit there and listen to it.
Anthony also reveals that he’s learned a lot about the music industry and that it is “worse than you think” saying that he also found it “aggravating” that some people (celebs) were trying to ride on the attention of the song in pursuit of remaining relevant; with others “pretending that we are relaying the same message”.
Oliver Anthony delves into this below.
Oliver Anthony’s music is a refreshing take on country music and has resonated so well with people all over the world that the song boasts 46 million plus views on YouTube. The song has also charted very very well with Rich Men North of Richmond still on number one in the Billboard Top 100 at the time of writing. Oliver remarked that the charts mean nothing to him and that he is keen to keep on creating “authentic music” that speaks for the “people” globally and not just in America.
Oliver has allegedly been offered $8 million to sign a contract but he says that he just wants to take his time and make his decisions pragmatically. He also said that he did not want to go on “a rollercoaster ride” and “come back a different person”.
Anthony’s other songs have also done pretty well, with songs like ‘Doggon it’, ‘Ain’t gotta dollar’, ‘I’ve got to get sober’ and ‘I want to go home’, a sequel of Rich Men North of Richmond, doing very well.
Listen to ‘Doggon it’ below.
His music is super authentic and speaks to the struggle of the working-class guy or gal in America and beyond. It is refreshingly breathtaking and I feel like we’ve been blessed with a country musician of our generation, singing for our generation, and speaking to the problems that we face. Oliver says that he believes it is through “divine intervention” that he’s been put here to put across a “message”.