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Album: Fully CompletelyReleased: 1992
This song is about David Milgaard, a Canadian man who served 23 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
Milgaard was convicted of raping and murdering a woman named Gail Miller when he was 16 and sentenced to life in prison. It was a travesty of justice, as the case against him was built on flimsy evidence.
Milgaard's family believed he was innocent and fought for him while he was in jail. His aunt contacted the Tragically Hip and when she told them about the case, the band helped them get signatures for a petition to help reopen the case and raise funds for his defense.
Milgaard's case was overturned and he was released on April 16, 1992, prompting the band to write "Wheat Kings."
In the book Top 100 Canadian Singles, Gord Downie explained the inspiration for this song. "[It's] about David Milgaard and his faith in himself," he said. "And about his mother, Joyce, and her absolute faith in her son's innocence. And about our big country and its faith in man's fallibility. And about Gail Miller, all those mornings ago, just lying there, all her faith bleeding out into that Saskatoon snowbank."
The title is a reference to the farmers in Saskatchewan, where the crime took place. They were known as "wheat kings" after developing a popular strain of wheat that fueled the area economy.
The Tragically Hip are distinctly Canadian, and this song opens with the sounds of loons, a bird that appears on the one-dollar coin in the country. According to guitarist Rob Baker, the man who recorded the sounds threatened legal action, so the band agreed to make a donation to the conservation group Ducks Unlimited in his name.