The world of music and politics often collide, but rarely with such authenticity as in the case of Oliver Anthony. This Virginia farmer shot to prominence after his song “Rich Men North of Richmond” went viral. The song is an anthem that resonates with ordinary Americans who feel exploited by politicians and the media. However, the artist recently had to set the record straight when his song was featured in Wednesday’s Republican debate broadcast on Fox News.
“It was funny seeing my song in the presidential debate because I wrote that song about those people,” Anthony said. “That song has nothing to do with Joe Biden. It’s a lot bigger than Joe Biden.”
NEW: Oliver Anthony blasts Fox News for using his song ‘Rich Men North of Richmond’ at the GOP debate, says it made him “crack up” because he wrote that song about “those people.”
“It's aggravating seeing people on conservative news try to identify with me like I'm one of them.… pic.twitter.com/Ae7sVY6Mkp
— Collin Rugg (@CollinRugg) August 25, 2023
Fox News, among others, embraced the song’s narrative, perhaps a little too closely for Anthony’s liking. The artist criticized conservative media and Republican politicians, saying it’s “aggravating seeing people on conservative news try to identify with me like I’m one of them.”
It’s worth considering his argument before we write off Anthony as another artist simply ungrateful for the publicity. He points out that his song isn’t just about one side of the political spectrum but criticizes all who have contributed to our societal issues. In a way, Anthony is calling out the media outlets and politicians trying to make him a darling of their movement.
This is a sobering lesson for those who think they can use artists to their political advantage without fully understanding their message. Anthony’s song wasn’t an endorsement of any political party but a wake-up call to America. “I don’t know that I’ve seen anything get such a positive response from such a diverse group of people, and I think that terrifies the people that I sing about in that song,” he expressed.
Anthony sees both sides trying to distort his message for their gain, which is a bipartisan problem that needs to be addressed. “I see the right trying to characterize me as one of their own and I see the left trying to discredit me,” he revealed.
While media outlets and politicians are always eager to find the next thing that resonates with the masses, they would do well to remember that co-opting a message without fully understanding it can backfire. Anthony, who identifies as sitting “dead center” politically, aims for something far more authentic than the political games he finds himself entangled in.
“It’s my belief that divine intervention has put me in this position and this point in time to get a message across,” Anthony stated. “I’m going to write, produce, and distribute authentic music that represents people, and not politics.”
Anthony’s rise shows Americans’ hunger for something genuine in a world full of soundbites and staged moments. But it also serves as a cautionary tale for politicians and media who believe they can harness that hunger for their ends without reckoning with the people creating it. Simply put, genuine authenticity can’t be bottled, sold, or weaponized; it can only be lived.