The Post, Athens, Ohio 11.08.1986
State of The Arts
"The only value of being famous is that you can reach others and maybe make the world a better place to live in."
- Dean Reed 1985
Dean Reed is an American Rock-n-Roll singer of the '50s, whose surprise success in South America spawned an amazing singing and acting carreer. His carreer resulted in a couple dozen adventure movies, hundreds of musical performances, and near fanatical fame in the Soviet Union. There he is known as "The most famous American."
Later Reed used his celebrity status to protest social problems, such as poverty, hunger and war, and to promote the idea of peace. He believed peace united the people of the world.
Reed's history, lifestyle, semi-socialist beliefs and obscure stardom was the subject of American Rebel, a documentary by Athens filmmaker Will Roberts.
Less than a year ago I had the opportunity to interview Reed, and view the Athens screening of American Rebel. I even got a kiss out of it.
Some odd months ago, I learned of Reed's death. He drowned in a lake near his home in East Germany - reportedly an accident.
I barely knew the man. He wasn't family, or a friend or even a casual acquaintence. But he was someone I had felt privileged to meet, someone with ideals I could respect and, on top of that, a heck of a nice guy.
So I was a little angry. I was angry that a nice guy dad died, angry that his efforts may have been wasted, angry that most people didn't know who he was and even angrier that they probably didn't care.
Personally I thought it was kinda neat to have met this man. It was something 90 percent of Americans would never get to do.
When I told people about the experience, who Reed was and what he did, they had to be impressed. Some may not have cared, and there were a few jokes about "interviewing the Communist" (which he wasn't), but Reed's rise to stardom was truly amazing. He didn't exactly live an average life.
Looking back, I was this freshman working at The Post for about two months, and I was interviewing a socially aware, American performer who was a phenomenal success almost everywhere except in the country where he was born. I was beyond nervous - try shaking.
It took a little to no time to relax. A good looking, softspoken guy greated me with a handshake and a huge smile. He eagerly talked about the film, his past, the values he had come to accept, his protests, wife and family and how good it was to come back to America.
What struck me the most was his positive attitude. His highly controversial lifestyle sometimes labeled him a traitor, or a Communist or Socialist. Reed labeled himself a "revolutionary artist," and felt he was "most American of all" because he fought against injustice and believed in people.
He willingly placed himself in dangerous situations, such as military posts of Chile and Nicaragua, so the positive messages of his music could be heard.
He campaigned for freedom in countries where the mildest of protests would land a person in jail. And he was.
Commercialism was probably the biggest reason Reed never made the crossover to the States. He did not want to sell Diet Coke just because of the financial aspects of U.S. tours. His music was more important.
I was highly impressed by this individual. He spoke of the world in such a positive light. Use what's good to combat what's bad was the way he looked at things.
Reed also seemed truly happy and content. It wasn't just a "good mood," it radiated out of him. I walked away from that interview with awe for the man, and a pleasant feeling. Anyone would have. It's a shame he's gone.
Dean, sorry we missed ya'.
by Kim Marel