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Oliver Anthony en Youtube.

Not just north of Richmond

16 September, 2023 | Ricardo Changala

Christopher Anthony Lunsford farmer from rural Virginia, worker in different companies in one of which, in 2013 he had a work accident, always with low wages and poor working conditions.

As he has said many times himself, he is an ordinary guy, nothing special, with mental health problems and high alcohol consumption.

But Anthony also plays guitar and likes to compose songs under the stage name Oliver Anthony.

On August 8, 2023, he performed outdoors in Appalachia at a festival with many other musicians and performed his song “Rich Men North of Richmond” which was broadcast on a YouTube channel.

Surprisingly, 11 days later, without advertising, without support from any company in the industry, the song reached number 1 on the Apple Music top 100 charts in the United States and in the world.

The success of the song is due neither to the musical quality of the composition nor to the musical gifts of its author, but to its lyrics, more than for its poetic flight, for the impact it produced on thousands and then millions of people who felt clearly identified by what is said there.

The lyrics tell the story of a worker frustrated by years of effort with a miserable salary,

Well, I’ve been selling my soul
Working 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

While the politicians and rich people of Richmond control everything.

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

The New York Post newspaper described this song as “the political anthem of the workers”, since Anthony talks about the street people who have nothing to eat in front of the obese who milk the welfare state and criticizes the neoliberal policies initiated in the 80s, which reduced corporate taxes and dismantled the welfare state.

Lord, we got folks in the street
Ain’t got nothin’ to eat
And the obese milkin’ welfare

On September 12, less than a month after Anthony’s song reached the world number 1, entrepreneur Tim Gurner, founder and CEO of the Gurner Group of Australia, had a speech at the renowned Australian Financial Review Property Summit.

His words went around the world, not because he was in a global ranking, but because the character of his statements.

Gurner argued that workers have lowered their productivity a lot and therefore, they are currently paid a lot to do very little.

So Gurner, with the aim of lowering wages and increasing profitability, said he wanted three things:

That Australia had at least 40 or 50% unemployment; that it should cause pain in the economy and that people should be reminded that they work for the entrepreneur and not the other way around.

Unlike Oliver Anthony’s song, Gurner’s words did not deserve applause but a lot of criticism.

Gurner rehearsed a kind of apology, but in reality he limited himself to pointing out that he regretted not having been empathetic to people who lose their jobs.

However, he did not change his views on the need for higher unemployment or on the role of working people in society in any way.

Could it be that Gurner’s words reflect an isolated opinion or, instead, is it a vision shared by many businessmen and politicians who perhaps prefer not to say it openly?

Anthony’s song could be titled Rich Men of New South Wales, the richest area of Australia and its text could be more or less the same.

Both episodes can be perceived as the same reality seen from two antagonistic places: for the worker, life from exploitation and endless pain; for the rich, the need to keep things as they are or even deepen them, to ensure their profits regardless of the social or human costs that this may imply.