Benjamin Rasmussen

Cold War Cowboy

DEAR JERRY: In the early 1960s, most of my girl friends were crazy about Ricky, Frankie, and Fabian. But the teen idol I adored most was Dean Reed. He resembled a young Robert Redford.

Dean didn’t have nearly as many hits in America as the others, but he did appear on several Bandstand-type TV shows.

Then he just vanished, and I’ve never heard a thing about him since.

Plus, we never hear any of his songs on the radio, especially “The Search,” “Our Summer Romance,” and “I Wonder.”

Any idea what happened to Dean Reed?

Clarice Hoover,
Racine, Wisconsine

“Ask Mr. Music” - Jerry Osborne, 04/11/2011

You can keep the Beatles and forget Frank Sinatra, The Led Zeppelin are nowhere in the Kremlin, man. In the Communist Party, The Who are merely, the who? Mick Jagger, the Pink Floyd and Elvis Presley are forbidden practitioners of bourgeois culture.
But Dean Reed, the famous American pop star and heartthrob of the Soviet masses, is something else again.
Dean who?
“He’s 2nd Most Famous American In Soviet After President Ford.” - UPI, 07/01/1976

American folk singer Dean Reed is a freedom fighter in the eyes of Soviet youth, a guitar-strumming balladeer whose songs are silenced by U.S. political repression.
Dean who?
“Protest singer hero to Soviets.” - AP, 05/11/1978

The pop star who is the leading heartthrop of Moscow matrons, the crooner whose smile captivates Russian teenage girls, is American expatriate Dean Reed.
The average American’s reaction to this Russian entertainment phenomenon is Dean who?
“Obscure American Singer Finds Stardom In Eastern Europe.” - UPI, 05/31/1981

“Oh my god,” shrieked Roberts’ interpreter. “It’s Dean Reed!”
“Who is Dean Reed?” asked Roberts.
The Russian interpreter was incredulous. “I can’t believe you don’t know. Why, he’s the most famous American in the world!”
“Death in Berlin for defector who changed his tune.” - The Sunday Times, 22 June 1986

For 20 years, Reed’s Russian minders would wind him up so that his hips could swivel while he mouthed the slogans of the Party.
“An American who gyrated to a Communist beat.” - International Herald Tribune, July 7, 2006

It never came to that: the “colorful bird” from Colorado, who suffered from depression in eastern Germany, committed suicide shortly before filming began.
“Red brother Winnetou.” - Neues Deutschland, 07/28/2003

“I have over 2,000 scenarios,” Dean Reed’s mother would tell me. “And it’s about up to 3,000 now, I think. Each scenario brings up a new way I think he was killed.”
Comrade Rockstar – Reggie Nadelson, 1991

Dean Reed was one of the most famous Americans in the Communist World. An actor, director and pop icon, he was ridiculed in the West and idolized in the East. Cold War Cowboy uses archival and contemporary images, along with news accounts, letters and interviews, to tell the story of a naïve ideologue who was used by both sides of a global conflict