Singer, songwriter, and composer Beverly Glenn-Copeland was told when he was very young that he would not be successful until he was very old. Whether or not this became a self-fulfilling prophecy, he insists he’s always been focused on the future, writing music for the generations to come:
“Your generation, their ears are as big as the whole earth. And when they heard my music, it made sense to them. It was just one more thing that they loved. But I had to wait until you all were grown up because there was no understanding of world music.” Sure enough, after 50 years of making music, his genre-bending compositions are finally being celebrated. When he left New York in the early 1960s, he believed the future he was fixated on could not exist for him in the US. Copeland, a transgender black man whose obscure electronic sound and non-binary beliefs were ahead of their time, continued to create music from abroad while acting on the Canadian children’s show Mr. Dressup and writing for Sesame Street.
Today, his music has found a new audience, largely among the young listeners it was intended for. An idiosyncratic mix of ambient electronica, jazz, classical, and psychedelic folk, his performances are heady and emotional experiences. On this episode of MoMA’s Magazine Podcast, Taja Cheek, assistant curator at MoMA PS1, sat down with Copeland the day after his sold out VW Sunday Sessions performance at MoMA PS1, to discuss his first return to the US in over 50 years, his father’s piano, and why he considers himself a grandparent to young creatives.