Oliver Anthony’s “Rich Men North of Richmond” arose seemingly out of nowhere in early August. A simple, outdoor performance video featuring one man and his guitar quickly garnered millions of views and became the No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 — mostly on the strength of the song’s resonance with working people and the struggles they face.
Anthony’s song is a potent reminder that, all over the country and the world, working-class people struggle to stretch each hard-earned dollar and rail against the politicians who prioritize padding their own pocketbooks over the well-being of the citizens they were elected to serve.
But it’s certainly not the only country song to take on those topics. From John Rich’s “Shuttin’ Detroit Down” to John Prine’s “Paradise,” singers across the country music spectrum have rallied for the working man. Brooks & Dunn, Kacey Musgraves, Dolly Parton, Lee Brice, Chris Janson, George Strait and Loretta Lynn are all among the stars who’ve put out anthems for blue-collar people.
However, part of Anthony’s appeal is that he isn’t a big star. A native of Farmville, Va., Anthony — whose real name is Christopher Anthony Lunsford — is a former factory worker who has struggled with mental health issues and alcohol, and his subject matter and frustration is true to his own life. He speaks for the people he’s singing about, and that’s a large part of the appeal.
If you’re a fan of Anthony’s brand of authentic, true-to-life working man’s lyricism, check out these 25 songs from singers who also come honestly by the songs they sing about the plight of the working class. There aren’t more than a small handful of big names in this list, despite the ample catalog of working man’s songs performed by bona fide stars.
Rather, these artists are hidden gems, mixed in with two or three classic recordings that you might’ve forgotten about.