“Wind of Change” is a power ballad written by Klaus Meine, vocalist of German rock band Scorpions. It appeared on their 1990 album Crazy World but did not become a worldwide hit single until 1991 (just after the failed coup that collapsed the Soviet Communist party), when it topped the charts in Germany and across Europe and hit No. 4 in the United States and No. 2 in the United Kingdom. It later appeared on the band’s 1995 live album Live Bites, their 2000 album with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Moment of Glory, and on their 2001 unplugged album Acoustica.
Worldwide, the single has sold millions of copies, making it one of the best selling singles of all time. The Scorpions hold the record for the best-selling single by a German artist and band.
The band also recorded a Russian-language version of the song, under the title “Ветер перемен” (“Veter Peremen”) and a Spanish version called “Vientos de Cambio”. The band presented a gold record of the single to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991.
The lyrics celebrate Glasnost in the USSR, the end of the Cold War, and the widespread fall of Socialist-run governments among eastern bloc nations beginning in 1989.
The Scorpions were inspired to write the song on a visit to Moscow in 1989, and the opening lines refer to the city’s landmarks:
I follow the Moskva
Down to Gorky Park
Listening to the wind of change
The Moskva is the name of the river that runs through Moscow (both the city and the river are named identically in Russian), and Gorky Park is an amusement park in Moscow.
The song also contains a reference to the Russian folk instrument the balalaika, which is a string instrument somewhat like a guitar. The balalaika is mentioned in the following verse:
For peace of mind
Let your balalaika sing
What my guitar wants to say