Getting to Know the Master Drummer, Jeff Porcaro
It was April Fool's Day (April 1) in 1954 when Jeff Porcaro was born in Connecticut. He was raised by a family of musicians: his grandfather Giuseppe Porcara (took the name Porcaro later), played snare drum for an Italian symphonic band; his father was Joe Porcaro, a jazz drummer and percussionist who himself worked with big bands in his career. Porcaro's first music teacher was his father. His younger brothers Steve and Michael were also reared to be musicians. On Sundays, the siblings would be heard playing drums in the family room.
Jeff Left High School To Play With Sonny And Cher
Jeff started playing drums sincerely at the age of seven but he revealed that he actually started at a much younger age. When he reached the age of sixteen, he had his formal drumming lessons with the likes of Richard Lepore and Bob Zimmitti. Though he left high school during his senior year to play with Cher and Sonny in Las Vegas, he always reminded young and budding drummers to finish their studies first before chasing musical fame and fortune.
Jeff Porcaro Artistry
Precise, snappy, powerful yet unobtrusive drumming characterizes the mainstream pop/rock music of the mid 1970s to 1980s. This style, which even to this day remains as the benchmark for many rock drummers, was brought to the music scene by American drummer, songwriter and producer Jeffrey Thomas "Jeff" Porcaro.
Jeff's enormous fame is attributed to his co-founding of the Grammy award-winning, platinum-selling rock band "Toto." Jeff Porcaro was one of the most recorded musicians in history. His drumming emanates from over 700 albums and countless musical sessions. His enthusiasm to share his talent and perseverance to excel in his craft made a huge and lingering impact on the music industry.
Porcaro Music Career
In 1977, Jeff Porcaro founded the rock band Toto with keyboardist David Paich. Paich and most of the band members were acquaintances from the school where Jeff attended, the Ulysses S. Grant High School in Los Angeles. Jeff's brothers, Mike (bass) and Steve (keyboard) were also included in the lineup (Mike joined Toto in 1982).
At the age of 28, Jeff reached the peak of his career and received enormous recognition and respect that only few players could gain in a lifetime. He had flawless rhythm and could get into the groove of virtually every music style.
Toto And The Porcaro Family Conquered The Grammy In 1982
Toto's self-titled first album was a hit with more than two million records sold in 1978. It showed off sophisticated arrangements and rhythms with a touch of funk. Toto conquered the Grammy in 1982, garnering seven awards and nine nominations. They bagged record of the year award for "Rosanna" and album of the year for "Toto IV." Their other Top 40 hits were "Hold the Line" (1978); "I'll Supply the Love," "99," and "Georgy Porgy" in 1979; "Africa" (co-written by Jeff Porcaro) in 1982, and "I Won't Hold You Back" in 1983.
Jeff Porcaro Is One Of The Most Heard Drummers In The World
Jeff played on several hundred albums including Boz Scaggs's "Silk Degrees" album where he wrote "Lido Shuffle" and "Lowdown." He was also part of other popular albums such as "Thriller" (Michael Jackson), "End of Innocence" (Don Henley), "Jump Up" (Elton John), "On Every Street" (Dire Straits), "Excitable Boy" (Warren Zevon), "Human Touch" (Bruce Springsteen), and Rickie Lee Jones' debut album.
Some other artists he played with: Paul McCartney, Madonna, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Pink Floyd, Lionel Richie, Aretha Franklin, Jackson Browne, Steely Dan, Eric Clapton, Miles Davis, Rickie Lee Jones, Paul Simon, Al Jarreau, the Bee Gees, Michael McDonald, Joe Cocker, Stan Getz, Christopher Cross, James Newton-Howard, the Four Tops, Natalie Cole, Bonnie Raitt, Paul Anka, Eric Carmen. The list goes on and on.
At age of 38, Jeff Porcaro's untimely demise shocked the world. At that time, he was preparing to endorse Toto's forthcoming album, "Kingdom of Desire" in an international concert tour. In the afternoon of the 5th of August in 1992, the rock star fell ill after suffering from allergies triggered by an insecticide he used in his yard. Jeff died later that evening.
The autopsy revealed the cause of death as heart attack due to atherosclerosis. A report coming from the Los Angeles County Coroner's office was issued a month later. It revealed that minute traces of cocaine in his body induced the attack. Cocaine is known to stay in the body for several years. Many people close to him contended that Jeff had been "clean" for many years.
Thousands of people mourned for Jeff Porcaro at his funeral. Today, the music and art department of Grant High School in Los Angeles is the beneficiary of the Jeff Porcaro Memorial Fund. Four Grant High School seniors are also granted scholarships every year.
A star-studded memorial concert for Jeff was held on December 14, 1992. It was lead by Toto, and artists like George Harrison, Donald Fagen, Don Henley, Michael McDonald, David Crosby, Boz Scaggs, and Eddie Van Halen performed as well. The concert's proceeds went to his son's educational trust fund.
Learn From Jeff Porcaro
To be a top drummer in music styles like pop and rock it is often said that you can't get a better school than listening to songs Jeff Porcaro played on. Many drummers think his drumming is beyond perfect. He was the most respected session drummer of his time, and his talent, his approach, his perfect timing and feel is still today something musicians talk about and are trying to copy. As a drummer said "if you can learn just 1/10 of Jeff Porcaro's groove, timing and feel you are ready for the big gigs. That's how good he was".
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