Dean Reed, East Bloc Singing Star, Dies
American-born pop and folk singer Dean Reed, who achieved fame and fortune in the Soviet Union as the self-styled “Frank Sinatra of Russia,” died Tuesday in East Germany, the official Tass news agency said.
Tass said Reed, an East Bloc music superstar virtually unknown in his native country, died “tragically in an accident” but gave no further details.
The news agency praised the 47-year-old Wheat Ridge, Colo., native for his devotion to “the cause of peace.”
Some U.S. critics said Reed, who once claimed to have been blacklisted in the United States because of his communist beliefs, was nothing more than a second-rate Las Vegas lounge singer. However, he was so popular in the Soviet Union that his concerts were guaranteed sellouts and thus never publicly announced. Even among Communist Party officials, tickets to Reed concerts were hard to come by and scalpers charged 10 times face value to eager customers.
His boyish good looks and American twang made him the symbol of Western rock music in the Soviet Union and his league of groupies was legendary. His lyrics were peppered with anti-Americanisms that kept him in favor in the tightly controlled world of rock music in the Soviet Union.
Reed was converted to communism during a singing tour of Latin America in the early 1960s. He wandered to Italy, playing bit roles in “spaghetti Westerns,” before being invited to the Soviet Union.
He once boasted to an interviewer: “I’m the Frank Sinatra of Russia.”
In 1978, Reed was awarded the Soviet Peace Prize, one of the highest civilian awards in the Eastern Bloc.
In recent interviews, Reed said he hoped to return home to perform and grow old.
“I would be happy to go back to my country someday. I have a great fear of growing old and dying in a country where the language is not my own.”