Bahamas Gov't Tribute to the Late John 'Chippie' Chipman
By Bahamas Ministry of Youth, Sports & Culture
Sep 14, 2019 - 7:50:19 AM
Bahamas Ministry Of Youth, Sports & Cultures' Tribute to Mr. John Chipman (M.B.E.)
by the Honourable Lanisha Tamar Rolle, Minister Of Youth, Sports And Culture:
Bahamian Junkanoo Legend, John “Chippie” Chipman passed away on Monday September 9t h, 2019 at 90 years of age. His career spanned more than six decades. The world knows Bahamian Culture due to the life and works of Mr. Chipman. He would have touched every continent with his goatskin drum, and has earned his reputation as a prolific Junkanooer, dancer and champion drummer.
“Chippie”, as he was affectionately called, received both national and international recognition for his outstanding contribution to nation building. He was honored and enlisted as a Member of the British Empire (M.B.E.), a recipient of The Bahamas Merit Award, Tourism Lifetime Achievement Award, The Junkanoo Legends Circle Award, The Cultural Heroes Independence Award, The Junkanoo Shack Hall of Fame Honour and the Centennial award amongst others.
Chippie Chipman is considered a national hero, a legend and a Bahamian icon. His contributions to the world of culture have helped to shape the identity of The Bahamas. Chippie and his wife, the late Becky Chipman, known as the legendary “Fire Dancer”, has left a legacy of patriotism. Together, they took their gifts around the world representing The Bahamas as true cultural ambassadors. Chippie also mentored many young drummers and shared his gifts with the nation; this and more earning him, the title, “Godfather of Junkanoo’.
John Chipman was born to the late Howard Chipman and Ethelyn Taylor in Nassau on October 25tht h, 1928. At an early age he demonstrated his love for music and learned to play the saxophone. He began his adult career as a waiter in the 1950’s at Nassau’s Paul Meeres Club. At this time, Chippie would meet his wife Rebecca Oliver. The two became a power couple combining their gifts of dance and drumming that would eventually be showcased at every hotel, night club and ‘hot spot’ in New Providence. In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s Becky became the queen of the fire dance and Chippie evolved into and is considered the most outstanding drummer in the history of The Bahamas.
Chippie and Becky passionately participated in Bahamain Junkanoo parades. He became a Junkanoo leader, leading his group Chippie and the Boys. Mr. Chipman will be remembered for his role in the evolution of Junkanoo music. Chipman also encouraged his friend Donnie Huyler to launch the production of locally made cowbells. He spearheaded the transition from the wooden kegs to the tin barrel when the wooden kegs became difficult to find in the Bahamas. His revolutionary contributions also included being the first Junkanoo leader to use crepe paper replacing tissue paper and newspaper in a Junkanoo parade. Chippie was the premier Junkanoo drum-maker and was revered as the king of the Goombay Drum. He did this in his backyard on Lifebuoy Street. His group was also the first to have women ‘rush’ on Bay Street in a Junkanoo parade. His wife Becky, Maureen Duvalier and Naomi Carey were the first three Bahamian female Junkanoo leaders.
Chipman was also known for his generous and benevolent spirit. He was a devoted member of St. Agnes Anglican Church where he played his saxophone during the services. He would then leave his church and visit many of the smaller churches in the Bain and Grants Town where he would serenade them with his saxophone and leave a hefty offering. He also performed in every school in New Providence and the Family Islands at no charge. Demonstrating a core belief in ‘service above self’, Chippie also provided drums for schools in the Junior Junkanoo program from its inception in 1988 to date.
On February 6th , 2016 Lifebuoy Street was named John Chipman Street in honor of the contributions John Chipman made to The Bahamas and to communities around the world. Chippie, up to the time of his passing performed almost every morning at the Prince George Dock welcome Center with his band “Chippie and the Boys”.
Chippie’s famous words were, “Entertainers perform to the end. When they stop entertaining they dead. As long as God give me strength, I gonna be licking up some drums and playing rake n’ scrape.”
John ‘Chippie’ Chipman, King of the Goombay Drum and the Godfather of Junkanoo was indeed one of our finest Bahamian entertainers of all times.
On behalf of the Ministry of Youth, Sports & Culture and the Government of The Bahamas we extend our heartfelt condolences to his children, immediate family, friends and relatives and to the nation as a whole which loved him and whom he loved dearly.
May His soul rest in peace.
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