|The Day, New London, Connecticut 19.02.1972|
Aiding Socialism Is Singer's Aim
MOSCOW (AP) - Oleg Shemonovsky's big band banged out a rock beat. A spotlight washed the tense figure of a young man whose forelock danced in time with the music. One hand pointed skyward, and a foot, visible beneath the bellbottom of his yellow velvet trousers, tapped the stage as he sang.
It sounded like this: "We are rev-ah-loo-sha-nare-eez; we will fight for jus-tiss."
His hips jerked ever so little, and the teen-age girls with their heavy eye makeup loved it. They couldn't understand the words, but they clapped in rhythm. On stage was the self-confessed "most famous foreign singer in the Soviet Union," 33-year-old Dean Reed.
He regrets his name is not a household word in his native United States. He describes himself as a progressive artist whose mission is to advance the "cause of socialism through my art."
Though disclaims affiliation with any political party, he always seems to turn up on the Soviet side of an argument - and in a disagreement within the Soviet Union on the side of the Kremlin.
Last year, when it appeared the regime might move against Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the newspaper Literaturnaya Gazetta published an open letter from Reed condemning the Nobel Prize winner for urging free speech.
Taking an appeal from the novelist as an attack on the Soviet Union, Reed told him: "The principles on which your society is built are sane, pure and just, while the principles on which the society of my country is built are cruel, selfish and unjust."
At another point Reed mocked Solzhenitsyn as a "long-suffering writer," a reputation gained from years in a Stalin labor comp or exile, a bout with cancer and a ban on his works since Nikita Khrushchev's overthrow.
"Obviously they mean that you are long-suffering from lack of moral and social principles, and that your conscience bothers you in the silent hours of the night when you must live with yourself," the letter said.
Asked if he has read Solzhenitsyn's books, Reed says "Yeah, all of them. 'Cancer Ward,' 'One Day in the Life of What's His Name,' you know."
"One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" is the only Solzhenitsyn novel published in his own country.
Reed said he hadn't found them particularly anti-Soviet. He insists he has nothing against Solzhenitsyn personally. "It's just that the anti-Communists were using Solzhenitsyn as an argument to restain progress, especially in South America. I had to speak out for my friends who believe in socialism."
The letter, he said, was his idea, cooked up on the spur of the moment in Rome while he was making movies.
He addressed it to Solzhenitsyn as a "fellow artist." Reed's claim to status as an artist is based on more than 13 years in show business.
The son of a professor - "a Goldwater man," he says - Reed dropped out of the University of Colorado. He drifted to Hollywood and cut three records for Capitol. Except for one called "Our Summer Romance," which he says reached the top 10 in Denver, hes plunge as a rock'n'roll singer caused barely a ripple in the United States.
But Capitol, watching his sales climb in Chile and Argentina, sent him on tour. Reed says, "It was a smash." He was so overwhelmed that he settled in South America to exploit his success.
Litaraturnaya Gazetta treated that episode of Reed's life this way: "Much persecuted by the authorities, Dean Reed was forced to leave the United States and lives in Italy now."
Reed was in South America in 1962-66. He produces a copy of a Santiago newspaper poll which showed him to Chile's most popular singer, more renowned than Conway Twitty.
"I was only a pacifist then," Reed says, but gradual identifiecation with Soviet views got him into trouble with Argentine authorities. He went to Italy where "I almost gave up singing." Since then he had been played cowboys in 11 Italian Westerns.