Billy Bragg has unveiled a new song called “Rich Men Earning North of a Million,” which was inspired by Oliver Anthony’s recent viral single “Rich Men North of Richmond.”
In introducing the song, the English folk artist explained that, “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. ‘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.”
The result is a pro-union anthem that doesn’t discriminate, but rather speaks to “working folk” of all kinds.
“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,” Bragg sings in the opening verse. “Join a union. Fight for better pay. You better join a union, brother. Organize today.”
“Where the problem really lies is when union comes around. Rich men earning north of a million want to keep the working folk down,” Bragg continues. “If you form a union you’ll soon find that working people are all one kind. So, we ain’t gonna punch down on those who need a bit of understanding and some solidarity. That ain’t right, friends.”
In the ensuing verses, Bragg stresses the role of a union in providing affordable healthcare, and calls out “culture wars’ that are meant to distract from more pressing issues.
“If you’re struggling with your health and you’re putting on the pounds, doctor gives you opioids to help you get around,” he sings. “Wouldn’t it be better for folks like you and me if medicine was subsidized and medicine was free? Join a union.”
“Know your culture wars are there to distract while libertarian billionaires avoid paying tax. You want to talk about bathrooms while the flood waters rise, the forest is on fire… They want to divide us because together we’re strong. Are you gonna take action now you sung your damn song? You don’t like the rich man having total control, you better get the union to roll.”
Bragg concludes his song with one final message of solidarity: “No matter if you live in the city or some little country town, rich man earning north of a million want to keep the working folk down.”
Listen to Bragg’s “Rich Men Earning North of a Million” below.
Anthony’s “Rich Men North of Richmond” has amassed nearly 30 million views since its release earlier this month. However, critics have pointed to the song’s negative depiction of welfare recipients and association with right-wing populism, as well as questioned whether a manufactured backstory was responsible for its sudden rise in popularity.