Comrade Rockstar: The Life and Mystery of Dean Reed, the All-American Boy Who Brought Rock 'n' Roll to the Soviet Union

Comrade Rockstar: The Life and Mystery of Dean Reed, the All-American Boy Who Brought Rock 'n' Roll to the Soviet Union

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by Reggie Nadelson
     
 

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Dean Reed had one of the strangest careers in the history of popular culture. Failing to gain recognition for his music in his native United States, he achieved celebrity in South America in the early 1960s and then, unbelievably, became the biggest rock star in the Soviet Union, where he was awarded the Lenin Prize and his icons were sold alongside those of Josef

Overview

Dean Reed had one of the strangest careers in the history of popular culture. Failing to gain recognition for his music in his native United States, he achieved celebrity in South America in the early 1960s and then, unbelievably, became the biggest rock star in the Soviet Union, where he was awarded the Lenin Prize and his icons were sold alongside those of Josef Stalin. His albums went gold from Bulgaria to Berlin. He made highly successful movies and, naively earnest, was an unwitting acolyte for socialism; everywhere he went, he was mobbed by his fans. And then, in 1986, at the height of his fame, right after 60 Minutes had devoted a segment to him, finally giving him the recognition he had never attained at home, he drowned in mysterious circumstances in East Berlin.

Drawn magnetically to his story, Reggie Nadelson pursued the mystery of Dean Reed's life and death across America and Eastern Europe, her own journey mirroring his. As she traveled, the Berlin Wall came down, the Soviet Union crumbled, and Reed became an increasingly alluring figure, his life an unrepeatable tale of the Cold War world. Encountering the characters— musicians and DJs, politicians and public figures, lovers and wives—who peopled Reed's life, Nadelson was drawn further and further into a seedy, often hilarious subculture of sex, politics, and rock 'n' roll. Part biography, part memoir and personal journey, Comrade Rockstar is an unforgettable chronicle of an utterly improbable life

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Nadelson's fascinating book is as much a study of life behind the Iron Curtain, and the significance that rock 'n' roll music held for the young pre-Glasnost generation, as it is a straightforward biography.” —Daily Mail (London)
Publishers Weekly
Journalist and thriller writer Nadelson tells the life story of Dean Reed, "the Johnny Cash of Communism," and of her own investigation into Reed's life, in a book that, while always fascinating, has trouble walking the line between memoir and biography. The details-of how Colorado-born Reed lived and sang in South America and the eastern bloc and became a star of Elvis-like proportions there-are relayed in a clear and often captivating manner. When the author opines on her personal journey to discover and understand Reed, the narrative is often awkward ("my metaphors collided and crashed: none of them any good") and the findings are sometimes naive ("In the end, the Soviets had not wanted to nuke us; they just wanted to listen to our music"). As "a kind of travel book through a now half-lost time and place"-the time being the '60s, the place being the U.S.S.R.-the book is absorbing. And though there are speed bumps (weak images and an oversimplification of complex political events), as the mysteries of Reed's suspicious death begin to unfold toward the end, the author's strengths become apparent, making Reed all the more exciting. (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An encore from the biggest Cold War celebrity you've never heard of. Every Soviet citizen has a soft spot for an American named Reed, a charismatic, handsome, idealistic fellow traveler who wined, dined and serenaded the eastern Bloc, and then died, too young. This is not John Reed, played by Warren Beatty in the 1981 cinematic saga Reds. This is Dean Reed, a corn-fed son of Colorado. This is a messy but rollicking account of Reed's adventures behind the Iron Curtain and the mysterious death that landed him in a simple grave outside East Berlin. The author, journalist and documentary filmmaker Nadelson, first learned of Reed from a 60 Minutes segment in 1986. She, along with half the female population of the Soviet Union and the GDR, fell hard for the handsome crooner and embarked on a decade-long quest to piece together his life story. She taps the usual line-up-wives, girlfriends, translators and mom-as well as a weird span of authorities from rock-'n'-roll legend Phil Everly to the ubiquitous wonk of perestroika, Vladimir Pozner. Everly sums up Reed's international fame as "the real thing." Pozner offers a more sanguine perspective: "They thought they bought the Beatles and they didn't even buy Pat Boone." Nadelson's account was originally published in the U.K. in 1991. The American edition, spurred by Hollywood's notice-Tom Hanks and DreamWorks hold the film rights-has been updated with details Nadelson uncovered after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The definitive answer to how Reed managed to drown in a lake near his German suburban home ("The Dude Ranch of Schmockwitz," as Nadelson dubs it) remains elusive. The unlikely story of his life as a razzle-dazzle flier in the Socialist jetset endures. Interesting, if not exactly compelling. The subtitle could be "You Had to Be There."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802715555
Publisher:
Walker & Company
Publication date:
06/13/2006
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
5.51(w) x 8.26(h) x 0.97(d)

Meet the Author

A journalist and documentary filmmaker, REGGIE NADELSON is the author of four previous Artie Cohen novels: Red Hot Blues, Hot Poppies, Bloody London, and Sex Dolls. Comrade Rockstar, her biography of Dean Reed, the American emigré who became the biggest rock star in the Soviet Union, is under movie option to Tom Hanks. She was born and lives on New York's Lower West Side.

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