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Twenty Sneaky Spy Songs

January 9, 2010  |  7:00am
Twenty Sneaky Spy Songs
Last week was an odd one for spy-related news. On one hand, there was tragedy: A suicide bomber killed eight people, including seven CIA operatives on a US Army base in Afghanistan; the bomber, a Jordanian doctor, was later revealed as not just a spy in his own right, or a double agent, but a triple agent. On the other, a sort of bonkers, Hollywood-in-real-life badassery in the form of recently-released FBI files of Irving R. Levine, NBC New's correspondent to Moscow in the 50s, who Gawker revealed spent years throwing off blackmail attempts by the KGB.

An NPR story about the secrecy to which the families of slain CIA operatives are often held got me thinking about the romantic mystique of government spies versus its harsh realities—it's something most of us have experienced through TV and movies more than real life, but can you imagine not being able to talk with the people you love most about what you do for a living, or can you imagine your husband or sister or child being killed and you not being able to share the actual cause of their death with anyone you know?

It's hard to fathom, maybe because spies are represented with such a goofy mystique in our pop culture, as most of the songs about them that I was able to dig up surely attest. Some of these are about actual operatives: Two are about Valerie Plame (pictured above), the CIA agent whose identity was revealed in 2003 to no small measure of controversy; apparently no one's written any songs about Ethel and Julian Rosenberg, the married couple executed in 1953 for committing espionage against the US for the Soviet Union, though the New York band that apparently took their name makes an appearance. Others songs just have titles that fit the theme, but they'd all make a great soundtrack for snooping around with your mini-telescope and invisible ink pens—or, you know, fending off advances from actual dastardly commies. 

1. Peter Tracy - "Valerie Plame"
2. They Might Be Giants - "Spy"
3. Coldplay - "Spies"
4. Devo - "Secret Agent Man"
5. Melody Gardot - "Lover Undercover"
6. Laura Veirs - "Secret Someones"
7. Pete Yorn - Undercover
8. Tina Turner - "Undercover Agent For The Blues"
9. The Spinto Band - "Spy vs. Spy"
10. The Fugs - "CIA Man"
11. Guster - "I Spy"
12. Rush - "Double Agent"
13. Los Straitjackets - "Espionage"
14. Kid 'N Play - "Undercover"
15. The Rosenbergs - "Secret"
16. Paul McCartney - "Spies Like Us"
17. .38 Special - "Undercover Lover"
18. Johnny Rivers - "Secret Agent Man"
19. Carly Simon - "Spy"
20. The Decemberists - "Valerie Plame"


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