The Scorpions are celebrating: Their hit single "Wind of Change" is 30 years old. But why is the ballad marking the fall of the Iron Curtain Germany’s biggest worldwide hit?
"Wind of Change" was released 30 years ago, but German hard rockers The Scorpions were already world-famous when the song was released. One of the first bands to play in the Soviet Union, in 1988 they performed 10 concerts in what was then still Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) and appeared in the Moscow Music Peace Festival — considered the "Woodstock of the USSR." More than 250,000 people attended, and it was during this stay in Moscow that the ballad "Wind of Change" was born.
"The Russians welcomed us with open arms," Scorpions frontman Klaus Meine told DW. "There were many special moments in Leningrad. All these experiences and everything we witnessed was an inspiration for 'Wind of Change,' which was created shortly before the Wall came down in September 1989."
Although the title is connected with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rock anthem is even considered the song of German reunification, the work itself is set on the banks of the Moskva River and in Gorky Park in Moscow. "Follow the Moskva down to Gorky Park, listening to the wind of change, an August summer night, soldiers passing by," Meine sings.
"Wind of Change" was a huge hit around the world, especially in the US, and remains a quintessential, heart-rending power ballad. As journalist Philipp Manouvre said in his documentary Forever and a Day: The Scorpions film: "Ballads are a secret weapon. And The Scorpions are really good with ballads." Appearing on the 1990 Scorpions album Crazy World, "Wind of Change" was released as a single in February 1991 and became the soundtrack to the the fall of the Iron Curtain, a hymn for the peaceful revolution.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the president of the Soviet Union at the time and the architect of glasnost and perestroika, even invited The Scorpions to the Kremlin in 1991. The band also won a peace prize in Poland. "We won a lot of prizes in all those years, but this has a special place. It's hard to put it in words," Meine said at the time.
Thirty years later, "Wind of Change" has not lost its impact, with the song having sold over 15 million copies by 2015, according to Meine.
New York-based journalist Patrick Redden Keefe once said the song has been as important as Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" or Britney Spears' biggest hits.
It's impact on popular culture was such that conspiracies emerged about the anthem having been written by the CIA to precipitate the fall of communism. In response, Keefe produced an eight-part podcast series titled Wind of Change in 2020 investigating the claims that the song was not a Scorpions creation but part of an elaborate regime-change plot.
In this manner, the hit single even became a part of the True Crime Podcast hype decades after it was released. The official music video, published on YouTube in 2009, has been viewed more than 800 million times since. "Wind of Change" still is globally the most successful song by a German band.
This text has been translated from German.