Here's Why People Think The CIA Wrote A Scorpions Song

Metal titans Scorpions were one of the biggest acts of the 1980s. They successfully transitioned into the arena rock/glam scene of the era with irresistible megahits like "No One Like You" and "Rock You Like a Hurricane," but also retained some of their '70s musical ethos and Zeppelin-esque vocal lines. At their riffiest, they definitely channeled Black Sabbath (take a listen to their first US hit, 1979's "Lovedrive"). As stated on Scorpion's homepage, the Hanover, West Germany-born band has sold over 100 million records worldwide, making them, in terms of sales, the most widely-listened to band in the history of Continental Europe. That's a pretty massive fanbase, to say the least.

Admittedly, Scorpions mostly used their huge market to sing songs about sex, alcohol, "a girl," "my girl," "you, girl," and of course, "girl." They also wrote a lot of songs about traveling, being tired, coming home, and walking around cities, doubtlessly referencing their life touring. "Lovedrive" talks about London, "The Zoo" talks about 42nd street in New York, and their biggest hit, "Wind of Change," talks about Gorsky Park in Moscow.

It was this track — its breezy, wistful acoustics and synth lines atop heartbeat drums — that has led some to believe that Scorpions were reaching beyond mere musical expression and into the realm of politics. It wasn't just a song about envisioning a free future for all people, as the lyrics say — oh, no. It was CIA-created propaganda.

Musical light in the dusk of the Cold War

"Did you ever think / That we could be so close / Like brothers"

It's important to remember that the Cold War was still in effect when Scorpions released "Wind of Change" off their 11th studio album, Crazy World, in 1990. The Berlin Wall had fallen in 1989, in Scorpion's homeland, and the two halves of a sundered nation were reunited, as the BBC outlines. The next year, 1991, the Soviet Union would fall for a host of economic, political, and militaristic reasons, as stated on Britannica

Meanwhile, in the West, suspicions regarding Russia remained high. The US was still suffering from the lingering effects of "Red Scare" McCarthyism, strengthened by the nationalism of the Reagan administration. There were exceedingly blunt, media-driven visions of freedom-versus-them-commies like the 'Merica-first, punchathon nonsense of Rocky IV. Russians were "the bad guys," plainly put, to the point that it's still a common joke that in American movies, Russians are always villains, as the BBC explains.

Referencing that '80s political climate, it makes sense that someone would cry foul if an artist like Scorpions mentioned Moscow in a sympathetic light, rather than an antagonistic one. In reality, as Rolling Stone states, lead singer Klaus Meine had been inspired by the Moscow Music Peace Festival in 1989. True to the track's name, it rode the "winds of change" to become a sort of anthem for the closing of the Cold War.

Part music history, part tinfoil conspiracy theory

The rumors about "Wind of Change" being a piece of CIA propaganda begin and end with journalist Patrick Radden Keefe. As recently as 2020, Keefe developed an eight-part podcast, available on Spotify, to take listeners along a trail of clues leading through ex-CIA operatives, music historians, and fans, to arrive at the conclusion that the Scorpions were mere pawns in a grand conspiracy of subterfuge and cross-continental machinations. Keefe also wrote the 2005 book Chatter, about Western music influencing global politics. He cites examples of countries exerting influence on foreign politics through mass media, such as when the USSR deliberately disallowed the Doobie Brothers from circulating in the country because it sounded rebellious. 

In a Rolling Stone interview, Keefe said of his podcast, "... sometimes I felt like I was chasing a really fascinating untold piece of music history ... and sometimes I felt like a complete tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorist." He then goes on to say, "What an amazing psy-op. I think there's a kind of undeniable level of mastery you would have to credit them for ... suddenly half of Russia is listening to 'Wind of Change.'" 

While it's certainly believable that governments want to sway the winds of change, there's no final proof for any of Keefe's claims. But is there anything to object to, anyway, if the winds of change carry us away from war and division?

Check out "Wind of Change" on YouTube.