There was a time when rock star Bif Naked decided she never wanted to perform again, ever.
Perhaps best known for her Platinum-selling album I, Bificus, Naked said she was essentially "on tour for 20 years straight" when a breast cancer diagnosis stopped her in her tracks.
Following a successful chemotherapy treatment and surgery, she was faced with the return to the stage.
"I could not have anticipated how it would impact my life and career," said Naked. "I was done. I hated the guys yelling 'Show us your tits!' I heard 'show us your tits' every show, for twenty years. And suddenly, when you have breast cancer, that (stuff) ain't funny anymore."
It was an experience that caused her to not only become disillusioned, she said, but overcome with a shame she said is common for many cancer survivors.
So she gave up musical performance and began to do spoken word performances where she could share her experiences.
Encouraged by her guitarist Jacen 'JD' Ekstrom, she slowly began to play acoustic sets.
"It was fun, and funny, and light, and I felt safe, and the audience was different," she said. "Some of them were cancer families, and some of them were women from abusive relationships, and wanted to hear me speak about the abusive relationships that I was in.
"It was more mutual for me. It was empowering. It changed my life, and changed the course of my career, and that's why we did the acoustic record."
The result was Bif Naked Forever: Acoustic Hits & Other Delights, released in late 2012, and it features newly recorded acoustic versions of some of her best-known songs, such as "Spaceman," "Lucky," "Chotee" and "Moment of Weakness," and includes some new tracks like "So Happy I Could Die."
"Cancer is very impacting emotionally, whether you survive or not, and it was something I could not 'not talk about,'" she said.
Born in New Delhi, India, Naked's childhood name was Beth Torbert, a moniker bestowed by the American missionaries who adopted her.
In her youth, she trained for 13 years to become a professional ballerina.
Everything changed when as a teenager in Winnipeg, she discovered punk rock.
"It was very liberating, you could have an identity that was different from all your peers at school, especially in those days," said Naked. "There weren't a lot of girls in punk rock at that time that I knew in Winnipeg, so I felt really isolated. There was a lot of camaraderie in the early punk scene, and I felt really included."
After several stints of running away from home and rebelling against her missionary parents, she moved to Vancouver with her band.
She burst onto the scene in Vancouver in 1991 as a 19-yearold with Betty Paige hair, tattoos and snarling lips, just as the music scene in the Pacific Northwest was beginning to take off. It was the era of Nirvana, Screaming Trees and Soundgarden, and on the Island, a thriving punk scene included SNFU (whose gigs often featured duets between long-time friends Naked and lead singer Chi Pig), Subhumans and DOA.
"It was an amazing, amazing time," said Naked.
By 23 she had a solo record deal, and by the following year she founded her own company, Her Madgesty Records.
Today, though music is always a focus, she also recently inked a deal with HarperCollins to write her memoir.
"Her biography is one of the few in rock and roll that should be written," said local musician Johnny Good, who opens for Naked when she plays the Port Theatre Oct. 4. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are at www.porttheatre. com or 250-754-8550.
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