Jeff Porcaro

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Julia Stoff

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prasa > Billboard, 22 sierpień 1992

Billboard, August 22, 1992

Music Biz Grieves Loss Of Porcaro

By Melinda Newman and Deborah Russell

From the start of his career, Jeff Porcaro was viewed as one of the music industry's top drummers. Porcaro, who died Aug. 5 at the age of 38, possessed an impeccable sense of rhythm as well as a versatility that bridged virtually every style.
Among the hundreds of albums he played on were Boz Scaggs' "Silk Degrees" (for which he wrote "Lowdown" and "Lido Shuffle") [sic], Dire Straits" "On Every Street", Michael Jackson's "Thriller", Elton John's "Jump Up", Don Henley's "End Of The Innocence", Warren Zevon's "Excitable Boy", Rickie Lee Jones' debut, and, most recently, Bruce Springsteen's "Human Touch".
"He was the single most beloved musician that I can think of," says producer Danny Kortchmar, who worked on projects with Porcaro for 20 years. "The music scene will never be the same. He had so much character and personality. If you had him on drums for a session, it was like an event."
A partial list of other artists he played with includes Bonnie Raitt, the Bee Gees, Jackson Browne, Michael McDonald, Lowell George, Hall & Oates, Etta James, Joe Cocker, Nils Lofgren, Manhattan Transfer, Greg Lake, George Benson, Larry Carlton, Peter Frampton, Airplay, Peter Allen, America, and Stanley Clarke.
More than 1,500 people attended a memorial service for Porcaro, held Aug. 10 at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles. Porcaro died of cardiac arrest after developing an allergic reaction to a pesticide he was spraying in his garden (Billboard, Aug. 15).
Sony Music president Tommy Mottola recalls working with Porcaro when he was managing Hall & Oates. "He was playing on 'Don't Change' on the 'Beauty On The Back Street' album. I remember standing with Daryl and John and thinking, 'My God, he's like a monster.' He was a brilliant, brilliant musician and a great guy, whose talent was unending. I rank him as one of the best in the world."
Porcaro was born into a musical family. His father, Joe, a top percussionist who played with Severin Browne and Johnny Cash, among others, exposed all of his children to music early. "Jeff's mom used to burp him by patting his back to the rhythm of the cymbal beat," said Porcaro's godfather, Emil Richards, during the funeral service.
"Jeff was Joe's baby. He was the first born and a lot of Joe went into Jeff and then Jeff just took the ball and slam-dunked it," says John Robinson, a top L.A. session drummer, and Porcaro's friend for almost 15 years.
Porcaro began playing professionally while attending Grant High School in California's San Fernando Valley. He was still in his teens when he became the drummer for "The Sonny & Cher Show."
His work on that show led to a long-term affiliation with Steely Dan's Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. Steely Dan's producer Gary Katz read a letter from Becker and Fagen at the memorial service that recounted their first meeting with Porcaro: At the suggestion of guitarist Denny Dias, they hired him to play on a Schlitz commercial.
"So in the hopes that we could wrangle an invite to a barbecue at Sonny & Cher's deluxe beachhouse, we hired him...The Schlitz people took a 'Pasadena" on the ad, but Jeff was a keeper, not only as a musician, but as a friend...," the pair wrote in the letter.

Toto's Triumph
Porcaro built a reputation as a premier drummer and in 1977 formed Toto with his brother Steve, David Paich, Steve Lukather, Bobby Kimball, and David Hungate. A success from the start with its first single "Hold The Line", the group hit its peak in 1982 with "Toto IV". The album won seven Grammy Awards that year, including album of the year and record of the year.
Toto recently completed a new album that will be released in Europe, Japan, and Australia--markets where the band remains a huge seller--in September. According to band management, there were also plans to start rehearsals for a world tour later this month. The remaining members of the band decided after Porcaro's death to proceed with plans to do a tour in Porcaro's memory.
Influenced by his father, Porcaro's playing often came from a jazz background, which many felt was part of what made him so special. "A lot of jazz musicians can't play rock and don't understand it or play it condescendingly; the same is true with a lot of studio musicians," says Kortchmar. "You really have to play from the soul; it's not just technique. And that was the amazing thing about Jeff; he was the only drummer I knew with jazz training who could play rock'n'roll and not betray his jazz roots. Kortchmar recalls one session he had with Porcaro that highlighted his special touch. Porcaro was working on "New York Minute", a track from Henley's "End Of The Innocence". "He had to change from sticks to one stick and one brush and back to sticks about three or four times," Kortchmar says. "And he played it right through all on one take. How many guys can do that? If he wasn't available for that track, I would have just waited until he was."

'The Epitome Of Style'
Drummer Robinson notes Porcaro's sense for the entire musical piece, not just the rhythm. "Jeff had excellent song sense. He understood not just rhythm, but melody and harmony and song form, and had a real quick retention. When you heard him play on a record, you knew it was Jeff. He was the epitome of style."
Drummer Jim Keltner was one of Porcaro's biggest influences, but at the memorial service, Keltner said he learned much from Porcaro as well.
"Jeffrey has never stopped inspiring me since the day I met him," eulogized Keltner. "He possessed all of the qualities a drummer should have; and I don't know how he got all of them in such a rare combination, but he did: imagination, articulateness, the deep, deep wonderful pocket that they call the groove, and the feeling. Most of all, he had that TIME that was just straight from heaven. Nobody did it better than Jeff.
"In the past, when I would hear the songs that Jeff played on the radio, I would stop, turn it up, and listen. I would study, check, and be so inspired," Keltner continued. "Now of course, I'll also be crying my eyes out because it's going to be so much more special."

The 'Gaucho' Sessions
More than anything, Porcaro's friends remember just how much he loved to play and that, take after take, he gave his all. At the service, Katz recalled a grueling recording session for the title track of Steely Dan's "Gaucho".
He said Fagen and Becker were frustrated and ready to throw out the tune. They left the studio, but Katz and Porcaro remained, trying to find some way to make it work.
At six in the morning, Katz, Porcaro, and the engineer had 75 takes, charted out bar by bar. They edited 42 different takes into one in the hopes that Becker and Fagen would like the end result.
"When Becker and Fagen heard it they said, 'Well, there's another track,' and that was a smile that Jeff and I both shared together, and it's a smile we continued to share together from time to time over the years," Katz said.
Springsteen eulogized Porcaro from the stage during a concert Aug. 6, before launching into "Human Touch". At the funeral service, a letter from Springsteen to Porcaro's wife, Susan, was read. It said: "When I met Jeff, I felt like I'd found a kindred soul 3,000 miles from home. He had a tremendous beauty to his playing that went beyond craft and precision into the realm of the spirit. It was with that spirit that he graced and blessed my music. He was a soul man."
Though Porcaro's musical contributions will be sorely missed, it is his humor and quick laugh that many of his friends say they mourn the most. "What I'll miss about Jeffrey is that he was the greatest audience," Keltner said. "I could make him laugh hysterically, and that's one thing I'm really proud of. I'll never forget his laugh, his great smile."
As Porcaro's friends and family carry on, Kortchmar tries to put on a brave face. "When Jeff died, he knew how people felt about him because everybody told him they loved him all the time. That's the only good spin I can put on it; he knew how loved and just how special he was."
Porcaro is survived by his wife, Susan; sons Christopher, Miles, and Niko; parents Joe and Eileen; brothers Michael and Steve; and sister Joleen. The family has established a memorial fund in Porcaro's name to benefit Grant High School's music department.