There was no precedent for Betty Davis in the world of music.
And no real place for her, either.
So, she made her own.
Her music--hard funk laced with lyrics that were sexually forward--made her stand out from her contemporaries.
She broke down barriers in a male-dominated genre and business.
But her progressive sound and her lyrical candor were not welcome.
Mainstream radio shunned her.
The media excoriated her.
People protested her concerts.
And she retreated from the music industry by the end of the 1970s.
Although she did not sell many records at the time, Betty's innovative music, her unique fashions, her bold lyrical content, and her stage presence opened the doors for other like-minded progressive artists to flourish.
From Prince to Cardi B, you can see and hear her influence everywhere in popular music.
What hurts about her passing yesterday is that she was a true original.
A talented, forthright, musical innovator who, by and large, was only really understood and appreciated long after the boundaries she came up against had been laid waste by the artists who benefitted from her trailblazing.
It is sad to lose such a unique talent as Betty, particularly one who was as overlooked, criticized, or misunderstood as she was at the height of her creative powers.
But while she could, she made the music she wanted to the way she wanted to.
And enough people liked and heard it to help get it out there and then carry it forward.
Betty is an inspiration
A reminder to follow your muse.
To nurture your own voice.
To create something original.
But more than that, to open the doors you can where and when you can.
Because when you do, you help bring other voices forward that might not otherwise have been heard.
You make it possible for them to feel that they can express themselves the way they want to.
This is why we need innovators like Betty.
They remind us that we can be and do so much more.