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Singer of viral 'Rich Men North of Richmond' criticizes use of song as a political anthem

Singer Oliver Anthony came out with a critical response to the way his viral hit "Rich Men North of Richmond" was used on Wednesday when the song was played at the beginning of the GOP presidential debate in Milwaukee and prompted the first question by Fox News moderator Martha MacCallum. 

"The one thing that has bothered me is seeing people wrap politics up into this," Anthony says in a 10-minute video released on YouTube.

The song -- which describes a deep divide between wealthy and poor Americans -- shot to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart this week, making him the first artist to do so without having any prior chart history. The 31-year-old country singer is based in Farmville, Virginia, but it wasn't until a video of his performance posted to WV Radio's YouTube, which features country, bluegrass and folk musicians in Appalachia, went viral and his musical career took off. 

Oliver Anthony Concert
Oliver Anthony performs at the Oliver Anthony concert at the Eagle Creek Golf Club on August 19, 2023 in Moyock, North Carolina Mike Caudill for Billboard via Getty Images

"It was funny seeing my song at the presidential debate," Anthony says in the video, "because I wrote that song about those people." 

During the debate, MacCallum begins her first question by describing the No.1 hit and saying Anthony's lyrics "speak of alienation, of deep frustration with the state of government and of this country," adding, "Washington, D.C. is about 100 miles north of Richmond," before rolling a clip of the top-charting chorus. Afterward, MacCallum asks Florida Governor Ron Desantis: "Why is this song striking such a nerve in this country right now?" 

DeSantis replied saying, "Our country is in decline, this decline is not inevitable it's a choice," adding that America needs to "reverse" this decline and that starts with reversing "Bidenomics."

But Anthony refuted that message in his video saying the song "has nothing to do with Joe Biden," and that he "hates" the way his lyrics are being "weaponized."

In the recorded video titled, "It's a pleasure to meet you - part 2," Anthony sits in the bed of his truck and directly speaks to the camera to address the frustration he feels following the debate and the uptick in the use of his song in conservative media. 

"It's aggravating to see people on conservative news try to identify with me like I'm one of them," he says. "It's aggravating seeing certain musicians and politicians act like we're buddies and act like we're fighting the same struggle." 

One such example is by Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene who wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the song is an "anthem of the forgotten Americans" and that it represents her district. 

"I see the right trying to characterize me as one of their own and I see the left trying to discredit me… that s---- gotta stop." 

In a 10-minute long YouTube video, singer Oliver Anthony addresses the use of his hit No.1 song "Rich Men North of Richmond" as a GOP political anthem.  YouTube/ Oliver Anthony Music

About halfway through the video, which was posted Friday and was ranked as #8 in trending videos on Saturday, he starts to address the "left" who he says has characterized his song as "an attack against the poor." He refutes that by saying his songs written about class such as "Doggonit" actually "defend the poor."

Despite the exasperation he shows in the video, Anthony says he's "not too concerned about the future" and that he's "living in the present" where he'll continue to keep writing because he's "got a lot of words to put down on paper."

Also on Friday, Anthony wrote on his X account that he doesn't support "either side politically" and is just about supporting people and local communities, adding "Now, go breathe some fresh air and relax. Please? :) I'm not worth obsessing over, I promise. Go spend time with your loved ones."

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