Jeff Porcaro

Jeff Porcaro, much sought-after session musician and co-founder of Toto, whose name came up frequently during our discussion of best drummers, died on this day in 1992. He suffered a heart attack following an allergic reaction to the insecticide he had been using in his garden at the tender age of 38 – ‘Too Young to Die’, as was named the David Crosby track from the Thousand Roads album released the following year, dedicated to his memory. Tragically, an autopsy revealed a previously undiagnosed heart condition.

The third in a line of drummers following his father and grandfather (his father is famous jazz percussionist, Joe Porcaro), he co-founded Toto in 1976 with his brothers Steve (keyboards) and Mike (bass). Four years previously, at the age of 18, he had been invited by Sonny and Cher to join them on their television show, which provided the perfect platform for his talents. Not too surprising, then, that perhaps it is for his extensive catalogue of studio work on the albums of others that many remember him with most fondness.

His playing can be heard on David’s About Face, specifically on the tracks ‘Cruise’, ‘Love On the Air’, ‘Murder’ and ‘You Know I’m Right’. Before that he had played drums on ‘Mother’ from Pink Floyd’s The Wall, later on ‘It’s a Miracle’ from Roger Waters’ Amused to Death.

He served many other acts well; talents as varied as Madonna and Michael Jackson, the Bee Gees and Four Tops, Bonnie Raitt and Barbra Streisand. Some of his most substantial studio contributions were made to Jackson Browne’s The Pretender, Eric Clapton’s Behind the Sun, Elton John’s Jump Up and Bruce Springsteen’s Human Touch – and, of course, Cher (Love Hurts). He worked with Steely Dan, most notably on Katy Lied, and Dire Straits (On Every Street); his playing with the former increasing demand for his services greatly.

Perhaps Toto’s best known song – ‘Africa’ – was a Billboard No.1 in February 1983. Here it is, but the video to Toto’s other big hit, ‘Rosanna’, should also be seen (both are taken from the multi-Grammy Award-winning album, Toto IV):

Take a look at this nice tribute, selecting Discographie from the menu at the top of the page, for a startling array of records on which Jeff Porcaro played.

Your favourite of these songs, please. Here are five of mine, leaving out the most most obvious ones so that you have no excuse not to mention them:

– Peter Frampton, ‘Wasting the Night Away’ (Breaking All the Rules)
– Don Henley, ‘Dirty Laundry’ (I Can’t Stand Still)
– Etta James, ‘Piece of My Heart’ (Deep In the Night)
– Michael Jackson, ‘Beat It’ (Thriller)
– Steely Dan, ‘Black Friday’ (Katy Lied)

Author: FEd

Features Editor of David Gilmour's official blog, The Blog ('Features' previously being its rather naff title), affectionately - or lazily - shortened to 'FEd'.

42 thoughts on “Jeff Porcaro”

  1. Pingback: Topsy.com
  2. The Paul Brady album is a fav of mine. Jeff’s brother Mike is some Bass player!!!

    …a talented family.

  3. Oh, I like Toto! I think they’re a great Band.

    Thanks for this topic FEd.

    My favourite songs on which Jeff Porcaro played are:

    Dire Straits – “Heavy Fuel” and “Calling Elvis”
    Don Henley – “Dirty Laundry”
    Bruce Springsteen – “Human Touch”
    Aretha Franklin – “Love Me Forever”

    Bye, Hydrea 8)

  4. Hello,

    Thank you for this posting Fed! A great idea.

    Here’s my list;

    Bruce Springsteen :”57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)”
    Eric Clapton: “Forever Man”
    Dire Straits: “You and Your Friend”
    Toto: “Don’t Chain My Heart”
    Toto: “Only You”

    I also like Steve Lukather’s Lonely Beat of My Heart, but I don’t know if Jeff played drums on his album or on this track.

    Lukather credits bands Pink Floyd, Cream, Led Zeppelin, and guitarists Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour, Jeff Beck, and Eric Clapton as influences on the album.

    Sami

  5. i love both these songs by toto. thanks fed!

    other than these, my favourites are from about face. especially murder.

    r.i.p.

  6. I never listened to Toto, sorry for my ignorance. :v

    My favourite songs from Jeff Porcaro tribute website are:

    Eric Clapton – Forever Man
    Joe Cocker – I Can Stand A Little Rain
    Dire Straits – The Bug
    Donovan – I Love You Baby
    CSN – Since I Met You

    And, of course, everything by David (especially “Murder”), Roger Waters and Pink Floyd.

  7. Not necessarily a favourite, but worthy of a mention for a couple of reasons:

    Kiki Dee – “One Step”

    She’s a local lass, from just down the road in Bradford AND she shares the same birthday as David, albeit a year later. 😉

    The Four Tops – “When She Was My Girl”
    Andrew Gold – “Thank You For Being A Friend”
    Michael Jackson – “Beat It”
    Alison Moyet – “Weak In The Presence Of Beauty”
    Lionel Richie – “Running With The Night”
    Leo Sayer – “When I Need You”
    Boz Scaggs – “Lido Shuffle”

    To name but a few…

    As you said FEd, he had served a truly startling array of acts. Always a sure sign of respect for a man on top of his game.

    BTW FEd,

    Congratulations on making it through to the Europa League play-off draw, after overcoming the mighty Rabotnicki. 😛

    Don’t forget to tune into Beeb 1 on Saturday evening (17:05) to see the Mighty Whites commence their Championship campaign, I’ll be there cheering them on… Marching On Together. (Sadly, Jeff didn’t feature on that track.)

  8. I played with Jeff a few times, most notably on the Madonna album ‘I’m Breathless’ – that’s me and him on Hanky Panky!

    He was a lovely man and just the most ridiculously brilliant drummer.

    x Guy

    1. “Ridiculously brilliant” indeed!

      He was non-indulgent (unless it was necessary) and able to successfully direct his virtuoso fellow band members and help keep them in line to make sense of it all. Thus, we are all the better for it because of the timeless music that he was a part of that we can all enjoy.

      It’s also nice to know that he was a lovely man. Thanks for that Guy.

    2. Guy,

      I just wanted to say G’day, so G’day. I hope to see ya down under again soon, I need another good laugh.

      I loved the book, it’s the first one I’ve read in 30 years.

      Being involved in the automotive industry, I’m just wondering, do you drive? No mention of a car in your book. Ha Ha. 🙂

  9. That’s some list of sessions.

    Tommy Bolin’s “Teaser” album from ’75 is one I haven’t listened to in years. I’ll dust it down tonight and give it a spin.

    I also enjoyed the Joe Cocker track “I Can’t Stand the Rain” and “I.G.Y” by Donald Fagen.

    I noticed lots of new names to add to the last two posts!

    Arthur – Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)
    Steve Camp – Cheap Grace
    Larry Carlton – Song for Katie

    1. Not to forget our discussion of best and worst record sleeves. Did you see Cher’s earlier one? Blimey.

  10. Apart from David’s solo stuff then:

    Paul McCartney – ‘Silly Love Songs’
    Peter Frampton – ‘Friday On My Mind’
    Alison Moyet – ‘Weak In The Presence of Beauty’
    Sonny & Cher – ‘It never Rains In Southern California’
    B52’s – ‘Hot Pants Explosion’

    I thought this version of ‘Africa’ was really well done (still prefer the original though).

    1. I have no words to describe what I just saw and heard. This is a must see. Thanks for finding and sharing that with us Lorraine!

  11. Hi mates,

    off topic, but it’s time for summer days.

    Since next Sunday I’m going to think about you spreading on the sand near Gallipoli (Puglia). It’s a very nice place aka “Maldive di Puglia”: sea as a glass and sun as a fireball… just with music, books, family and friends.

    Have a nice summer time you all and a hug for the “fantastic working man”, my FEd!!!

    diana

  12. Randomly listening to some songs by Toto, I found this one and I really liked it.

    The Blog is always a great source of information.

    Have a good weekend, FEd and everyone. 🙂

  13. Wow! A link to a site in French. Perfect. 😉

    I enjoyed reading his biography. I learnt he had a great passion for art in general and painting in particular. He was a painter, a sculptor, he did pretty good caricatures, drew cartoons. He exchanged drawings with another art lover: Miles Davis.

    I’m not sure if I like many of the songs he played on, they sound very 80s, not really my cup of tea, but these ones, yes:

    – ‘Murder’, ‘Mother’, ‘It’s A Miracle’.
    – David Crosby, ‘Through Your Hands’
    – Dire Straits, ‘Calling Elvis’
    – Michael Jackson, ‘Heal The World’
    – Claude Nougaro, ‘Kiné’
    – Poco, ‘Nothing To Hide’
    – Toto, ‘Dune’

    Now, definitely to throw into Room 101: Céline Dion, ‘Have A Heart’. 😉

  14. Toto was a great band, loved them and Rosanna.

    I didn’t know he passed away. Such a talent and so many great fills on About Face. So sad.

  15. So, Jeff Porcaro and Guy Pratt had some hanky panky while listening to Madonna…

  16. Off topic, sorry.

    Did you hear about the fire in Russia?

    That’s why I’ll never believe who says that nuclear plants are safe, because everything can be taken under control.

    By the way, this is a part of Greenpeace website created to convince us Italians who were going to vote in regional elections, to ask our politicians to say no to nuclear power plants.

    Did you see the campaign logo? Isn’t it brilliant?

    It perfectly expresses how I feel about nukes.

    1. It’s a terrifying scenario, Alessandra.

      Love the Greenpeace logo.

      With apologies for not being serious for a moment, what a picture of the marching guards from Reuters. So many possible captions…

    2. Caption :

      “You put your right leg in, you put your right leg out, in out, in out, shake it all about. You do the Hokey Cokey and you turn around…”

      ash (not at all silly) :))

    3. With apologies for not being serious for a moment, what a picture of the marching guards from Reuters. So many possible captions…

      :)) I thought you would have noticed it, FEd.

  17. He must have been a very busy man in his short 38 years. It a very impressive list. Once again thanks for the links, I’ve heard those songs a thousand times but I’ve never seen either of the clips before.

    I’m only going to name one, because it just sounds shit hot on vinyl.

    Donald Fagen – I.G.Y

  18. Toto’s Rosanna and Africa are the songs I’m most familiar with and fond of.

    Whilst perusing the link Totolegend, I came upon one of Toto’s songs titled George Porgy that I liked very much and which put me in mind of Steely Dan or Boz Scaggs. After some research I discovered that Joe Procaro, as well as others in Toto, were session musicians with both bands. Which leads me to…

    Don’t you think that being a session musician would be a terrific gig? Creating music of such diversity with artists like David Gilmour, Eric Clapton, Stan Getz, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Sergio Mendes, Bette Midler, Roy Orbison, etc., would have to be very satisfying.

    Some favorites from the tribute list are:

    Murder ~ David Gilmour
    Mother ~ Pink Floyd
    Beat It ~ Michael Jackson
    Calling Elvis & Heavy Fuel ~ Dire Straits
    Dirty Laundry & New York Minute ~ Don Henley
    I Keep Forgettin’ ~ Michael McDonald
    Lido Shuffle ~ Boz Scaggs
    FM ~ Steely Dan
    The Envoy & Mr. Bad Example ~ Warren Zevon
    I.G.Y. ~ Donald Fagen

    I played with Jeff a few times, most notably on the Madonna album ‘I’m Breathless’ – that’s me and him on Hanky Panky!

    He was a lovely man and just the most ridiculously brilliant drummer.

    x Guy

    So, last but not least, Madonna’s Hanky Panky because it features both Jeff Porcaro and favorite bassist, humourist, fantastic judge of character/talent, and all-around nice guy 😉 , Mr. Guy Pratt.

    Peace ‘n’ Love, 🙂
    Gabrielle

  19. Off topic.

    While Russian wildfires spread to 20 regions, now threatening nuclear sites, while Pakistan is underwater, while an ice island four times the size of Manhattan broke off from one of Greenland’s two main glaciers, climate change talks were held in Bonn – from August 2 to August 6 – but:

    “Global climate change talks have moved backwards since last year.” (Copenhagen) – from the BBC news-science & environment website.

    I’ve just read this article.

    Sad, but so predictable, no?

  20. I’m not very familiar with Toto’s work, I have of course heard Africa and Rosanna and possibly other bits.

    Jeff seems to have worked with a great many artists. From the site you linked to Fed, and that’s been a task trying to listen to everything, I liked:

    The B52’s
    Jackson Browne’s Pretender
    Dire Straits’ Calling Elvis
    David Gilmour’s About Face (all the tracks besides the four Jeff played on)
    Don Henley’s New York Minute
    Etta James’ Lovesick Blues
    Pink Floyd’s Mother
    Steeley Dan’s FM
    Rod Stewart’s The Motown Song
    Toto’s Don’t Chain My Heart
    Roger Waters’ It’s a Miracle

    ash

  21. Jeff Porcaro may have been a brilliant drummer but Steve Lukather of the band Toto is an overrated guitar player.

    That is just my opinion.

    Thanks.

    Andrew

  22. Hi to all good people out there.

    Really enjoyed Jeff Porcaro’s work with Steely Dan, and ‘comfortably dumbstruck’ to find out he played on ‘Mother’… what a knowledgeable and intellectually stimulating site this is.

    Plus Guy P played with Madonna… gee, he does get about a bit, doesn’t he?

    Best wishes

    Martin

  23. Jeff remains my all time favourite drummer. It’s hard to really pin point my top 5 but I’ll have a go!

    Brothers Johnson: Dancin’ Free (Hi-Hats!!)
    George Benson: Lady Love Me (One More Time) (Again – Hats!!)
    Jaye P. Morgan: Let’s Get Together
    Janne Schaffer: It’s Never Too Late
    Toto: White Sister

    There’s hundreds more on my JP playlist that all musicians should hear!!

    Peace.

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