British musician and staunch unionist Billy Bragg has released a song in response to a divisive viral country track by US artist Oliver Anthony. Anthony’s track, ‘Rich Men North of Richmond’, has become a favourite of conservatives since it was released in early August; the song, which claims to be about workers’ rights, takes aim at all the typical right-wing targets, from overweight people “milking welfare” to high taxes, and it even includes a reference to Epstein’s island.
The song has since swept to #1 on the Billboard charts. Bragg has now released a response called ‘Rich Men Earning North of a Million’, which rewrites Anthony’s original lyrics and urges listeners to join a union and demand better rights for workers.
Billy Bragg: ‘Rich Men Earning North of a Million’
“Since I saw that clip of Oliver Anthony singing his song Rich Men North of Richmond, the ghost of Woody Guthrie has been whispering in my ear,” Bragg wrote in the caption of the YouTube video. “‘Help that guy out,’ Woody keeps telling me. ‘Let him know there’s a way to deal with those problems he’s singing about.’ So today I sat down and wrote this response to Mr Anthony’s song, for people like him and people like you.”
Anthony’s first verse goes: “I’ve been sellin’ my soul, workin’ all day / Overtime hours for bullshit pay / So I can sit out here and waste my life away / Drag back home and drown my troubles away.”
Bragg has rewritten them as this: “If you’re selling your soul, working all day / Overtime hours for bullshit pay / Nothing is gonna change if all you do is wish you could wake up and it not be true / Join a union / Fight for better pay / You better join a union, brother / Organise today.”
Elsewhere in the song, Bragg directly confronts some of Anthony’s more inflammatory lyrics, arguing that instead of punching down on people struggling with their health and weight, healthcare should simply be free for all. “So, we ain’t gonna punch down on those who need a bit of understanding and some solidarity,” Bragg sings. “That ain’t right, friends.”
You can listen to the original song below – and figure out which union is right for you over here.