Garth Brooks' Out Half Sister and Bandmate Betsy Smittle Dies at 60
Brooks' half sister was out in country music for decades.
On November 2nd, country music lost one of its outspoken advocates for equality when Betsy Smittle, Garth Brooks out half-sister and long time band member passed away at 60, after battling cancer, according to CMT.
Smittle played the bass guitar and contributed vocals on Brooks 1991 debut Ropin' the Wind and his subsequent LPs including The Chase, In Pieces, Fresh Horses and Double Live.
She was known to perform at gay pride events throughout the south, and was a collaborator on Brooks 1993 civil rights anthem We Shall Be Free. The song included the line “When we’re free to love anyone we choose,” was boycotted by some country radio nationwide.
The music video for Free featured various celebrities exclaiming “don’t be afraid to be yourself,” and “everyone has the right to be happy.” It was co-directed by Brooks, and featured lesbian icons Martina Navratilova and Lily Tomlin, among the many celebrity cameos. It won Video of the Year honors at the 1993 Academy of Country Music Awards.
According to the Georgia Voice, the state’s LGBT publication, when he was asked about the song’s message, Brooks proclaimed, “It’s just not an issue for me. I have a lot of gay fans, and I’m sure there’s a real cool mixture out there.”