Frederick Waite Jr, the original drummer for British-Jamaican reggae band Musical Youth, has died at the age of 55.
His passing was confirmed by the band on social media, writing in a statement that “we have lost a musical legend, who inspired many young musicians over the last 40 years”.
We are sad to announce the passing of Musical Youth’s drummer Frederick Waite Jr. Our thoughts go out to him and his…
Waite died in his longtime stomping grounds of Birmingham, where Musical Youth were formed in 1979. No cause of death has been established at the time of writing, however according to a council notice for an inquest into the situation, he died more than three weeks ago, on July 20. Said inquest was formally opened last Monday (July 1), with its final hearing to be held on January 17, 2023.
Born on May 23, 1967, Waite was just 12 when Musical Youth was formed. He was initially the band’s frontman, performing alongside his brother Patrick (bass) and the two Grant brothers, Kelvin (guitars and lead vocals) and Michael (keyboards).
The band came together through the fathers of both families, with Waite’s father, Frederick Waite Sr, having been a member of the Jamaican reggae troupe The Techniques. In the early days of Musical Youth, he and the junior Waite shared lead vocal duties.
Shortly after the band signed to MCA Records – to whom they were alerted after appearing on John Peel’s BBC Radio 1 show – both Waites stepped down from their singing roles, with Jr moving to drums and newcomer Dennis Seaton taking over on the mic.
Musical Youth’s breakthrough came in 1982 with the release of ‘Pass The Dutchie’ – an amalgam of U Brown’s ‘Gimme The Music’ and the Mighty Diamond’s ‘Pass The Kouchie’ – which topped the charts in the UK, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand and Australia (and peaked just one spot shy in Germany).
The song – which recently made a comeback to the spotlight thanks to its inclusion in Stranger Things 4 – appeared on their debut album, ‘The Youth Of Today’ (also released in ’82) alongside other singles like the title track, ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ and ‘Heartbreaker’.
The album was followed up in 1983 with ‘Different Style!’, and although that record was significantly less popular, it spawned successful singles like the Jody Watley-assisted ‘Sixteen’ and ‘007’.
Musical Youth disbanded in 1985. They’d planned to reunite in the early ‘90s, however those plans were scrapped after Patrick Waite, then 24, died from a heart condition in 1993. Dennis Seaton and Michael Grant reformed Musical Youth as a duo in 2001, and released the album ‘When Reggae Was King’ in 2018.
In a tribute shared on Facebook, London singer-songwriter, producer and colleague of Waite’s, Lloyd Brown, wrote: “I remember one meeting at the ‘Search For A Star’ grand final talent contest function helmed by the late Flip Fraser and the Voice newspaper where we appeared with Prince Lincoln, Sugar Minott, Winston Reedy, Aswad and The Instigators. Musical Youth were the surprise guests, and all I could hear when they walked in the place was an almighty chorus of screams inna the place….deafening lol.
“We performed at a few festivals together and the respect between our bands was arguably mutual. Their international success was a beacon for us and many more young bands that came after to present day.”