The Scorpions’ 1991 power ballad, “Wind of Change,” is one of the greatest-selling singles of all time. It has even outsold super-smash hits like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Like a Prayer,” and has amassed over 800 million streams on YouTube. The heartfelt, charged song’s lyrics contain cultural content on change. The album’s liner notes list The Scorpions’ singer, Klaus Miner, as the songwriter. Klaus says his 1989 trip to Moscow inspired the single.
But for New Yorker journalist Patrick Radden Keefe, this information did not suffice. Patrick heard about a tricky conspiracy theory behind this song; that it was penned by the CIA as a psychological operations campaign to influence society. Patrick’s research led him to work with Pineapple Street Studios/Crooked/Spotify to retell his findings in a podcast.
The cultural context of this timeframe is interesting to consider. In 1990, the Berlin Wall had fallen and the Soviet Union was on the brink of its collapse. The conspiracy claims that the 4-minute song could effectively break through in popularity around the world as part of an influence operation: to insert this song and the ideas it contained into the Soviet Union, thus encouraging change. The Scorpions’ music video features falling footage of the Berlin Wall.
Patrick found his way to this story after befriending Michael, who shared this rumor with him. Michael heard this info from another friend, a former CIA agent, who says this rumor floated around his training days.
Subsequently, enraptured by the theory, Patrick finds himself traversing the globe to speak with a litany of subjects; aging rockers, music producers, journalists, government officials, and ex-spies.
The podcast also expresses how the CIA infused itself into other elements of the cultural sphere by promoting forms of abstract expressionist art and secretly funding The Paris Review.
“Wind of Change” provides compelling food for thought.