From The Spaghetti Western Database
|Born September 22, 1938
Lakewood, Colorado USA
Dean Reed, born Dean Cyril Reed (September 22, 1938 - June 13, 1986) was an American actor, singer and songwriter who lived a great part of his adult life in South America, then in Communist East Germany.
Life & Career
Born in Lakewood, Colorado and moved with his family many times, first to El Monte, California then Salt Lake City, Utah then Pomona, California then to Denver, Colorado then to Wheat Ridge, Colorado then to Boulder, Colorado. After a couple years at the University of Colorado, Reed moved to California as a young man after realizing he had some talent as a musician, and recorded "Once Again" for Imperial Records as a one-off single to see if reaction to it would justify a full contract. No contract was offered by Imperial, but Reed subsequently signed a long-term record contract with Capitol Records in 1958. Capitol groomed him to be a teen idol, and he produced some modestly popular singles, including I Kissed a Queen, The Search, Our Summer Romance and Whirly Twirly, and made guest appearances on family television programs, such as Bachelor Father.
While he never achieved much success in the US, Our Summer Romance proved to be so popular in South America that he stayed on in Argentina following a South American tour. His fame there exceeded that of Elvis Presley, and he made numerous albums, movies and even his own television program in Buenos Aires.
While living in South America, he began to see things from a left-leaning perspective and to speak up against oppression and poverty. He protested against nuclear weapons and U.S. foreign policy, and performed shows gratis in poor barrios and in prisons. His politics eventually ran afoul of official Argentine government policies. He was deported in 1966.
He lived in Rome for a time, acting in such films as Adios Sabata and touring the Central and Eastern Europe including the Soviet Union, where he was immensely popular.
Life in the Soviet Bloc
In 1973, he settled in East Germany for good, where he continued to write, direct, and perform in films. While committed to the politics of his adopted socialist home, he did not join the ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED). He preferred to define himself as a marxist rather than a communist.
Despite his opposition to many US policies, he professed his love of America until the end of his life, and his songs often reflected his fondness for his homeland. He never renounced his US citizenship, and continued to file returns for the Internal Revenue Service even while living in the Soviet Bloc.
However, in a 1986 television interview on CBS's 60 Minutes, he defended the building of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which angered many in the US, including family and friends. Following the interview, Reed received large amounts of hate mail from the US, which not only accused him of being a traitor, but also a mediocre performer who could never expect to have the same fame or popularity in his own country as he had in Eastern Bloc.
Six weeks later, he was found dead in a lake near his home near East Berlin. Though it was officially ruled an accidental drowning, his friends in Germany suspect his death was a suicide, while his family in the United States claim he was murdered.
In a recent biography "Rock 'n' Roll Radical: The Life & Mysterious Death of Dean Reed" by Chuck Laszewski, the author gains access to Reed's Stasi file which contains his suicide note and an "apology" to Erich Hoenneker the GDR president for ending his life, written on the back of a movie script. This was covered up by the GDR authorities, which would disparage their state.