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Columns > Mike Gruenberg - In My Life

Published: 2003/05/01
by Mike Gruenberg

Toto

Most of us have three different families. The first and most important family set is the one that we are born into. Although there are times when we wish we were not related to some of these family members, we are connected to these people for the rest of our lives. The second category of family involves the people we work with on a daily basis. Working with people for many years gives us a sense of sharing the highs and lows that life has to offer. We may not like all our co-workers, but in some cases they become close friends and often are regarded as a second family. Finally, the third category of family involves our friends outside of home and work. These are the people we choose to be our friends. We also have the option of ending the friendship since we won’t see them on a daily basis at work and we certainly won’t see them at Aunt Harriet’s funeral when the family gathers to pay their respects.
To me, following a rock group over a long period of time is similar to watching and participating in the adventures of a family. For example, rock groups go through times where we wonder how such a talented group of people could produce a record that is so bad. Much like our family, we rejoice when we are happy with our favorite band’s latest CD and we moan when we go to a concert where our favorite band seems to have forgotten how to play all those songs we know so well. We are pleased when the band stays together and we are sad when they break up. Art imitates life when tragedy strikes a band in the form of the death of one of its members. We see triumph, tragedy, birth and death in both our every day lives and in the evolution of our favorite bands.
On April 23, my wife and I went to see the band, Toto. This year, Toto celebrates 25 years as a band. Having a daughter that age gave me quite a perspective in the evolution of this band. Much like any family, they have survived over these 25 years by tasting success and suffering tragedy. But in the end, the performance we witnessed was testament to the fact that these guys are survivors and are doing quite well.
Founding members, David Paich and Jeff Porcaro were still in High School when they were working in the band that was backing up Boz Scaggs when they decided to form their own band in L.A. Joining them was Steve Lukather and Jeff Porcaro’s younger brother, Steve. They added singer, Bobby Kimball and bass player, David Hungate. And so, Toto was born. In 1977, they had hit records with "Hold the Line," "I’ll Supply the Love," and "Georgy Porgy." In 1978, they earned a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist.

In 1982, the band released the album, "Toto IV" and with this landmark effort, the songs "Rosanna" and "Africa" became true rock classics. At this time, bassist David Hungate leaves and is replaced by the third Porcaro brother, Mike who becomes the new bass player for the group.
In 1983, "Toto IV" was named "Album of the Year" and earned the group six Grammy nominations. This is truly a classic album and should definitely be resident in any record collection of a serious music aficionado.
The group continues to make records and tour extensively throughout the world. At the same time, all the group members work as session musicians playing on records with the most prominent of bands, Examine the musician credits on your favorite bands from the 80’s and 90’s and names like Jeff Porcaro and Steve Lukather are sure to be there.
In 1992, tragedy struck Toto. Their acknowledged leader, Jeff Porcaro dies of a heart attack from an allergic reaction to a garden pesticide. Family members and the music world were stunned to lose a person beloved by all the people who knew him. With a tour on the horizon, the band asks Simon Phillips to fill in for Jeff. He fills in and is later asked to join Toto.
The concert we saw on April 23, 2003 featured Steve Lukather, David Paich, Mike Porcaro, Simon Phillips and Bobby Kimball. It was a magical night! The band played for two hours with a very brief intermission. They featured selections from their latest album as well as all the hits that made them famous. The band immediately connected with the audience to make it a very special night.
The events that make up the story of the Toto family are probably not that much different from the events of your family. There are highs and lows, goods and bads, births and deaths, and most assuredly laughter and tears. But in the end, like all families the will to survive carried Toto to the triumphs they so richly deserve.
I am sure that most of you have some Toto albums in your collection. If you don’t, go out and buy "Toto IV" and enjoy yourself. If Toto is playing in your vicinity, go out and see them.

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