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38 Years Old by The Tragically Hip

Album: Up To HereReleased: 1989
  • The song details a prison break where one of the escapees comes home for dinner. This murder/rape story is fictional, not autobiographical. Lead singer Gord Downie was approached several times while touring in Europe by audience members expressing sympathy.
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Comments: 17

The escape mentioned in the song occurred in July 1972. It was 14 inmates who escaped at dusk after a softball game by clipping the fence in a dimly lit area.

The Tragically Hip changed the date and number of inmates in 38 Years Old to rhyme with the following line. (12 men broke loose in '73...from Millhaven maximum security). See my YouTube video showing actual newspaper clips from the escape: http://youtu.be/FzKr-XJKdUE
Geo - Brampton
The part about twelve men breaking out of Millhaven maximum security prison is TRUE. I was born and raised close to there and I still have nightmares from that time. Police were all over our farm every day hunting for them. They slept in our barn, pumped water at our well, stole farm implements that could be used as weapons, and some came right to the door looking for the newpaper with their pictures on the front. My brother and I were very young, but I'll never forget that time in our lives. I get chills every time I hear that song. The fictional story line thats been added helps me to hope that maybe some of those 12 hardened criminals had a good reason for being in prison.Cheryl-anne - Aulac, Nb
Man, can these guys write great lyrics or what!!Tash - Tofino, Bc
Great song from a great album. Gives me shivers every time I hear it and makes me wish it WERE true.John - Beltsville, Md
Love the hip favorite song by far its a shame they're not to popular in the U.S they're huge here in buffalo!Colin - Buffalo, Ny
I think Michael is referring to Wheat Kings. Btw, I'm an American and am so lucky to be living close enough to get all of Kingston ON's great radio stations. The Hip is hugely popular in my local area. Thanks a lot for all the great music coming over the border. Without you guys there would be nothing good to listen to over here!Nate - Watertown, Ny
its a little sad how everyone here is from canada. i guess its true, the hip never really did hit it big in the U.SSheldon - Surrey, Ar
THE BEST BAND EVER!Rain - Kingston, On
This is probably my favourite Tragically Hip song, with the exception of "The Bastard". Great band, and I love the fact that this song actually tells a story, which is pretty cool.Sasha - Winston, Ms
Actually the people did exist to a certain extent Geoff. In 1973 twelve people did escape from Milhaven Maximum Security Institution. Of the twelve, ten were caught, one was killed, and the last remains at large. His name is still on Milhaven's count board, and will remain there until 2072, unless he is confirmed dead or caught. As far as I know the rest of the lyrics are fictional.Mike - Ottawa, On
michael, you state that the boy was 16 years old. the lyric goes "been one seat empty 18 years in all" and if he is 38 now, that would make him 20 back then.Trevor - Waterloo, Canada
Listen to the song again. It's about a prison break by a kid's "older brother Mike" who 18 yrs ago killed a man who raped his sister (and the narrator's sister of course). I grew up near Milhaven Maximum security prison, know some of the members of the band (casually-our parents worked together). Tom from Ralston has it right: it's a story about people who never existed. I am curious what an "alaskan fire dragon" is though.Geoff - Pemberton, Canada
It is about a 16 year old boy (in real life) who was sent to jail for murder and at the age or 38 was let out when they figured out he was innocent. get your facts together or i'll give you an alaskan fire dragon.Michael - Canada
hippononymus i beleiveSheridan - St Catharines, Canada
They need to do another "Up to Here" and "Fully & Completely" tour eh?!?!? That would rock my world. Did ya hear about the new one comming out? Like a greatest-hit thing, with fans favorite songs. Believe it's called Hippopotamus. Can't freakin' wait!Starry - Powell River, Bc, Canada
The Tragically Hip is my favourite band and this is one of my favourite songs by them. Their older stuff is much better than their new stuff, they seem to have lost that bluesy guitar based feel.Ashley - Moncton, Canada
This is definately one of my favourite songs by my favourite band. Gord Downie, in my opinion, is the best songwriter of this day and age. I heard him introduce it live once, as: "That's Paul Langois playing guitar, he's tuning it up for our little docu-tragedy. It's a true story about some people that never existed. It's called 38 Years Old for those of you keeping score"Tom - Ralston, Canada
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