The legendary Duke Errol Strachan, musician and the founder of the National Youth Orchestra of The Bahamas, is on the cusp of celebrating his 91st birthday this year with the release of “This Is My Life: A Bahamian Rhapsody” (Inspire Publishing 2023) a book that chronicles his colorful and eventful life. A beloved figure in the entertainment industry, Strachan has dedicated his life to promoting music in The
Bahamas and beyond. From singing and playing instruments in his church’s choir as a boy to starting bands and cutting several albums, the Duke has followed the family tradition of musicians par excellence like his cousin, the late King Eric Gibson. But it was singing to his clients when he drove as a chauffeur and taxicab driver that opened doors for him to sing abroad.
Duke’s life, however, was not easy, though he never complained. He saw each setback as a setup to reach greater heights. Born in Acklins in 1932, the first of 13 children of Lillian Taylor with his father James Strachan, Duke takes his readers back during our colonial era to a place few have lived to recall and even fewer have documented experientially. In his candid book, penned with the assistance of former Bahamas
National Orchestra member Mrs. Kelly Fowler, Duke lets readers step on the proverbial stone outside the window of his life to taste the warmth and charm of a culture that is fast slipping away.
Historians and educators Dr. Tracey Thompson and Ms. Joan P. Rolle believe that This Is My Life is a roadmap of how to live a positive, influential, and satisfying life. The ladies agree that young people, especially those who may struggle with academic or life issues, will find in Duke’s story encouragement to view their lives through fresh lenses. Referring to the book, the educators said, “hHis is a tale of
His amazingly clear memories of the two-week journey to sail to Acklins on a motorless mailboat, then perfect recall of the monies of yesteryear, the shillings, pence, their value, the cost to rent a home, sit in a movie theatre, and losing three fingertips as a wayward child whose seemingly tempestuous urge for excitement could have cost him his life. Somewhat of a rolling stone in his early days, Duke has tried many professions, but none have given him as much satisfaction as being a taxicab driver. It was then the Duke met up with Sidney Poitier, Kevin Ewing, Dr. J., Isaac Hayes, and the late great Nat King Cole and others.
When asked where they could find the best Bahamian food, Duke generally arranged for the legends to dine at his home, where his beautiful wife, Dorothea, prepared them sumptuous Bahamian meals.
“Today,” Duke asserts, “people believe our culture is Junkanoo. That’s only a part of our rich culture. We have so much more to offer.” Duke reflected on the days they were entertained with the jumping dance every evening as neighbors cavorted to the rhythmic sounds of the drum beat. He reminisced about when people were kind and courteous and dressed with care. When children were disciplined and knew how to address their elders—even if they were your siblings.”
Despite his notable achievements, Strachan shows no signs of slowing down. He continues to teach music and inspire young musicians. “I feel incredibly blessed to have had such a rich and rewarding life,” Strachan says. “Music has been my passion from an early age, and it has allowed me to take the youth of our nation to places I never could have imagined. I am grateful for every moment of this journey, and I look forward to continuing to share my love of music and many of the beautiful elements of our history that have been forgotten.”
As Mr. Strachan celebrates his 91st birthday in December and reflects on his achievements, his legacy as a musician, taxicab driver, teacher, and mentor is secure. His contributions to music in The Bahamas will be felt for generations as his passion and commitment to excellence continue to inspire and uplift.