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)