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38 Years Old

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"38 Years Old"
Single by The Tragically Hip
from the album Up to Here
ReleasedApril 1990
GenreFolk rock
Songwriter(s)Rob Baker
Gordon Downie
Johnny Fay
Paul Langlois
Gord Sinclair
Producer(s)Mark Howard
The Tragically Hip singles chronology
"Boots or Hearts"
"38 Years Old"
"Trickle Down"

"38 Years Old" is a song by Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip. It was released in April 1990 as the fourth single from the band's first full-length studio album, Up to Here. The song peaked at No. 41 on the Canadian RPM singles chart.[1]


The song is a fictional account of the real-life escape of 14 inmates from Millhaven Institution near the band's hometown of Kingston, Ontario, on July 10, 1972.[2][3] The date of the event and the number of escapees mentioned in the song are historically incorrect ("12 men broke loose in '73...").

Lyrically, the song is written from the perspective of the younger brother of one of the escapees, a man who murdered the man who raped their sister.


The song was written in Memphis during their recording of the album.[4]

Though it is one of The Tragically Hip's most popular songs, the band seldom played the song live. In Michael Barclay's 2018 book The Never-Ending Present: The Story of Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip, the band's reticence to play the song live is attributed to a misperception among some of the band's fans that the song was autobiographical: because its emotional climax hinges on the moment when the narrator opens the window for "my older brother Mike", some fans have erroneously assumed that Gord Downie's real brother, documentary filmmaker Mike Downie, was himself a prisoner and one of the escapees from Millhaven.[5]


Chart (1990) Peak
Canadian RPM Singles Chart[1] 41


  1. ^ a b "Top Singles - Volume 52, No. 2, May 26, 1990". RPM. Archived from the original on October 18, 2012. Retrieved 2010-09-18.
  2. ^ The Montreal Gazette (1972-07-12). "Escaped convicts thought contained in 10-mile square". Retrieved 2015-01-05.
  3. ^ The Montreal Gazette (1972-07-17). "Search area expanded for Millhaven cons". Retrieved 2015-01-05.
  4. ^ "The Tragically Hip - Up to Here - Archive: Song @ Album Notes - Record Info and Credits". thehip.com. Archived from the original on 2010-01-03. Retrieved 2010-09-18.
  5. ^ Michael Barclay, The Never-Ending Present: The Story of Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip. ECW Press, 2018. ISBN 9781770414365. p. 66.