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Joe Porcaro (1930–2020), jazz drummer who played with his sons’ band, Toto

by Linnea Crowther

Joe Porcaro was a drummer who recorded with decades of musical superstars and contributed percussion to his sons’ band, Toto, including on their hit song “Africa.”

Jazz, rock, and pop

Porcaro was a sought-after session drummer, and he recorded with greats across genres for more than 40 years. Among the artists whose records include Porcaro’s drumming are Rosemary Clooney (1928 – 2002), Nancy Sinatra, Glenn Campbell (1936 – 2017), the Rolling Stones, Stan Getz (1927 – 1991), Donna Summer (1948 – 2012), Pink Floyd, and Madonna. In addition, he played on hundreds of film and television scores. Porcaro was the father of Jeff (1954 – 1992), Mike (1955 – 2015), and Steve Porcaro, who formed the rock band Toto. Porcaro contributed percussion to six of their albums, including their Grammy-winning 1982 smash hit “Toto IV.” His bass marimba helped drive the enduringly popular track “Africa.” Porcaro also led the jazz ensemble the Joe Porcaro Quartet, and he was a drum instructor.

Porcaro on his style as a drummer

“I’m not really wild about solos, but if a drum solo is musical, it can be beautiful… I like to feel I’m the backbone of the rhythm section but I don’t want to be a drummer who just keeps time for everybody. It all depends on what the rest of the rhythm section is like. When everybody is playing time the same way, I like to get loose and stretch out a little bit.” —from a 1978 interview with Modern Drummer

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What people said about him

Full obituary: Billboard

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