Dean Reed: Death Of A Comrade



Dean Reed was an American singer and actor who was found dead in mysterious circumstances in the Zeuthner Lake near East Berlin in June 1986. Aged 47, Dean was a committed socialist who had lived in East Germany since 1971 and was, in the 1960s and 70s, the biggest pop star in the socialist block from the DDR to Mongolia.

Signed to Capitol Records as a teenager Dean had become successful in Argentina and Chile where his beliefs were formed. Those beliefs later got him thrown out of those countries. From there he moved to Italy where, in the late 1960s, he enjoyed a prolific career starring in a number of spaghetti westerns including Adios Sabata with Yul Brynner.

After a number of successful visits to the USSR and other Eastern bloc countries Dean made his home in the DDR from 1971 onwards. He quickly established himself as a film actor and prolific recording artist and received many honours including the Order of Lenin from Leonid Brezhnev. However, with the onset of Glasnost and changes in taste, his popularity had begun to wane by the early 1980s.

He confessed to feeling homesick and wanted to return to the US. However, a disastrous interview on CBS television's 60 minutes (in which he defended the Berlin Wall) brought him a lot of hostile reaction and deepened the depression he was already suffering from.

Dean's death gave rise to many theories; he was executed by the CIA, the Stasi, a jealous lover, suicide, all of which was deepened by the atmosphere of secrecy that dominated the DDR.


Mark Lamarr looks at the life of US singer and actor Dean Reed. Often dubbed the Red Elvis, Dean was virtually unknown in the West but became one of the Soviet bloc's biggest stars.