He sings for freedom

Six hundred people filled the miners' theatre in the copper town of Rancagua, about 80 kilometres from Santiago de Chile, on 15 August 1983.

A very popular singer had come thousands of kilometres to extend his solidarity and support to the struggling people. It was Dean Reed, an American singer living in the GDR. He felt compelled to go to Chile where he had lived for many years to express his support fot the face-to-face battle it was waging against fascism.

Refusing the police order not to sing in the theatre he went onto the stage and spoke to the miners. "I have been forbidden to sing", he told them, "because I only have a tourist permit." But this is not work. I sing for my friends, and my friends are you and all the people of Chile. An emotion that was almost tangible spread through the theatre when Dean Reed began to sing the battle hymn of the Chilean people, "Venceremos". For the first time in ten years, the song that had mobilized and still mobilizes thousands of Chileans was sung in public, and the words "a thousand chains have to be broken, we will be able to overcome fascism" rang out, a weapon against the Pinochet dictatorship.

I spoke with Dean Reed in his home when he returned to Berlin. He was just as the Chilean people remember him, the same frank, boyish smile.

"When I saw the news from Chile on television during the days of protest, I felt I had to go there and offer my solidarity. Chile is my second home. I can say that it was there I learned to become a conscious human being".

Dean Reed was one of the topranking singers in the world of rock music when he first went to Chile, well-known and imitated in the world of show business. But he was no longer a singer in the United States. There was something in him that made him ask the reasons for things, that made him want to know why. He remembers that his first action of a social nature was against the gangster-run boxing profession.

He felt the first shock of injustice when the company he was recording for arranged a tour of Latin America for him. He saw hunger, misery and anguish reflected in the faces of countless children, and he felt something change in him.

"I had always heard my father say", he told us, "that my country was the "good guy" in the movies. We were helping the poor countries, and there were hundreds of agencies involved in sending food, clothing and medicine. I liked that image as a child. But in Latin America I got to know the other side of the coin. And anyone who is not blind has to take a stand in the face of injustice.

"That was how it all began. I gradually started to ask questions, to look for the causes of all the problems.

"One day I quite innocently inquired", he told us, "that if things were bad for the majority of the people, why didn't they elect a candidate who could solve the problems, and why were they always governed by a privileged minority? One of my friends replied 'because the rulers of your country help the minorities in these countries'. Yes, they helped them in their own interest to plunder the resources, and my government became less and less good in my eyes.

"In 1962 I went back to Chile for a big show in a local radio station. The World Football Championships were on there at the time. I knew some of the players on the Soviet team, and we took a few pictures that were published in the papers. I invited my friends to my show, and the United States Embassy in Chile intervened to let me know that my government took a dim view of this. I replied that art and sports had to contribute to peace, and that our friendship should make them happy and not annoy them".

Dean Reed's awareness developed step by step. He gave a show on television in Argentina, and his meteoric career continued. At that time, "persons unknown" raided his house in Buenos Aires. Later he went to Chile and resolved to carry out an act of vindication of his flag, stainded with blood in the dirty war in Vietnam. In front of his country's consulate in the capitals city, he proceeded to wash the American flag before the eyes of thousands of passers-by.

The fratricidal fascist coup did not find him in Chile. He made his last visit to that country in 1971 on the invitation of the trade union centre. Before that, on 4 November 1970, he had been invited by President Allende to the inauguration ceremony.

This is the singer who risked a great deal to express his solidarity with the Chilean people. After his appearance with the copper miners, he performed for university students and after singing many of Victor Jara's songs he again sang Venceremos, accompanied by a chorus of hundreds of students.

What happened after that is well known: his detention by Pinochet's police and his expulsion from the national territory on three hours' notice. The writ of expulsion says the he will never again be permitted to return to Chile. When the writ was read - he was supposed to sign it, but refused to do so - telling the police that this "never again" was absurd. "In a short time you will no longer be here, and the people of Chile will receive me as they always have done, as their true friend".

The time will soon come when a multitudinous chorus of joy will be heard up and down in Chile, when it is liberated from fascism. And Dean Reed will be singing in that chorus.

Die Dean-Reed-Website: www.DeanReed.de

Dean Reed
Letzte Änderung: 2003-02-15