Musical Youth — with founding members Michael Grant, left, and Dennis Seaton — appear in Lost 80’s Live at the Mountain Winery on Aug. 31. (Courtesy Ken Harrison)

Musical Youth founder tells true story of ‘Pass the Dutchie’

Chart-topping tune is really about a cooking pot

Musical Youth singer Dennis Seaton wants to put a longstanding rumor to rest. Despite some claims to the contrary, his band’s hit song “Pass the Dutchie” is, in fact, about a pot.

Not the cannabis container referenced by the Mighty Diamonds on “Pass the Koutchie” — the track that inspired the 1980s reggae band’s chart-topper — but the West Indian cooking pot more commonly known as a Dutch oven.

“‘Pass the Dutchie’ has always been about passing a cooking pot,” says Seaton, whose reformed Musical Youth is set to play Lost ‘80’s Live on Saturday with A Flock of Seagulls, Missing Persons and Wang Chung. “Can you imagine the uproar that would have ensued if minors between 11 and 15 had been singing about cooking ‘pot’? We had no experience with weed.”

The original band, made up of five Birmingham, England schoolboys — Seaton and two sets of brothers, Michael and Kelvin Grant and Freddie and Patrick Waite — were understandably just as naive about the workings of the “in one day, out the next” music industry.

After “Pass the Dutchie” off the band’s 1982 debut album “The Youth of Today” hit Billboard’s Top 10 and earned Musical Youth their first of two Grammy nominations, the hits kept coming, and with them, invitations to collaborate with Donna Summer and Stevie Wonder, appear in a Mr T. movie and hang out at Michael Jackson’s family estate in Encino. Career longevity seemed certain for the first black band to ever appear on MTV.

But sadly, after Musical Youth’s 1983 R&B-influenced sophomore album, “Different Style!” bombed, which Seaton attributes to “record company executives not understanding the genre of music [they] were playing,” their label, MCA, viewed them as a liability and their career quickly went to pot.

Ensuing legal battles among the band members not to mention the Waite brothers’ rumored drug problems were the final straws for Seaton, who broke up the band with his departure in 1985.

“I had to leave for my own sanity,” he says.

The Waites suffered the worst in the years following the band’s demise. Bassist Patrick Waite, who went on to a career of crime, died of heart failure while awaiting trial for marijuana possession. Drummer Freddie Waite started exhibiting mental issues and was eventually diagnosed as schizophrenic.

Another source of strife for the former Musical Youth members, some of whom were forced to take day jobs to survive, was that they were still owed royalties for “Pass the Dutchie.” Their label, MCA/Universal eventually settled with them out of court.

But Seaton, who reformed Musical Youth as a duo with keyboardist Michael Grant in 2001 after guitarist Kelvin Grant refused to take part, won’t be entirely satisfied until the band receives its rightful songwriting credit for “Pass the Dutchie.”

“We never got a songwriting credit, because, like most musicians, we were not given good advice in our early career,” the singer says. “We were minors, too, so it took some time for us to realize what was going on with advisors. Ripped off, I hear you say?”


Lost 80’s Live

With:A Flock of Seagulls, Missing Persons, Wang Chung, Musical Youth, Animotion, Real Life, The Motels, The Vapors, The Escape Club, Boys Don’t Cry, Farrington and Mann, members of When in Rome UK, Trans X

Where: Mountain Winery, 14831 Pierce Road, Saratoga

When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31

Tickets: $49 to $175


Pop Music

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Musical Youth topped the charts in the 1980s. (Courtesy photo)

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