Reed, Dean


The American singer, actor, director and social activist Dean Reed was born in Denver, Colorado, on September 22, 1938. At the age of 12, he learned to play the guitar. Although his father wanted him to be educated at a military academy, Deen decided to join the Colorado University to study meteorology after his graduation from high school. During his studies, he financed his living as a musician in bars and clubs. In 1958, he dropped out of college and went to Los Angeles where he took acting classes with Warner Bros. His first successes came as a musician in California. He landed his first hit with the song "Our Summer Romance" and critics compare him with Elvis Presley and Paul Anka. 


In 1958, he signed a contract with Capitol Records. Capitol produced his first record in 1961 and his songs in the style of rock'n roll and country music became known in the USA and especially well-received in South America where he went on tour in 1962. While there, he was confronted with poverty, and he developed left-wing political ideas and began to speak up against oppression and poverty. From approximately 1962 to 1966, he While in Chile, he protested against nuclear weapons and US foreign policy, and he performed free shows free in poor neighborhoods and prisons. In 1965, he took part in the World Peace Congress in Helsinki as a delegate from Argentina. He also was fascinated by the Soviet Union and traveled to the country in 1965, where he was celebrated by thousands of fans.


Reed lived in Italy, where he played in TV commercials and Westerns, before moving permanently to East Germany in the 1972/73. In East Germany, he continued singing, performing and directing and became a show star. East German officials often presented him as an example of a “reformed American” and the “voice of another America.” Some also called him “Johnny Cash of Communism” or “Red Elvis.”


In 1973, he debut in the DEFA film, Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts (dir. Celino Blauweiss), in which he plays as young penny less man who travels the world in search of his fortune. In the following year he was cast in various Western and played alongside Rolf Hoppe, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Manfred Krug. Reed’s first DEFA screenplay, Blütsbrüder (1975, dir. Werner W. Wallroth), tells the story of a young US soldier, who befriends Native Americans after a massacre in 1864. With more than 1.6 million viewers, the film—Reed also played the leading part—became one the most DEFA successful films of the year.


Reed also penned and directed Sing Cowboy, Sing (1981), about a cowboy who travels the Wild West. He played one of the main roles alongside Czech singer Václav Neckár. Although the film failed the critics, it drew hundreds of thousands to the cinemas. Together with director Günter Reisch, he collaborated on another film project, Blutiges Herz, a story about the uprising of Native Americans in Wounded Knee. But this planned East German-Soviet co-production was never completed because of Reed’s death.


His last major role was as Chilean folk singer Victor Jara in the TV movie El Cantor (1977, written and directed by Dean Reed) often mentioned as his most important film work.  At the same time, he also produced his first own music show Der Mann aus Colorado (1977-1984) on East German television. 


The artist's popularity steadily declined. On one hand Dean Reed enjoyed full freedom to travel, but on the other hand he always praised the advantages of the Wall in interviews. Many of his fans resented this attitude. On June 13, 1986, Dean Reed died by drowning in Lake Zeuthen near Berlin. It is still unclear whether it was an accident, murder, or suicide.


(The website offers an extensive collection of documents and facts on Dean Reed’s life.)


D = Director  |  A = Actor | S=Script


1983 Races (A)
1981 Sing, Cowboy, sing (D/A/S)
1977 El Cantor (TV, D/A/S)
1975 Soviel Lieder, soviel Worte (So Many Songs, So Many Words, A)
1975 Blutsbrüder (Blood Brothers, A/S)
1974 Kit & Co. (A)
1973 Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts (Excerpts from the Life of a Good-For-Nothing, A)

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