Last month it was Jason Aldean‘s “Try That In A Small Town”, and after that came the video for Tyler Childers‘ “In Your Love”. Now in August, the hot-button issue in country-folk music is viral sensation Oliver Anthony and his anthem “Rich Men North of Richmond”, which has racked up nearly 30 million views on YouTube in less than two weeks and just debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 song chart.

The populist anthem connects to many of the salt-of-the-Earth themes which have defined country music since its inception. However, where many take umbrage with the song is its degradation of those on welfare and the way the less fortunate are lyrically juxtaposed to the hard-working folks “puttin’ themselves six feet in the ground.”

While both sides of the country music ideological spectrum debate the merits and malaise of the song, English singer-songwriter Billy Bragg has shared his response to Oliver Anthony, “Rich Men Earning North Of A Million”. Borrowing the same song structure from Anthony’s original version, Bragg posits that the way to come out from underfoot of the “Rich Men North of Richmond” and the “Rich Men Earning North Of A Million” is through collective action in this pro-union anthem.

“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, partially quoting Anthony’s original song. “Join a union. Fight for better pay. You better join a union, brother. Organize today.”

As Anthony becomes a darling of right-wing media, Bragg calls out the manufactured “culture wars” that seek to divide the nation’s populace and distract from larger societal issues. He issues a direct challenge to Anthony and his growing legion of fans toward the end of the song, “You want to talk about bathrooms while the flood waters rise, the forest is on fire and the wind burns our eyes… They want to divide us because together we’re strong. Are you gonna take action now you sung your damn song? If you don’t like the rich man having total control, you better get the union to roll.”

Bragg explains of the song in the video’s description,

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.

Check out Billy Bragg’s response to Oliver Anthony, “Rich Men Earning North Of A Million”.

Billy Bragg – “Rich Men Earning North Of A Million”