Most recently, THB featured a songwriter that has dominated the decades they were present in – Max Martin. This edition, we go back further in time to focus on a musician that had a huge impact on the music world. Even if you don’t like his band, you’ve probably heard his music on the radio, even 28-years since he tragically died…. Jeff Porcaro (full name Jeffrey Thomas Porcaro, April 1, 1954 – August 5, 1992) was one of the most influential drummers of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, known as an incredibly sought after session musician and also as the drummer for the Grammy-award winning, platinum-certified rock band Toto, which he formed with his brothers Steve and Mike.

From the beginning of his career in 1971 as part of Sonny and Cher’s touring band to his untimely death in 1992 drummer Jeff Porcaro was one of the most widely recorded drummers of the 70’s and 80’s.  Music website AllMusic have this to say on the legendary percussionist: “It is no exaggeration to say that the sound of mainstream pop/rock drumming in the 1980s was, to a large extent, the sound of Jeff Porcaro.”

Jeff Porcaro session musician career

Between the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s, Porcaro did hundreds of sessions with a diverse range of artists. He came to prominence in 1974 working with jazz-fusion band Steely Dan and from there went from strength to strength working with many household names in the music industry, including Michael Jackson, the Bee Gees, Madonna and many, many more. When it came to popular music of the period, Porcaro’s beats were heard in disco tracks, progressive rock songs, jazz fusion, jazz and standard pop songs.

Selected collaborations

Some of artists Jeff Porcaro lent his drum talents to were (this may look like an extensive list, but it really is only a portion!):

  • 10cc (…Meanwhile, 1992)
  • Aretha Franklin (Aretha 1980; Love All The Hurt Away, 1981; Through the Storm, 1989)
  • Barbra Streisand (Songbird, 1978; Wet, 1979; Emotion, 1984; ‘Til I Loved You, 1988)
  • Bee Gees (Living Eyes, 1981)
  • Boz Scaggs (Silk Degrees, 1976; Down Two Then Left, 1977; Middle Man, 1980; Other Roads, 1988)
  • Celine Dion (Unison, 1990)
  • Cher (Bittersweet White Light, 1974; Love Hurts, 1991)
  • Daryl Hall & John Oates (Beauty on a Back Street, 1977)
  • David Gilmour (About Face, 1984)
  • Diana Ross (Baby, Its Me, 1977)
  • Dire Straits (Calling Elvis, 1991)
  • Don Henley (I Can’t Stand Still, 1982; The End of Innocence, 1989)
  • Donna Summer (Donna Summer, 1982)
  • Elton John (The Fox, 1981; Jump Up!, 1982)
  • Eric Clapton (Behind the Sun, 1985)
  • Etta james (Deep in the Night, 1978)
  • Jefferson Airplane (Jefferson Airplane, 1989)
  • Madonna (Like a Prayer, 1989; I’m Breathless, 1990)
  • Michael Bolton (Time, Love and Tenderness, 1991)
  • Michael Jackson (Thriller, 1982; Dangerous, 1991)
  • Nik Kershaw (The Works, 1990)
  • Paul McCartney (Give My Rgards to Broad Street, 1984)
  • Paul Simon (Hearts and Bones, 1983)
  • Pink Floyd the (The Wall, 1979 (“Mother”))
  • Pointer Sisters (Energy, 1978)
  • Randy Newman (Trouble in Paradise 1983; Land of Dreams, 1988)
  • Rod Stewart (Vagabond Heart 1991)
  • Roger Waters (Amused to Death, 1992)
  • Roy Orbison (King of Hearts, 1992)
  • Steely Dan (Pretzel Logic, 1974; Katy Lied, 1975; Gaucho, 1980)
  • The B-52s (Good Stuff, 1992)
  • Tom Waits (Swordfishtrombones, 1983)
  • Warren Zevon (Excitable Boy, 1978; The Envoy, 1982; Mr. Bad Example, 1991)

Career with Toto

As well as being a session drummer, Jeff Porcaro, along with brother Steve (and later their bassist brother Mike Porcaro joined too), guitarist Steve Lukather, keyboardist David Paich, vocalist Bobby Kimball, bassist David Hungate was a founding member of Toto.The band was formed when Paich – also a session musician -approached Porcaro about forming a band, and recruited other session musicians they had worked with.

With Toto he released the following albums:

  • Toto (1978)
  • Hydra (1979)
  • Turn Back (1981)
  • Toto IV (1982)
  • Isolation (1984)
  • Dune (1984)
  • Fahrenheit (1986)
  • The Seventh One (1988)
  • Kingdom of Desire (1992)

Porcaro’s drumming abilities are excellently showcased in the Toto hit, “Rosanna” which features his take on the half-time shuffle, combining the Purdie Shuffle with Jon Bonham’s “Fool in the Rain” shuffle. Watch it below: