Manitoba

Bif Naked remembers early days in Winnipeg ahead of Red River Ex show

Canadian singer-songwriter Bif Naked is back in the city where it all began.

Punk rock icon to play Ex main stage Sunday

Punk rock icon Bif Naked is set to play the Red River Ex main stage Sunday night.

Canadian singer-songwriter Bif Naked is back in the city where it all began.

Some three decades after the punk rock icon made her first appearance in front of a microphone at the Royal Albert, Naked is back in Winnipeg to perform at the Red River Ex.

"It means everything to me — you have no idea," Naked tells CBC News of the city where she joined her first band.

"It is Wellington's, it's the Royal Albert, it is the West End Cultural Centre … I mean, I was married there (the West End Cultural Centre) in 1990, to my drummer, with a Mohawk. 

"This is where I got my start."

The Juno Award winner was originally born in India and put up for adoption by her teenage Canadian mother. American missionaries adopted her and moved the family a few times, before eventually settling in Winnipeg around the time she started high school.

She says she came of age here and finds it especially fitting to be playing the Red River Ex — she grew up near the city's western edge, a short walk to the ex's current home at Assiniboia Downs — and has fond memories of the annual summer event.

"I fell in love on many a Ferris wheel ride," she laughed. "These are my old stomping grounds so I'm pretty excited." 

Frequent flyer to Winnipeg

Now calling Vancouver home, Naked, whose real name is Beth Torbert, says this will mark the fourth time in a year she's come back to Winnipeg — but it's the first of those trips that will see her perform.

The other trips have been spent visiting with her mom.

"Like a lot of us, our parents are … getting a little older, and I wanted to spend time with my mom," said Naked, whose sister and niece also call Winnipeg home.

Naked has had quite a ride since her early days playing shows in Winnipeg bars.

After playing in a handful of bands, including local punk outfit Gorilla Gorilla, Naked found her voice as a solo artist and by the age of 23 she was a platinum-selling recording artist.

Bif Naked sings with the band Gorilla Gorilla in the 1990s. (courtesy of Bif Naked)

She's also since written a memoir, worked as a motivational speaker and survived a series of health scares including kidney failure, heart surgery and being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36.

Of her health, the now 48-year-old says she's feeling "100 per cent."

"I just think that we've come so far with cancer care in this country — and particularly with breast cancer," said Naked, whose past hits include "Spaceman" and "I Love Myself Today."

"There's better patient outcomes and the diagnostics are better and women are surviving, women like me.

"Going on 10 years — still going strong — and that's amazing."

Naked hits the Red River Ex main stage at 8 p.m. Sunday. 

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With files from Cory Funk and the Canadian Press