Home Labor Audio: Check Out Billy Bragg’s SUPERB Response to “Rich Men North of...

Audio: Check Out Billy Bragg’s SUPERB Response to “Rich Men North of Richmond” – “Come on and join a union, sister [or brother]!”

"We ain't gonna punch down on those who need a bit of understanding and some solidarity"

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Now THIS is more like it:

“I guess it’s been a week since I first saw a clip of Oliver Anthony singing his song about ‘Rich Men North of Richmond’. It’s caused a few waves since then and every time I read about it, I hear the ghost of Woody Guthrie whispering in my ear, telling me to help the guy out. ‘You and me both know there’s an obvious answer to those problems he’s singing about’ Woody keeps saying, so today I sat down and wrote this response to Oliver Anthony’s song”

See below for audio and lyrics to Bragg’s song, which says very clearly and correctly that the answer to “selling your soul, working all day, overtime hours for bullshit pay” is not to repeat right-wing tropes, to play into the hands of “rich men earning north of a million” who “wanna keep the working folk down,” and to bash other working people – all of which Oliver Anthony does in “Rich Men North of Richmond” – but instead to…

Join a union
Fight for better pay
Come on and join a union, sister
Organise today
It comes down to the selfsame thing
If you’re black or white or brown
Rich men earning north of a million
Wanna keep the working folk down
Wanna keep the working folk down

Of course, as Billy Bragg puts it, “libertarian billionaires” want to keep us distracted with “culture wars” and “talk about bathrooms while the floodwaters rise, the forest is on fire and the wind burns our eyes.” And, unfortunately, there are those – Oliver Anthony being one of them – who fall right into that trap. But the answer, again, is NOT to let the “libertarian billionaires” divide us, but instead to focus on what’s important and what would actually help improve people’s lives, not looking for scapegoats among the society’s most vulnerable members. Also, can the whole thing about “north of Richmond” be any more blatant? I mean, gee, what could that POSSIBLY be a reference to? Hmmmm…

By the way, there are some excellent critiques of “Rich Men North of Richmond” out there, including:

And there’s been a lot of drivel written about “Rich Men North of Richmond,” including by right wingers who obviously love the song (shocker!), but also by some in the “mainstream media” and even a few Democrats who presumably mean well, but really don’t seem to get what’s going on here. Anyway, check out Billy Bragg’s excellent response to “Rich Men North of Richmond”; it probably won’t get as many listens/views as the song it rebuts, but it really should!

[Verse 1]
If you’re selling your soul, working all day
Overtime hours for bullshit pay
Well, nothing’s gonna change if all you do
Is wish you could wake up and it not be true

[Chorus 1]
Join a union
Fight for better pay
You better join a union, brother
Organise today
You’ll see where the problem really lies
When the union comes around
Rich men earning north of a million
Wanna keep the working folk down
Wanna keep the working folk down

[Verse 2]
If you form a union, you’ll soon find
That working people are all of one kind
So we ain’t gonna punch down on those who need
A bit of understanding and some solidarity
That ain’t right friend

[Verse 3]
If you’re struggling with your health and you’re putting on the pounds
Doctor gives you opiates to help you get around
Well, wouldn’t it be better for folks like you and me
If medicine was subsidised and healthcare was free?

[Chorus 2]
Join a union
Fight for better pay
Come on and join a union, sister
Organise today
It comes down to the selfsame thing
If you’re black or white or brown
Rich men earning north of a million
Wanna keep the working folk down
Wanna keep the working folk down

[Verse 4]
Well, we know your culture wars are there to distract
While libertarian billionaires avoid paying tax
You wanna talk about bathrooms while the floodwaters rise
The forest is on fire and the wind burns our eyes, ah!
Something’s wrong here

[Verse 5]
Well, they wanna 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 men having total control
You better get the union to roll

[Chorus 3]
Join a union
Fight for better pay
Come on and join a union
Organise today
Don’t matter if you live in the city
Or some little country town
Rich men earning north of a million
Rich men earning north of a million
I say, rich men earning north of a million
Wanna keep the working folk down
Wanna keep the working folk down

[Outro]
If you’re selling your soul and you’re working all day
Overtime hours for bullshit pay
Join a union

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