The Political Legacy and the Singing Sensation

Dr. Munr Kazmir
5 min readSep 20

Last week, “Rich Men North of Richmond” songwriter Oliver Anthony met with presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on the red carpet at Celebrity Fight Night XXIII at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa in Phoenix, Arizona. March 19, 2017. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

“Striking a deep chord with millions of increasingly desperate Americans, Oliver Anthony’s self-recorded musical lament, ‘Rich Men North of Richmond,’ rocketed to the number one spot on the charts in August, amassing more than 66 million views on YouTube alone,” began Robert F. Kennedy, JR. last week on the popular publishing platform, Substack.

“Oliver Anthony’s anthem captures the overwhelming sense of despair among our working poor as they watch the American Dream disintegrate along with any hope that their children will lead better lives,” lamented Kennedy. “Oliver’s song is an anthem of angst representing hitherto invisible men in a declining empire whose dream has become a nightmare.”

“His song vividly depicts the nexus of state and corporate power that resides inside the D.C. Beltway, 110 miles north of Richmond,” Kennedy continued poetically. “Oliver understands how this power complex has systematically strip-mined Americans of their equity, their hope, even their sanity.”

Oliver Anthony’s surprise hit song, “Rich Men North of Richmond,” won him cheers from the conservative press and Republicans on the right, even as Mr. Anthony disavowed any loyalty to them.

He met an equal, if not greater, force of opposition from the left. Progressives took exception to many of the lyrics in his song and have since branded him everything from a blatant racist to a talentless hack.

A closer look at the lyrics of the song, and it’s clear what the fuss is about.

“Rich Men North of Richmond,” — Oliver Anthony

“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.

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…