22 September 1938
13 June 1986 (aged 47)
Dean Cyril Reed (September 22, 1938 - June 13, 1986) was an American actor, singer and songwriter who lived much of his adult life in communist East Germany.
Born and raised in Longmont (near Denver, Colorado), Reed moved to California as a young man after realizing he had some talent as a musician, and signed a record contract with Capitol Records in 1958. Capitol groomed him to be a teen idol, and he produced some modestly popular singles, including "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 Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, where he was immensely popular. 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 himself never viewed himself as a communist and did not join the ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED).
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 even continued to file returns for the Internal Revenue Service even while living in the USSR.
However, in a 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 Europe.
In 1986, 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.
The University of Colorado sponsors the Dean Reed Peace Prize, an annual essay contest held in Reed's memory.
Tom Hanks has optioned a recent biography by Reggie Nadelson titled Comrade Rockstar and is planning to produce a movie on Reed's life.
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