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Former resident gifts NB with centennial song

Nancy Nash, a former resident of North Battleford who has gone on to find fame and a multi-faceted future, has gifted the city with a song she's written in honour of the city's centennial.
Nancy Nash: There we were, all watching the parade come down main street … It was 1963, the 50th anniversary of our little town, North Battleford; I think we had about 12,000 people at the time. Along came the band with Mr. Lehman strutting like a proud peacock, looking dapper with his goatee and silver buttons gleaming on a white, gold-braided coat, waving the big conductor's baton. A whistle hung from his neck that he proceeded to blow, cheeks puffing like bellows. I loved the majorettes the most. Their beautiful batons twirling wild, thrown sky high, and short-skirted legs marching and skipping.  Floats decorated with crepe paper and Native Indians in their full regalia, smoked buckskins all hand-beaded and flowing feather headdresses ... people in outfits from bygone eras and the steam engines whistling and bellowing ... the highland pipe band so glorious in their kilts, more floats and then from down the street a sound I'd never heard before ... seemed like a dream ... the music had trumpets, saxophones, trombones and a snare drum, but it was fast, frenzied and immediately I wanted to twirl around and dance ... as the sound approached I saw strange costumed men. Some dressed as women and some as clowns, all had masks and paint on their faces ... they were "having a blast"...  My heart leapt and in that moment, without even knowing, I committed full time to the "muse within me." Later I discovered their music was called New Orleans Jazz ... and the players, the Tatchells and Taits and fellas I never knew the names of.  I still have my baton from the North Battleford Kinsmen Band that I dust off and give a twirl to and can still throw it high into the sky ... yes and even catch it on the spiral down ... sometimes. So often the treasured memories of my youth come calling: the little island between the bridges where we picnicked on Sundays; the birch trees talking in the breeze; my run to school (I was a jogger back when it just wasn't cool); frost two inches thick on the window ... yes, 40 below!; Sunnysides, my first job scooping ice cream; the statues in the park by the hospital and the angels; Mrs. Doige, my math teacher, who so believed in me; Mr. Thomas, my Grade 5 and 6 teacher at Connaught; my first public acting role in Grade 1 for the school Christmas concert (I was a doll ... Jack Tatchell had to burp the dolls to say "Mama," I was the last one and all I did was cry); the beautiful meadowlark songs that sang to me near our garden on 16th Street ... and the little house on John Street where I grew up ... (all the streets had names and then were changed to numbers later on); my first public song performance in Grade 2, acting as Mother Moon. I sang, "When all the world has gone to rest we come my stars and I ... for night's the time we love the best 'tis then we sail the sky ... we journey in our little boat that's drawn by silver streams ... and o'er the waves we float and float sailing the sea of dreams ... Sailing sailing, a captain and crew are we ... Sailing, sailing over the sea of dreams."

Nancy Nash, a former resident of North Battleford who has gone on to find fame and a multi-faceted future, has gifted the city with a song she's written in honour of the city's centennial.

Says Nash, "We are called home once again to celebrate all of our loved ones, many no longer with us, including my boy; the city streets we once roamed and those memories only time can make treasures, not lost or forgotten but waiting to be shared with the familiar and new faces and children who will one day sail the sea of dreams and destiny. One hundred years ... now that's a song!"

Nash, who is also known as Sazacha Red Sky, was hoping to come back to North Battleford for its centennial celebration, but now finds that's not possible. But she has sent a creation of her own to the city and its population in her song. The song, Comin' Home, is gifted to the people of North Battleford and established with SOCAN as part of the North Battleford archives. You can see the video at

"I was born at Notre Dame Hospital amidst stoic, no nonsense nuns and auspicious prayers," says Nash.

She was delivered by paediatric legend Dr. Allan Gonor. Her father and mother had arrived years before to attend the Sharon Bible School. Her dad, Everett, came from Alberta, her mom, Elsie, from Tacoma, Wash.

Singing was as natural to Nash as talking and her father taught her piano at age three. The Pentecostal Church was the beginning of the blues and gospel roots she retains to this day.

She began "singing for her supper" around 10 years of age, travelling to Saskatoon for Buffalo Days and then singing Lulu's hit, To Sir With Love, at NBCI, an unforgettable moment in her life.

"The Golden Idols and New Colonials were my main gigs," says Nash. "I also remember playing with Jack Tatchell for Joni Mitchell's mom. When I was 16, I left North Battleford, with my baby boy Robin in tow, for Edmonton and the music that played in my soul."

During the 1970s, Nash played with Hot Cottage. Holger Peterson recorded them with blues legend Walter Horton, Nash's first harmonica mentor. They also worked alongside B.B. King, John Mayall, Freddi King, Joan Baez and Albert King.

"Albert King asked me to sing his song, As The Years Go Passing By," says Nash. "For over 40 yrs. I have played and sung that song."

During the 1980s, she lived in Vancouver and sang thousands of jingles, appeared on many TV shows and toured with and recorded many sessions for bands and artists, some of them still unknown at the time, including Loverboy, Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, who was once in her band, Cher, Prism, Trooper, BTO, Rita MacNeil, Matt Minglewood, Paul Anka and Tom Jones.

"I also worked as Bob Hope's side kick and opening act from 1986 to 1992. Now that was a trip!" says Nash.

She also developed and taught a pop music class at Vancouver College that she called Muse Ecology, "music between body, mind, soul and our organic connection to the Earth" long before the "new age movement." There were also acting stints on commercials and TV shows, such as 21 Jump Street, working alongside fledgling actors Johnny Depp and Peter DeLuise.

"Me and Johnny used to jam, he wanted to be a musician instead of an actor," says Nash.

She adds, "All this time I had been pursuing my own music career, not as easy as it sounds, even knowing all the famous folks I knew. I recorded several records, Natural Born, Letting Go, and worked with the late Bruce Fairbairn on some projects. I was also listening to my heart and spirit I began to include Native Indian artists into my shows and recordings. It was my desire to have these wonderful creative people acknowledged in the popular music realm."

To Give Our Love, a song Nash co-wrote, featured Cree hoop dancer Buffalo Child/Clayton Bugler from the Sweetgrass First Nation.

"This was the first time in the world a Native Indian was present in a 'pop' song," says Nash. "The video was heavily rotated on Much Music."

During this time and up to present her own quest has resulted in many discoveries.

"My own past ethnicities include Jewish, Dutch, German, English, African American, Haida and Spanish. Now that's a mix!" says Nash. "I have been adopted into the Leonard George family, Dan George's son who is Salish and Dr. Minnie Croft, the Haida Nation. I am also adopted into the Okanagan/Shuswap Nations by adoptive mother Mildred Smith. I have more names than anyone I know. In 1994 Sazacha Sk'tghaxeeahw (Red Sky), my Haida name, was nominated for an aboriginal JUNO award for the Red Sky Rising CD recording."

During the 1990s, Nash lived in Los Angeles, Calif. and continued music, gigging and recording with artists there and on live street venues, including the world renowned 3rd Street Promenade.

"At one time Jewel and I would compete for the 'best' corner," says Nash. "I taught kids harmonica in South Central LA and worked with Ric O'Berry, [author of] Behind The Dolphin's Smile, and Save-A-Life Animal Rescue and Adoption."

She moved back to Toronto in the late 1990s, then relocated to the Okanagan in 2003 where she lived alone off the grid.

"Solar power and wood heat for 10 years!"

For many decades Nash's passions have included fostering children, taking care of the planet, caring for animals that are abused and abandoned and assisting musically talented protégés, young and not so young, as a muse ecologist and caring for elders. She also teaches music, voice, harmonica and slide guitar, using a method she created long ago.

She says, "I attribute much of the richness of my life to the land where I was born and people and experiences there, my roots in North Battleford."