(Music: "Ever New" by Beverly Glenn-Copeland starts)
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: I really believe that we are constantly affecting everything around us and it responds to us. So if we can hold or primarily hold a positive feeling about the world, about ourselves, and hold hope, we can change the world.
ANNA SALE: This is Death, Sex & Money.
The show from WNYC about the things we think about a lot…
...and need to talk about more.
I’m Anna Sale.
("Ever New" continues)
ANNA SALE: This is Beverly Glenn-Copeland, whose music has become a source of comfort and joy for me over the last few years.
Glenn is a Canadian musician and singer-songwriter, who’s been quietly putting out albums since the 1970s. This song, Ever New, was released by Glenn in 1986, on an album called Keyboard Fantasies.
The album went largely unnoticed until 2015… when a Japanese record collector emailed to ask Glenn if he had any more copies.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: I wouldn't go so much as to say it was exciting. I would say, I was thinking, Oh, that's, that's great. And it must have some around here somewhere. And I didn't even remember where they were. My wife said, yeah, this is where they are, and she went, pulled them all out. [Anna laughs]
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Otherwise I'd still be looking for them, right? [laughter]
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: And he sold those within a week and a half. And then what happened was all of a sudden, within probably a month of him selling those records, I started getting calls from record companies. And then at that point, I, that was when my jaw hit the floor.
(Music: "Sunset Village" by Beverly Glenn-Copeland)
ANNA SALE: Suddenly… in his 70s… Glenn’s career took off. And 2020 was supposed to be the year when all this new attention and opportunity was going to come together. A new documentary about Glenn was headed for film festivals… a new collection of his music was being released… and an international tour was planned.
And then, of course, the tour was called off.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND:It was interesting because I really didn't have much time to think about the loss of the touring. I was so busy thinking about the loss of a home.
ANNA SALE: At the time, Glenn and his wife Elizabeth were also in the midst... of moving. They’d already sold their old house… and when the projected earnings from the tour went away...they could no longer afford the place they’d planned to buy.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: So we ended up being homeless.
ANNA SALE: That’s how I first learned about Glenn’s music. Producer Afi Yellow-Duke told me about a GoFundMe his daughter started that raised around $75,000 for Glenn and Elizabeth. Word spread quickly among his fans and people in the queer community who wanted to help out Glenn, a trans elder.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Almost 3000 people from all over the world donated $25, $20, $30. Whatever they could afford. And they were people who we knew were also going through difficult times as well, because everybody was going through uncertain times.
ANNA SALE: Glenn and his wife were also given… a place to stay. When we first talked in 2020, Glenn was sitting next to his electric piano in a guest house, overlooking the Atlantic coast in New Brunswick.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: We were offered this place in June when we no longer had a home, and it's absolutely stunningly beautiful.
ANNA SALE: Who offered it to you?
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Um, two, two people married to each other, both, both international lawyers. A man and a woman who had made a whole lot of money. Uh, found out about our situation and offered it to us for nothing until we could find out, you know, until, until spring, at which point they considered that we would have found another home.
ANNA SALE: Wow. So these are people you did not know previously?
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Not, not at all.
ANNA SALE: And they said, we have this home on the coast, come stay here. What was that like Glenn? When, when people you didn't know said, come stay.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: I mean, it was, uh, it was, um, a point of being stunned actually, because my wife and I had been, um, under such stress to have, you know, to essentially not know where we were going to live for, oh, five months. They called it, paying it forward.
ANNA SALE: Did that feel comfortable to accept for you?
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Oh, absolutely. [both laugh]
ANNA SALE: Good!
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Totally! You know, if you can't accept a gift where the gift is being given by the universe, you got problems! Hello?! [both laugh]
(Music: "La Vita" by Beverly Glenn-Copeland)
ANNA SALE: It was a gift from the universe….but it didn’t solve their housing instability long-term... as Glenn told me when we caught up a few weeks ago.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: We're living in our fourth temporary home since the pandemic and currently in the midst of move number five.
ANNA SALE: Glenn described the last year as a wild ride… and said he and his wife are still on the lookout for a permanent housing solution. We’ll have more of an update from Glenn at the end of this episode.
Before Glenn wrote and performed his own music, he studied classical singing and performance. He grew up playing piano in a Quaker home in Philadelphia. His family had a Steinway in the living room. He left to go to school in Montreal, where he was one of the first Black students to study music at McGill University. But after McGill, he realized he wanted to take his career in another direction.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: I want to just start to write music that incorporates the music from all other, all over the world and many other cultures.
ANNA SALE: Oh.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: That's what hit me. What I did was I took the guitar, and I didn't know anything about anybody else doing this either. And I started re-tuning the strings. And every piece that would come to me would have a different tuning on the strings and I'd have to re-tune the thing. And I played it with a pick as though it was a drum.
ANNA SALE: Did it feel, do you remember a feeling of fear as you were stepping away from all of those familiar slots?
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: [laughs] Not at- not even one ounce of it!
ANNA SALE: Really?
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: I don't, I didn’t know. No, I just went, Oh, this is what I'm going to do next. And I did it.
ANNA SALE: Can you tell me what it is about you that makes it not a big deal to say, there are all these ways people have done this before, but I’m just gonna try something really different and not feel too worried about it?
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: I don’t think I'm too sensitive. [laughs]
ANNA SALE: Ah.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: I really didn't think about I'm doing this because I want to, I want to create a career.
ANNA SALE: Hmm.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: It was a drive.
ANNA SALE: How were you supporting yourself with money at that point?
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Oh, listen. I had no money. [laughter]
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: I lived when I started doing that, I had just finished breaking my foot off of my bone literally. Yeah. I was in a full cast on one leg. Not, not walking. The only thing I could afford was one little room that was on a second floor. I had to go up on my cast. I ate peanut butter. That's how I lived. Peanut butter and sardines. And it was fine! I felt totally free. I wasn't afraid of it. It was just like, this is what it is. I'm, I'm free to like, explore this. I'm going to explore this.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: And, and, you know, I look on it now with great amazement [laughter] because youth is like, no, the great thing about youth is that it isn't afraid of anything and that the difficulty about youth is that it has no idea what it should be afraid of. [laughter]
(Music: "Ever New" by Beverly Glenn-Copeland)
ANNA SALE: How did you begin your work in children’s TV?
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: I had a very dear friend and she had a very good friend and this good friend, she was a writer for this show, she got in touch with me, um, and asked me if I would be willing to be on this program called The Mr. Dress-Up Show.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: She said, we'd love to have you on this show and we're writing you in as a character, but we also would like it if you would write music for this show for this particular episode. So I did, and I had just the most wonderful time. I had just the most wonderful time. I was just like, Oh, goody two shoes! [laughter]
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: You know, I had to get dressed up in all these silly costumes, right? And I had to talk to these puppets who were, you know, just amazing. And, um, uh, and, and then I wrote music for the show. Well afterwards, they loved it so much that all the other writers started writing me in. And after a while, I became a character who was considered to be one of the neighborhood folks in the show. And, um, and I wrote all, you know, I probably wrote a hundred songs for them. And, 20 years passed by.
ANNA SALE: Wow. That's a large portion of your adult life.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Yes, it was.
ANNA SALE: What was like the thing you wanted to convey to a child who is watching?
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: I wanted to convey to children that what they were looking at was made them feel safe, made them feel loved. Made them feel seen. Um not talking down to them, but engaging them in their own imagination
ANNA SALE: Did you feel seen and heard and safe when you were growing up?
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Uh, yes and no. Depends on what aspect of it. I felt very safe as a child in terms of that, um, my home was a safe place. My parents were, you know, very safe from that perspective.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Um. Now, the ways in which I did not feel safe did not happen until I revealed to my parents that I was a boy in a girl's body. [laughs]
(Music: "La Vita" by Beverly Glenn-Copeland)
ANNA SALE: Coming up, Glenn talks about how he began to understand his gender identity… and how his parents reacted to it.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: My parents were Black for God's sakes. And they knew what it was like to have, to be able to be safe in a, in a society that, um, in which you were basically second-class citizens.
(Death, Sex & Money midshow theme music begins)
ANNA SALE: We are working on another episode about the moments in movies that have stuck with you…and helped you figure out important things in your life. You might remember that just a few months ago, our resident movie superfan, executive producer Liliana Maria Percy Ruiz, made an episode with your stories about what you’ve learned about sex and intimacy from movies. And now, we are collecting your stories about a different sort of film: the sports movie.
There’s just nothing like a sports movie to inspire new ways of thinking about resilience, and how to make it through tough times. As this listener told us, about the 2019 comedy Brittany Runs A Marathon:
Listener: It's incredible to watch a person doing a hard thing [laughs] and she didn't win and it wasn't miraculous. You know, probably millions of people run marathons but to just watch this one particular story, um, was really meaningful to me.
ANNA SALE: We want to hear from more of you – if there’s a sports movie that helped you through a pivotal moment in your life, tell us about it. We’ve been hearing from a lot of women in our audience–thank you for showing up–and we want to hear from the rest of you too! Record a short voice memo about your movie pick, which characters or scenes stand out, and how this movie helped you in a moment in your life when you really needed it. Then email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Death, Sex & Money midshow theme music ends)
ANNA SALE: This is Death, Sex & Money from WNYC. I’m Anna Sale.
From the time he was a child, Beverly Glenn-Copeland knew he was different from the people he saw around him, but the words he used to describe his gender identity and sexuality changed over the years. In the 1960s, when Glenn was a student at McGill, he identified as a lesbian, and his parents were alarmed when they found out he was dating women.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Well, they were frantic, absolutely frantic, because first of all, the, the, um, literature coming from the psychiatric, um, community at that time called it all a disease. They were trying to protect me from every perspective, but in the protecting of me, of course, it turned into, into being, you know, quite repressive.
ANNA SALE: Did you feel their anxiety and their worry as protection,
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Yes, yes, oh--
ANNA SALE: Or did it feel–?
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Oh, you mean around this particular issue?
ANNA SALE: Like, how did you experience it? You are, you say that you can understand their urge to protect. What did that feel like?
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Well, I, yeah, I understood it as that they were, um, deeply worried about me. Um, and that it wasn't something that I would be able to talk with them about. So from that perspective, it was like, um not safe.
ANNA SALE: This is a part of me they can't handle.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Yeah. But yeah, they can't handle so, so, so I was, you know, but later it turned into a bit of a witch hunt. Unfortunately and they, they, they did some things that were actually quite dangerous to my, to my freedom and my health. I was in danger of being put in a hospital and electro-shocked.
ANNA SALE: How did you stop that from happening?
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Uh, one time they literally forced me into an automobile, um, with, uh, over overpowered me and they took me to this doctor, this, this ordinary doctor, he wasn't a psychologist or a psychiatrist or anything. And, um, you know, I was forced marched into this guy's office and, uh, he starts picking up the phone to call the hospital to have me committed. And I, I literally ran out the door. And outpaced my parents.
ANNA SALE: You ran away from them.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Yeah. I ran away from them.
ANNA SALE: Do you remember where you went when you stopped running? Where did you end up?
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: I ran into, uh, I managed to a telephone booth and, and put my finger down the list of psychiatrists. And my fingers stopped at one and it was, it was within two blocks of where I was. I raced to this guy's office with my parents on my heels. They came in shortly after me, but I said, I need to speak to this psychiatrist by myself. I told him what was happening. He freaked out. He called my parents into the office and said, if you do not cease and desist, I will take this person into protective custody. [laughs]
ANNA SALE: Wow.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: I couldn't believe it! Of all the psychiatrists in the world, I found one who understood.
(Music: "River Dreams" by Beverly Glenn-Copeland)
ANNA SALE: How did you come back to a relationship with your mother that felt safe after having to outrun her?
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: It was very, it was, it was, it was extremely interesting. So.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: At one point, my mom, from my perspective, you know, became so upset about me.and she became, you know, so it became so difficult that I felt that every time I spoke with her, that she was actually becoming abusive.I understand what was happening. I do understand. But at that time I just, I just said to her, you know, I don't think I'll ever speak to you again in my life. And I hung up the phone. I really didn't give my mom a second thought and that's the honest truth of it. And then one day, a year later, I suddenly was reaching. I suddenly went, ‘Oh, I think I'll call my mom’. And I reached for the phone. Literally the phone rang. It was my mother on the other end and her words were, “Oh my darling, please forgive me.”
ANNA SALE: Hmm.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: And that was the end of that problem.
ANNA SALE: Wow. What did it feel like to hear those words from her?
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Oh, it was like, oh, oh, of course I forgive you. Let's just get back to being, you know, mother and child. I love you. I've always loved you. Let's just get back on that, right? And it was, and we were back up, we were back on it and she was from that point on a champion for me constantly telling me to live my life, and defending me in any way.
ANNA SALE: I'm curious, having, having had that experience and feeling the dangers that you could face because of your lack of, um, emotional protection and also legal protection. Um, did you, did you feel at risk as you were a professional person, as you were working in children's television, about who you were, did you have to hide?
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: No, it didn't change my life. I mean, I just went off and continued living my life, right? Um, I was aware well aware of the fact that if it became known, um, in, in, in the general public that I was transgendered, that it would be a difficulty for the parents who, you know, who, who had their children watching the Mr. Dress-Up Show. So I waited, once I understood that I was transgender, which was in 1990, whatever let’s say, 1996, 1995, 1995. Um, I, um, you know, I, I let all my close friends know.but I did not discuss it, um, in public until 2003.
(Music: "Colour Of Anyhow" by Beverly Glenn-Copeland)
ANNA SALE: Since coming out publicly in the early 2000s, and having his music rediscovered in 2015, Glenn has reached a whole new, younger generation of fans. His backing band is also made up of young musicians, who are mostly in their 20s.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: My great dream is that I can take all seven of them with me, wherever I go for which I will need thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars. So, you know, I don't know how it's going to happen, but it is my prayer.
ANNA SALE: How has your life been changed by spending all this time with your band?
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: They became like teachers, teachers,
ANNA SALE: Oh, teachers.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Yeah, teachers, um, because that's what young people are, teachers for older people and older people are teachers for young people, they were totally… hip to absolutely everything that was going on in the world, musically from one pole to the other, in every single country. And they would sit around discussing it all and blah, blah, blah. It was like they were speaking Greek and, you know, and, and I would, I would say to them like, well, well, could you. Tell me a little bit more about this and they go, Oh, not only tell you. And then they put on music. Right. And I go, Oh my God, listen to that. So they were constantly educating me musically. And then of course, the way in which they, they just, the way they were together was, was, uh, uh, you know, there were so at ease with each other and, and, you know, I mean like, like, like check this out, like they were so at ease that they could sleep all in the same beds together, males and females, without it being about sex. Just about protection and the need for, you know, for company. Like, okay. Check that out. A whole other level of reality. [laughter]
ANNA SALE: That felt, that felt cool. That felt like, new like, Oh, this, this is a way of being.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Yes. And I mean, I understood that, but to actually see them be able to be like that, it was like, okay, this, this is a step in human growth. Good grief. Look at this.
ANNA SALE: Oh, interesting. Like seeing them move through the world with fewer hang ups than you felt like the world had when you were young.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Yes, yes, yes, exactly. Exactly. I was. So I was just. I, I, I cannot tell you how refreshing it was. How, absolutely. Because it, it was, they were manifesting what I knew was possible. I had never seen it.
ANNA SALE: Mmhm.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Yeah.
ANNA SALE: I do wonder when you were first, when you were first touring together with your band, did you have moments where you, um, kinda noticed. Just your age difference in ways that made you feel self-conscious like just needing to move a little slower than them or, uh, anything like that?
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Oh, it didn’t make me feel self-conscious, I played it up for all it was worth. [both laugh]
ANNA SALE: You know how it's done. I hear you.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: No, seriously. No, because I have a, I have a knee that, you know, really should be replaced. Sometimes it'll go out, and I'll be in crutches. So like I have to, I have to travel with crutches in case it goes out and gets stuck in a bent position, right? So, and, and I've been going down the steps backwards for many years to lessen the stress on, on knees that are old And of course, you know, I'm not going to be carrying anything, going down the stairs backwards. So, you know, so they would lug all this stuff and, you know, they treated me. So they treated me as though I was an elder, like their grandparents and, and, and they were totally caring. Hmm care caretaking in that kind of way. And I loved it.
(Music: "Deep River" by Beverly Glenn-Copeland)
ANNA SALE: When you think about a time when hopefully, maybe some point it will become safe for us to gather again.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Yes.
ANNA SALE: Um, what do you picture?
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: I think that I will do at least one and I don't expect to do many others, but I know that I have to go and thank my audiences around the world And I, I actually want to do that. And even though, I'm going to have to take my crutches and then do and do we will figure out how we can do it in such a way that I, that I'm not worn out. Because, I need to go and say, thank you.I think that we all have a purpose. Um, and, and it's the purpose that, you know, that is, you know, uniquely ours through whatever our unique gifts are or our skills or whatever. Cause every person has, every person is unique and every person is a part of the universal design. The universe doesn't design anything it doesn't want. Lord knows I didn't design me. So. Um on a given day, it may look hopeless or you may get depressed or you may go through really feeling just all my God. I can't make it. It's like if we can come back to a positive feeling about things, we can change the world. I came here to encourage people about that.
(Music: "Sunset Village" by Beverly Glenn-Copeland)
Glenn will turn 80 next year, and is finally going on tour this fall. He can't afford to bring his band with him. He’ll just have a musician accompanist, and his wife, Elizabeth will also be joining him on stage. She was sitting nearby when Glenn and I talked over video.
Glenn also has a new album out, called The Ones Ahead.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: So this is the final act of my life. So every professional choice is made specifically with the questions of, does this go to the core mission of encouraging the next generations? And does this enrich my life?
ANNA SALE: Mm-hmm. Um, I know Elizabeth is right there with you. So Elizabeth, you're welcome to chime in here too, but is there anything when you, when you both talk about the kind of home that you look forward to being able to settle in. Um. What do you picture?
ELIZABETH GLENN-COPELAND: We've been so isolated with all of these moves that to be somewhere back where we can access good friends, old friends and family, um, and build community, that's super, super important to us And somewhere with a little garden, because I'm a gardener and I'm, I'm no good if I don't have my garden. Um, and a studio for Glenn to have, you know, create his next album, which he's already started on. It just needs space for him to finish it, And we want somewhere where Glenn can be really celebrated because he's just an amazing being
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Well, and look, who’s talking! The, uh, total amazing being.
ELIZABETH: We do have a bit of a mutual admiration.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: We do. Yeah. Yeah, we do.
ANNA SALE: Oh,
ELIZABETH: Yeah. So somewhere where we can live until we either leave the planet or have to go into long-term care. That's essentially it.
ANNA SALE: Yeah.
ELIZABETH: Like many artists, we've kind of lived on the edge most of our lives, and things have shifted somewhat since Glenn's, uh, music was discovered after all those decades. Um, but it's still a little bit, you know, sometimes touch and go, so, yes.
BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND: Um, but you know. It's, it's, it's fantastic for me to be able to share my work with newer and younger audiences. uh, and I wanna share, you know, comfort and hope and reminders of the beauty of life. It's still here to be experienced, you know, you know, I mean, because many people just don't realize that it's still here to be experienced, right?
(Death, Sex & Money theme music)
That’s Beverly Glenn-Copeland and his wife Elizabeth Glenn-Copeland. The music in this episode came from his album, Transmissions: The Music Of Beverly Glenn-Copeland, a compilation of music from his career. And you can listen to his brand new album, The Ones Ahead, out now.
There are Spotify links to both albums in our show notes, and his fall tour dates are at beverlyglenncopeland.com.
Death, Sex & Money is a listener-supported production of WNYC Studios in New York. Afi Yellow-Duke produced this episode. The rest of the team is Liliana Maria Percy Ruiz, Zoe Azulay, Lindsay Foster Thomas, and Andrew Dunn.
The Reverend John Delore and Steve Lewis wrote our theme music.
I’m on Instagram @annasalepics, that’s P-I-C-S, and the show is @deathsexmoney on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Thank you to Katherine Dunn in Boulder, Colorado, who is a sustaining member of Death, Sex & Money. Join Katherine and support what we do here by going to deathsexmoney.org/donate.
I’m Anna Sale, and this is Death, Sex & Money from WNYC.
(end of Death, Sex & Money theme music)