Behind the “Pot”-Filled Meaning of The Musical Youth’s 1982 Hit “Pass the Dutchie”

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Videos by American Songwriter

Jamaican trio the Mighty Diamonds released their slow burning “Pass The Kutchie” in 1982. Kutchie (also spelled “Kouchie” or “Koutchie”) is slang for a pot that holds marijuana, which is meant to be passed around. The pot “pot” was something the kids in the British group The Music Youth, aged 11 to 15 at the time, could not reference when they covered the song that same year, so “Dutchie,” a traditional Jamaican cooking pot, was used as the alternative in their version.

Released on Sept. 17, 1982, “Pass The Dutchie” hit No. 1 around the world and sold four million copies. Ultimately, the meaning of the song transitioned from passing around marijuana to sharing food.

Pass the Dutchie Meaning

There’s really no reason to pass a metal dutchie pot around, but the alternative rhyming word fit within the context of the updated song. The chorus and lyrics of the song remained the same with the exception of the “Kutchie” and “Dutchie” switch and The Musical Youth’s empowered opening, pulled from U Roy’s 1974 song “Rule the Nation,” alluding to music as food for life:

This generation
Rules the nation
With version
Music happens to be the food of love
Sounds to really make you rub and scrub

Throughout the entire song, the verses in parenthesis are replaced with references to food instead of “herb” and other Mighty Diamonds narratives. Instead, The Magical Youth version suggests the exchange (passing the dutchie) of food.

“Pass the Kutchie” verses:

It was a cool and lovely breezy afternoon
(How does it feel when you’ve got no herb?)
You could feel it ’cause it was the month of June
(If you got no herb you will walk an’ talk)
So I lef’ my gate and went out for a walk
As I pass the dreadlocks’ camp I hear them say
(How do dey sing when you heard dem sing?)

So I stopped to find out what was going on.
(How do you find when you make your stuff?)
For the spirit of Jah, you know he leads me on
(Them all have a leaf at the dreadlocks’ camp)
There was a ring of dreads and a session was there in swing
I could feel the chill as I see and heard them say
(How do dey sing when you heard dem sing?)

The alternative “Pass the Dutchie” verses:

It was a cool and lonely breezy afternoon
(How does it feel when you’ve got no food?)
You could feel it ’cause it was the month of June
(How does it feel when you’ve got no food?)
So I left my gate and went out for a walk
(How does it feel when you’ve got no food?)
As I pass the dreadlocks camp, I heard them say
(How does it feel when you’ve got no food?)

So I stopped to find out what was going on
(How does it feel when you’ve got no food?)
‘Cause the spirit of Jah, you know he leads you on
(How does it feel when you’ve got no food?)
There was a ring of dreads and a session was there in swing
(How does it feel when you’ve got no food?)
You could feel the chills as I seen and heard them say
(How does it feel when you’ve got no food?)

New “Dutchie” Lyrics

The Musical Youth added more references toward the end of the song to the universal power of music and performing that is not on the original Mighty Diamonds recording. Keeping to the flow of the chorus and original melody of the song, the entire second half of the song features new lyrics.

Now me say, listen to the drummer, me say listen to the bass
Give me a little music, make me wind up me waist
Me say listen to the drummer, me say listen to the bass
Give me a little music, make me wind up me waist, I say

Pass the Dutchie ‘pon the left hand side (I say)
Pass the Dutchie ‘pon the left hand side
It a go bun (give me the music, make me jump and prance)
It a go dung, ya know? (Give me the music, make me rockin’ at the dance)

You play it on the radio
And so me say, we a go hear it on the stereo (stereo)
And so me know we a go play it on the disco
And so me say we a go hear it on the stereo, whoa

Pass the Dutchie ‘pon the left hand side (I say)
Pass the Dutchie ‘pon the left hand side
It a go bun (give me the music, make me jump and prance)
It a go dung, ya know? (Give me the music, make me rockin’ at the dance)

On the left hand side (I say)
On the left hand side (I say)
On the left hand side (idiot)
On the left hand side (feel it)
On the left hand side

And I say east, say west, say north and south
This is gonna really make us jump and shout
And I say east, say west, say north and south
This is gonna really make us jump and shout
I say

Going to “Court

Director Don Letts, who had already worked with The Clash, and would direct the band’s 1982 video for “Rock the Casbah” and form Big Audio Dynamite with Clash guitarist Mick Jones in 1984, also directed the video for “Pass the Dutchie.”

Partially shot on the south banks of the River Thames in London near Lambeth Bridge, the group is shown performing before they are arrested by a school officer who falls and breaks their arm. The video shoots to scenes in a courtroom, featuring British actor Julian Firth, where the kids are on trial and are ultimately found not guilty.

Stranger Things

“Pass the Dutchie” saw a bit of a resurgence in 2022 after the song was featured in two episodes of the Netflix sci-fi series Stranger Things, season four, and re-entered the charts again after 40 years.

Where Are The Musical Youth Now?

“Pass The Dutchie” made Musical Youth the first Black act to get a regular rotation on MTV. In 1984, the group received a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. The Musical Youth released two albums—The Youth of Today in 1982 and the 1983 follow-up A Different Style!—and several more hits, including “Youth of Today,” “Never Gonna Give You Up,” and “Unconditional Love,” the latter song a collaboration with Donna Summer, before parting ways in 1985.

The band returned in 2001 as a duo featuring founding members Michael Grant and singer Dennis Seaton and released When Reggae Was King in 2018, which featured a cover of Jimmy Cliff’s reggae song “The Harder They Come.” Former Musical Youth Member Kelvin Grant continued his solo career and released Defend Them in 2018 and tours with his band Reggae Rockers Intl. Grant also launched his own label House of Skill.

Bassist Patrick Waite died in 1993 at the age of 24 from a heart condition, while his brother Freddie “Junior” Waite died in 2022 at the age of 55.

“We are sad to announce the passing of Musical Youth’s drummer Frederick Waite Jr.,” read a post The Musical Youth’s social media accounts. “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.” No cause of death was determined, and further inquiry into Waite’s death is pending.

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