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Marla grew up on the South Side of Chicago, the daughter of Dell Glen (American-Jamaican) and Cortez Glen (Mexican-American). Glen's father was a blues guitarist, her grandmother a gospel singer, and her mother was friends with the blues guitarist B.B. King. Her mother Dell graduated from the University of Chicago and went on to become a successful banker who worked for Merrill Lynch. Glen's father, an American patriot who joined the military at a young age, became an engineer based in Frankfurt, Germany. Like many other children in Chicago's historic Bronzeville neighborhood (also known as the Black Metropolis) who received gifts and inspiration from folks like Muddy Waters and BB King, Marla was given a toy harmonica as a child, and her musical talent became immediately apparent. She was only 11 years old when she wrote her first song, "Repertoire", a title that has won three gold records and one platinum, and appears on her 1996 release, Love and Respect.
As a teenager, Marla Glen set out to pursue her musical career. The story of her early days "taking a gamble" on her musical abilities is recorded in the lyrics of "Travel," a song that appears on her first breakthrough album, This Is Marla Glen.
The gamble paid off: Glen won first prize performing at a local Jam-session in New Orleans and was rewarded with a trip to France, where she first performed before a European audience. When invited to stay in Europe, she did, and formed the Marla Glen Band in Niort, France. In 1993, she catapulted to stardom overnight with her debut album This Is Marla Glen (two-time gold, two-time platinum).
Glen was ruthlessly exploited by the music industry[editorializing], and spent a period in deep reflection, which she talks about in a 2002 interview with Jakob Buhre (in German). The interview is accompanied by a spectacular series of photos, which may say as much to the English-language reader as the German words can barely convey.
In 1998, Glen went on tour with her 1997 release Our World, and made a strong comeback in 2003, with Friends.
Glen is known for her haunting lyrics, for her fierce commitment to social change and the cause of human unity. Most recently, she has dedicated her time and efforts to the education of children, and was declared the "patron saint" of the Knowledge Festival, organized by Bildung ohne Grenzen (Education without Barriers) in Hamburg, Germany (2007).
- 1993: This is Marla Glen (Disques Vogue)
- 1995: Love and Respect (Disques Vogue)
- 1997: Our World (Ariola)
- 1998: The Best of Marla Glen
- 2003: Friends
- 2005: Greatest Hits Live
- 2006: Dangerous
- 2011: Humanology
- 2020: Unexpected
- "Believer" (1993)
- "The Cost of Freedom" (1993)
- (in German) NETZEITUNG | ENTERTAINMENT PEOPLE: Marla Glen heiratet eine Schwäbin Netaeitung.de
- "Die Musik hat Marla Glen gerettet". Derwesten.de (in German). 2011-05-01. Retrieved 2011-06-15.
- Jakob Buhre, (in German) "I’m melting away, I’m melting away… – das kann doch nicht die Botschaft sein!" Interview mit Marla Glen - Planet Interview, 28 August 2002.
- Marla Glen Bildergalerie Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine