Musical youth is a pop and reggae band that is of British-Jamaican origin and was formed in 1979 at Duddeston Manor School in Birmingham in the UK. In 1982, they got a Grammy nomination for their single” Pass the Dutchie”. The group had four members (2 sets of brothers); Kelvin and Michael Grant and Junior and Patrick Waite. They were active until 1985 when they split up and Seaton left the band. The Grants remained and in 2001 they came back together but since 2005 they are only two, Michael Grant and Dennis Seaton.
A “Dutchie” is a Jamaican cooking pot, and while there’s not much reason to pass one around, it was an acceptable substitute for the original lyric: “Pass The Kutchie,” Kutchie being Jamaican slang for a pot that holds marijuana. “Pass The Kutchie” was a song that came out earlier in 1982 by the Reggae group The Mighty Diamonds, which was adapted by Musical Youth, or at least their handlers – the five boys in the group were between the ages of 11 and 16 years old at the time, and their manager suggested they record the song with the modified lyric.
The Mighty Diamonds “Pass The Kutchie” had a heavy, slow beat and got very little airplay, but Musical Youth’s take on the song was an instant hit in the UK, where it sold 100,000 copies the first day it was released and made #1 in September, 1982. The band members were of Jamaican descent and lived in the Birmingham area of England. The group was formed by Freddie Waite, who had been in a Reggae band in Jamaica. Waite put his two sons, Patrick and Junior, in the band with two of their classmates, Kevin and Michael Grant, and recorded a single on their own called “Political,” which got the attention of the BBC DJ John Peel, who played it on his show. This led to a deal with MCA Records, who convinced Waite to replace himself with a youngster: 14-year-old Dennis Seaton. The group, now entirely under age, was seasoned for about 6 months before their The Youth Of Today album was released and “Pass The Dutchie,” the first single, became a huge hit.
Musical Youth became the first black act to get regular rotation on MTV when “Pass The Dutchie” was added to their playlist, preceding Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” video by a few weeks. The MTV airplay helped break the song in the United States, and it entered the Top 40 on January 15, 1983, reaching its peak position of #1 on February 26.
The video was directed by Don Letts, a black filmmaker from England who would later work with The Clash, directing their “Rock the Casbah” clip. Letts was aware of the color barrier on MTV and went out of his way to make sure the kids appeared as non-threatening as possible in the video. The network flatly rejected Rick James, but they were OK with little kids singing in British accents.
Musical Youth had genuine talent and played their own instruments, but they suffered from poor and/or corrupt management, and they quickly floundered. They had more success in the UK, with hits “Youth Today” and “Never Gonna Give You Up,” but in 1985 they were dropped from their label MCA Records and replaced by New Edition as the hot boy band. When the band fell apart, some of the group members struggled; Patrick Waite got involved with drugs and died in 1993 at age 24. His brother Junior Waite was later institutionalized, and Kelvin Grant went into seclusion.
This was used in the 2000 movie The Wedding Singer. When remaining band members didn’t get the royalties they expected, they sued their former law firm, which they claimed failed to protect the copyright to the song. This lawsuit was rejected in British court on grounds that they didn’t write the song and thus weren’t entitled to any of the publishing rights, but the group later sued their old record company MCA, and reached a settlement for performance royalties they were denied. These legal actions reunited band members Michael Grant and Dennis Seaton, who began performing again, mostly on ’80s nostalgia shows.
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