The scathing working-man ballad of a Virginian singing to his guitar while his dogs sleep at his feet went viral overnight and is now the top song on iTunes.
Wyomingites are also taking notice of “Rich Men North of Richmond,” the viral song by Oliver Anthony that dropped Aug. 7.
“(It) hits me where I live and not just because my family came from the hills of Kentucky and Arkansas,” wrote William Perry Pendley, a Wyomingite who served as acting Bureau of Land Management director under President Donald Trump, in a Friday post on X.com, the site formerly known as Twitter. “If his words don’t resonate, you ain’t paying attention.”
Anthony’s song takes on government waste, federal surveillance, the welfare state, inflation, suicide among young men, the Jeffrey Epstein pedophilia case and substance abuse.
“I’ve been selling my soul, workin’ all day, overtime hours for bullshit pay,” belts Anthony in a video set in verdant Southern woods. In the half-second before his opening line, the listener can detect crickets purling.
Better Than Aldean
“Richmond” is better than Jason Aldean’s viral “Try That In A Small Town,” Tyler Lindholm, Wyoming former lawmaker and lobbyist, told Cowboy State Daily.
Aldean’s video, released in May, went viral last month after some commentators called it racist for its setting at a historic lynching site and its focus on the 2020 Antifa riots. The song is a rock/pop-country electric guitar piece about how small-town residents probably wouldn’t have tolerated the riots.
Lindholm announced publicly that the song didn’t seem overtly racist, but that he was tired of people injecting pop into country music.
He repeated that sentiment in his interview, saying Aldean’s song is just more “pop-country” divesting a whole musical generation of quality, storytelling country music. And it’s also divisive, he said, whereas Anthony’s song captures different cultures and political divides in the struggle against a common enemy: “the man” in Washington, D.C.
‘Faceless People In The Shadows’
Anthony’s frustration is what’s catching, Wyoming musician J Shogren told Cowboy State Daily.
“It is viral because he has tapped in to that deep frustration,” said Shogren, who is a storytelling organic folk artist. “(It) comes from faceless people in the shadows making slippery decisions about how to spend ‘your’ money.”
The style reminded Shogren of Woody Guthrie except, he said, Guthrie didn’t bash what Shogren called “folks who also had bad luck or had the deck stacked against them by the rich” — the welfare recipients Anthony referenced briefly.
“Well, God, if you’re 5-foot-3 and you’re 300 pounds, taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds,” say two lines from the middle of “Rich Men North of Richmond.”
These lines have been among the most controversial, with some political pundits praising Anthony’s wording and others saying he should have stayed focused on the political elites.
Sing The Truth, Sing From The Heart
The song also is catching because of what Shogren called its do-it-yourself originalism.
Anthony is "singing from the heart about what he truly believes,” he said.
But Shogren wasn’t sure Friday if the song would endure through the ages, like the 1977 working man’s screed “Take This Job And Shove It," because “Richmond” doesn’t have a “real catchy hook.”
Still, said Shogren, “I wish him the best — sing the truth as you see it and sing from the heart.”
As for Anthony, he couldn’t believe the song’s meteoric rise.
“I’m still in a state of shock at the outpouring of love I’ve seen in the comments, message and emails,” said Anthony, after announcing that all major streaming platforms now are picking up “Rich Men North of Richmond.”
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.