Today marks the 26th anniversary of Jeff Porcaro’s death. The drumming virtuoso, whose name is synonymous with the famous half-time “Rosanna shuffle,” would have been 64 this year. He died at age 38 of a heart attack. Here we celebrate the man and the legacy with some of his songs and lessons.
Porcaro got his start touring and recording with Sonny and Cher as a teenager, before heading on to play with Seals & Crofts, Boz Scaggs, and Steely Dan, and then eventually forming the hit group Toto. He was also one of the most in-demand session drummers of all time, having worked for Michael Jackson, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Aretha Franklin, Chicago, Pink Floyd, and many, many others.
“He was one of the most generous people I ever met,” said Don Henley at Porcaro’s tribute in 1992. “When he came to a session he would light up the room with his enthusiasm. And he didn’t care if the clock was going late. He wasn’t worried about what he was getting paid, or any of that. He was there for the music, and was there with everything he had. He really made you feel comfortable. Jeff was one of the best drummers in the world.”
Above is a 30-minute instructional video he recorded with Hal Leonard, in which Porcaro gives the back story and a lesson on the Rosanna shuffle, and much more.
Steely Dan, “Bad Sneakers”
Porcaro recorded nine tracks on Steely Dan’s Katy Lied album, including “Black Friday,” and “Daddy Don’t Live In That New York City No More.”
Perhaps the band’s best-known song, “Africa” went to No. 1 on the Billboard Charts in 1983.
Michael Jackson, “Human Nature”
Jeff’s brother Steve Porcaro wrote “Human Nature” in 1982, and Jeff played drums on four Thriller tracks, including “Beat It,” and “The Girl Is Mine.”
Bruce Springsteen, “Human Touch”
Porcaro drummed on Springsteen’s ninth studio album Human Touch, which included “Real Man,” “The Long Goodbye,” and “Lucky Town.”
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