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Rear View Mirror: "Wheat Kings" and the True Story of David Milgaard

Alex Redekop

Each week on Rear-view Mirror, Rich Terfry and the Radio 2 team look back at a great song from the good ol’ days. Today, Talia Schlanger steps in for a story about the Tragically Hip's "Wheat Kings."

Before there were TV shows about cold cases... Before everyone at the office water cooler was talking about true crime stories like Serial, or Making a Murderer - there was the Tragically Hip’s 1992 record Fully Completely, and the true crime story song "Wheat Kings."

Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip invite you to lie down - right in the middle of a field in the Paris of the Prairies - Saskatoon. Before you know it, you’re staring out at stunning farmland and endless Saskatchewan skies - and you’re singing along. So completely wrapped up in Gord’s musical blanket that you’d be forgiven for missing the ugly story behind the pretty things. so here it is…

In 1969, David Milgaard was your typical 16 year old hippie, driving West on a road trip with his buddies. They made a pit stop in Saskatoon to pick up a pal, on the morning of January 31 1969.

On that very same morning, in that very same area, a young woman was raped and murdered.

A month later, David Milgaard was a suspect.

By May, he had been charged with murder.

A year later, David was sentenced to life in prison.

Canada was horrified. David’s mother was devastated. She orchestrated appeals. She helped find fresh evidence. More appeals. A new suspect. Appeal, again. No matter. David Milgaard was behind bars. 22 years passed, 5 different Prime Ministers held office. Until finally the Supreme Court heard new evidence and held a new trial. April 16, 1992. And that night, all of Canada heard Peter Mansbridge on the nightly news:

"In legal terms, it's called a stay. But today David Milgaard didn't stay anywhere. He left prison, a free man." (listen to the audio version of Rear View Mirror to hear archival clip)

Here's David speaking 22 years later:

You could hear the gasp roll across the Prairies, and across Canada in April of 1992... David Milgaard was innocent. He was free. Or at least free from prison. Free to start a long process of recovery, including the trip he took the following year to meet the Tragically Hip; where he shook Gord Downie’s hand, and then stood in the crowd at a Hip concert, as they dedicated the song they wrote about David to David.

This song. "Wheat Kings" by The Tragically Hip on Rear View Mirror.

More Editions of Rear View Mirror:

Duran Duran - "Hungry Like The Wolf"

Bob Marley - "Redemption Song"

Amy Winehouse - "Rehab"

Prince - "Little Red Corvette"

Fastball - "The Way"

Marvin Gaye - "I Want You"

Steve Miller - "The Joker"

Ian & Sylvia - "Four Strong Winds"

Darrell Banks - "Open the Door to Your Heart"