Scorpions say they changed Wind of Change lyrics as song ‘romanticised Russia’

The lead singer of the German hard rockers Scorpions has revealed he changed the lyrics of Wind of Change because he no longer wanted to “romanticise Russia” with his chart-topping perestroika power ballad, after Putin’s war of aggression in Ukraine.

“To sing Wind of Change as we have always sung it, that’s not something I could imagine any more,” Klaus Meine told Die Zeit. “It simply isn’t right to romanticise Russia with lyrics like: ‘I follow the Moskva / Down to Gorky Park … Let your balalaika sing’”.

Instead, he said, his band had decided to change the words to their most famous song during their ongoing US and European tour, which opened in Las Vegas on 26 March, a month after the start of the invasion.

The revised lyrics, projected on to a screen behind the band, say: “Now listen to my heart / It says Ukrainia / Waiting for the wind to change.”

Even though the song was released over a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, in December 1990, it is widely remembered as the soundtrack to the era of economic and social changes in the former Soviet Union that heralded the end of the cold war.

Scorpions performed Wind of Change at the Brandenburg Gate on the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1999, and it was voted song of the 20th century by viewers of the public broadcaster ZDF in 2005.

Meine, who wrote the music and lyrics for the hard rock band’s uncharacteristic ballad, said he composed the words on 3 and 4 September 1989, after Scorpions had performed at the Moscow Music Peace festival in mid-August.

More recently, Wind of Change was the subject of a playful eight-part podcast series in which the investigative journalist Patrick Radden Keefe tried to chase down a rumour that the anthem had in fact been written by the CIA, without unearthing any substantial evidence for the theory. In his interview with Die Zeit, Meine again denied that his most successful song had been written by US propaganda officers.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Germany’s political establishment has faced criticism that it has spent too long buying into the implicit premise of Scorpions’ chart-topper, of a Russia ever ushered down a road of democratisation as it opened routes of trade and diplomatic exchange with the west. The threats an increasingly aggressive Kremlin continued to pose to the states that once made up its empire, critics allege, were overlooked in Berlin for decades.

In his interview with Die Zeit, Meine denied that his band, too, had overlooked Ukraine’s plight, pointing out Scorpions had played concerts in Donetsk, Kharkiv and Odesa.

“But as a musician you hold on to the thought that people in wildly different countries, some of whom may look on each other as enemies, react to music in the same way. That was also the case in Ukraine and Russia.”

Hailing from Hanover, the state capital of Lower Saxony in north-west Germany, the band used to be seen as part of the friendship circle of the Hanoverian ex-chancellor turned Russian gas lobbyist Gerhard Schröder, whose fifth wedding party Meine attended in 2018.

“I haven’t spoken with Gerhard Schröder for a while,” Meine told Die Zeit. “But his behaviour really is hard to understand.” The Social Democrat politician held on to his boardroom post with Rosneft for the first three months of the war before the Russian state-owned oil company announced his stepping down on 20 May.

“If he now gives up this post on the supervisory board, then that is a genuine step in the right direction after a long time,” Meine said.

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