The Tragically Hip: 38 Years Old Meaning
38 Years Old Lyrics
Twelve men broke loose in '73
From Milhaven maximum security
Twelve pictures lined up across the front page
Seems the mounties had a summertime war to wage
The chief told the people they had nothing to fear
Said, "The last thing...
readyfireaim Aug 2nd, 12:23 report
Michael does not breakout of prison. The 12 men breakout and one is from the area. He rapes the sister and the Michael kills him. He goes to prison for murder ( likely 2nd degree ). Does 18 years and is released back to his family. The power of the song is " 38 years old, never kissed a girl". To me he obviously means never had sex with a girl/woman" Same pattern on the table same clock on the wall symbolizes how things appear to stay the same or material things can be the same where the world from 1973-1991 undoubtedly would have been massively different for Michael. The saddest part is that most decent people could see themselves possibly killing someone in a fit of rage upon seeing someone raping your sister. You can really symapathize. The best part of his life gone and he has more to deal with " my mother cried the horror has finally ceased he wispered yah for the time being at least".
anonymous Jul 3rd, 7:02pm report
I've always loved this song
Have never heard that they never play it live. When they did their last concert I waited and did not hear 38 Years Old. Now I know why.
anonymous Apr 2nd, 4:12pm report
I heard they never played the song because Gord's brother name is Mike and too many people thought that it was about him.
anonymous May 30th, 2019 5:20pm report
Kingston, Ontario in 1972. "The (police) chief told the people they had nothing to fear. Said, "The last thing they wanna do is hang around here"
Kingstonians always knew they were safe, despite having six prisons in the region. Escapees would not stick around.
I think I really have a skill for interpreting songs, though who can say? But my interpretation that the general theme of this song is how strong love for family can be, to the point of being tragic. But the story reiterates this very point in the end. Here this Mike guy’s love for his sister is so strong that he kills to avenge her. Then he spends all those years in prison, and misses out on everything, and by some miraculous fluke, he is given a second chance through a mass prison breakout. But of all the places in the world he could go, he blows his one chance by going back to visit his family, which is the one place the police would look for him. The very thing that sent him to prison the first time, is the same thing that put him right back in there a second time. A helpless love for his family.
anonymous Nov 13th, 2017 11:23am report
The breakout - the backstory is fake.
The truth is always the best interpretation...
anonymous Aug 18th, 2016 8:55pm report
Actually the prison break from Millhaven was in 1972, Downie changed it to 73 to rhyme with "maximum security"
anonymous Jul 28th, 2013 7:00pm report
There was a jail break from Milhaven in '73. The rest is basically made up from there. The song is NOT based on any real life person or event, but rather inspired by one.
anonymous May 2nd, 2013 5:17pm report
Research mill haven prison break of 1973. You"ll see it is loosely based on the prison escape. The rest is made up
anonymous Sep 24th, 2012 9:01pm report
I live in Canada quite close to Kingston Ontario where the song is based. The man talked about in the song was tried and convicted of killing his sisters killer, but was later found not guilty and set free. The band refuses to play the song live out of respect for his pain and suffering.
anonymous Jun 23rd, 2011 6:27pm report
38 years old, is an insperational song. And being a Canadian band, i think its a stab at the justice system in Canada, man rapes a girl her brother kills the man. and for doing what any brother or father in that position would do he is now serving 18 years in jail...and Never kissed a Girl. That one man ruied more then one life by raping the girl, as is the case for many people in Canada. Justice is served in a very inperticular manner.
anonymous Feb 5th, 2011 2:16pm report
the chorus is obviously a metaphor "38 years old never kissed a girl" for never having had the opportunity to experience life. my favorite hip song i particularly like the insignificance assigned to the rapist "little boy went to prison mans buried on a hill. a truly tragic ballad that pulls on the emotional strings of anybody with a daughter or sister
More The Tragically Hip song meanings »
Submit Your Interpretation
|Talking to the Moon||anonymous|
|Death of a Hero||anonymous|
|Everything I Didn't Say||anonymous|
|We Made It||anonymous|
|Take It Off||anonymous|
|Walking In The Wind||anonymous|
|You Found Me||anonymous|
|Don't Know Nothing||anonymous|
|In the Closet||anonymous|