Wheat Kings

Album: Fully Completely (1992)
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Songfacts®:

  • 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.

Comments: 25

  • Carrie K. from Tulsa, OkMy husband and I have seen The Hip 9x and heard them while living in Chicago where we grew up. The is a radio station there WXRT who play only alternative music and were big champions of The Hip. They sponsored many concerts over the years, but we also travelled to nearby cities to see them. Hands down, the best live band ever.
  • AnonymousLove this!!!
  • Mark Pardee from Niagara Falls New York What a great story and what a great band!
  • Pandora from The Beautiful KootenaysAah The Hip. Canada's best kept secrets from the rest of the world. Love this song. Love the Hip!!!
  • Ramona from Saint John, NbThis is funny Wheat Kings is my fav and was the first waltz at our wedding last year. Ironic that it's about the death penalty. Love the Hip seen the 9 times so far :0)
  • Tom from Florence, ScAt a concert in Atlanta (Variety Playhouse) on October 21, 2009, Gordon Downie said this song was about the death penalty.
  • John from Missoula, MtThe term "Wheat Kings" refers to the giant grain silos that are common in Manitoba and Saskatchewan where Milgaard's story played out. The murder occurred in Saskatoon and he served his time and was born in Manitoba

    Milgaard served his 23 years at Stony Mountain Penitentiary, Manitoba

  • Mike from Bellingham, WaMy friends and I are big Hip fans, but we meet lots of folks who just "don't understand them." Who knows. This is a great song, much like all their others.
    Everybody talks about "Up To Here" and "Fully, Completely." But my favorite album is "Day For Night."
  • Mark from Springfield, MaGreat song. I was somewhat familiar with The Hip, but thanks to Sirius Satellite Radio, I've been exposed to a lot more of their music. These guys and Blue Rodeo are two awesome Canadian bands.
  • Rob from Saskatoon, SkMay be most famous song referring to the Paris of the Prairies, Saskatoon.
  • Scott from Orchard Park, NyThe Hip is pretty big in Buffalo too!
  • Jeff from Calgary, AbThe steven truscott case was a major factor in getting rid of the death penalty since he was sentenced to hang at the age of 14 before that was lowered to life in prison. He has also since been cleared, I actually first thought of that case when I heard this great song.
  • Jayne from Ottawa , CanadaI had noticed on several other lyric websites that the word "buried" in the song Wheatkings by the Hip was noted as "barried". Huh ?
  • Brent from Coquitlam, CanadaIf Gord said the Milgaard case was the reason they abolished the death Penalty in Canada he's wrong, David Milgaard was exonerated in 1997 and the Death Penalty was abolished on Jan. 14th, 1976. David Milgaard was only 16 when he was convicted of murder and he never received the death penalty, he received a life sentence.
    Anyway, who cares if Gord downie makes things up, he's a musical genius, IMO.

    cheers.
  • Jenna from Mission, CanadaThis is a Canadian anthem. I grew up on these guys, and I can still play any of their albums over and over without getting tired of them. The Hip are priceless.
  • Bill from Burlington, VtThe Hip have a pretty decent following here just south of the border. Saw them play an outdoor show at Sugarbush a few years back and they were amazing.
  • Josh from Kooteneys, CanadaMy dad brought me up listening to the hip and they have always been connected to fond memories. I think they should be in the dictionary on the same page as Canadian and in my opinion the best canadian band of the genre, hands down. Great song!
  • Tyler from Niagara Falls, Nyi love this song. and i cant believe im the only american to have commented so far, the hip is amazing.
  • Mackenzie from Blessington, Canadaany other canadians a little mad that the hip is like one of the best canadian bands ever, up there with neil young, and they are practically unknown in the U.S. I don;t get it man...the hip are awsome!!
  • Starry from Powell River, Bc, CanadaLove this song. Amazing facts too guys.
  • Jamie from Surrey, Canadajust an awesome song....great to chill to
  • Danton from Saskatoon, CanadaI just saw The Hip in concert two weekends ago. Gord said that "Wheat Kings" is about a man who was convicted in the 1960s of a crime that he did not commit. I'm surprised I don't know the story, but Gord went on to say that the wrongful conviction is the reason that Canada does not have the death penalty anymore.
  • Franky from No Fixed Address, CanadaAny song that starts with a loon call is, by definition, pure awesome. Every time I hear it I think of camping on Georgian Bay, and being more than a little bit intoxicated as I sit with my friends next to the water.
  • James from Mississauga, CanadaThis is by far the best Hip song. My friends and I love to play this while drinking.
  • Tom from Ralston, CanadaThis is another great song by the best Canadian band. There needs to be more people here talking about the Hip, im amazed nobody has commented on nearly any of their songs yet.
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