The Story Behind “August Spies” by Zane Tate

This song’s title is of course a play on words, and carries a double meaning.

The first – august spies – will be, to some, the most direct and obvious interpretation: august as an adjective meaning venerable or respected, and spies, the plural of spy. And this is a darkly fun interpretation that inspires some imagination.

The second, however, is even more interesting to me, and closer to what was on my mind when I wrote the song. August Spies (pronounced spees), the person, was a labor activist who was unjustly found guilty of a bomb attack during an event called the Haymarket affair. If you’re familiar with labor history, I don’t need to tell you his story, but if you aren’t, Spies is worth researching.

I happened to be reading about him when I wrote the song “August Spies,” which comes from my album Down to Dusk. You can hear more right here.

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