Wow. This story is amazing.
In the mid-1960s, Soviet officials were on the lookout for acceptable entertainers to keep the kids in line. Nikolai Pastoukhov, a Moscow journalist, wasn’t expecting much in the way of young blood at the World Peace Conference in Helsinki in 1965. The conference was a mess, Russians and Chinese not speaking, delegates yelling, a fistfight in the offing.
Suddenly a young man jumped on to the podium and started playing his guitar and singing. He made everyone hold hands and sing We Shall Overcome. His name was Dean Reed.
Here was this handsome American who espoused socialism but sang peace songs. Pastoukhov thought Bingo! (Or the Soviet equivalent.) And he helped set Reed’s first trip to the USSR in motion.
Reed was 28 in 1966 when he played Moscow’s Variety Theatre. He sang folk songs and show tunes like Maria, a big favourite in the Soviet Union. He could do the Twist; he moved like a rock’n’roller.
A rock star behind the Iron Curtain. Who knew?