Frederick Waite Jr, Reggae Icon Behind Hit Song Featured in ‘Stranger Things,’ Dead at 55

by Caitlin Berard

Frederick Waite Jr., drummer for Musical Youth, has tragically died at the age of 55, as confirmed by his bandmates. The reggae icon died on July 20 in Birmingham. The cause of death has yet to be announced.

“We are sad to announce the passing of Musical Youth’s drummer Frederick Waite Jr.,” his fellow Musical Youth members wrote. “Our thoughts go out to him and his family during this sad time. We have lost a musical legend, who inspired many young musicians over the last 40 years.”

The British-Jamaican reggae group was formed in 1979 when two fathers had the idea to form a band featuring their sons. Kelvin and Michael Grant joined forces with Patrick and Frederick Waite Jr., and Musical Youth was born.

In the early days, Frederick Waite Sr., a former member of the Jamaican reggae group The Techniques, served as lead singer. Later that year, however, Dennis Seaton joined the group, completing the official lineup.

Musical Youth and Frederick Waite Jr Made Music History

Frederick Waite Jr. and his fellow Musical Youth members were still children when the band was formed. Despite their young ages, however, the reggae group enjoyed near-immediate success. After appearing on BBC Radio 1 and being signed to MCA Records, the group released their single “Pass the Dutchie” in 1982, which reached number one in the UK Singles Chart and top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US.

And as time went on, Musical Youth’s success grew. The hit single went on to sell more than four million copies, opening the door for a history-making moment. In the early ’80s, Musical Youth appeared on the newly created music channel, MTV. They were the first black group to be featured, beating even Michael Jackson to an appearance on the now-iconic station.

The song was so popular, in fact, that decades later, it charted once more. After being featured in the streaming giant Stranger Things, “Pass the Dutchie” regained popularity among listeners, many of whom weren’t yet alive when the song was originally released.

That said, many listeners were overjoyed by Musical Youth’s resurgence because they still hold fond memories of the band from their childhood.

“The very first record I ever bought was “Pass the Dutchie,” one fan shared in response to the news of Frederick Waite Jr’s passing. “I was 11 years old and saved up my 25p a week pocket money… Thank you for the childhood memories.”