Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Toto

While I am certainly a fan of the music of Toto on its own terms [1], the place of Toto within rock & roll music history is an intriguing one that is not particularly well known. Despite the fact that the band’s tumultuous lineup history was partly due to drug issues and various illnesses [2] and partly due to a revolving door lineup of lead-singers (apart from mainstay Steve Lukather), the band itself has a case for being inducted into the Hall of Fame as a band, a case that will be made here. An even stronger case, though, exists for giving the band the “award for musical excellence” for their work as backup musicians in the 1970’s, which gives them an odd place as a band that deserves recognition as sidemen and studio musicians as well as a rock & roll band on its own right.

The Influence Of Toto

Toto’s influence on rock & roll music is two-fold. On the one hand, the band was instrumental in promoting a polished Los Angeles studio quality to albums that made them regulars for bands like Steely Dan, Seals and Crofts, Boz Skaggs, Sonny and Cher, Chicago, and many others [3]. All Music joked that they were on half of the albums of the 1970’s so it only made sense for them to make their own music [4]. On the other hand, Toto as a band was well known for polished excellence in a variety of genres over the course of their career, from the soft-rock ballads I am particularly fond of [5] to quirky science fiction references (in what could be considered an early form of nerdcore, the hit song “99”), to hard rock and world beat material. These two threads are united by a common tendency, which is seeking excellence in craft rather than looking at music in a spontaneous or raw way. This commitment to professionalism is a hallmark of the career of Toto, and accounts for much of their influence as well as their distinct lack of critical acclaim.

Why Toto Deserves To Be In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

The music of Toto, whether it has been their writing and backup work for other artists, including composing most of the soundtrack for “Dune” and Michael Jackson’s hit song “Human Nature” [6], or whether it has been the music released under their own name, which includes such lasting and worthy songs such as “Hold The Line,” Rosanna,” “Africa,” “I Won’t Hold You Back,” “I’ll Be Over You,” and “Pamela,” including two multi-platinum albums, a platinum album, and three other gold albums, as well as a #1 hit, a #2 hit, two additional top ten hits, and five additional top 40 hits [7], has remained worthwhile and influential, including in odd ways like their habit of writing and naming songs after ladies (which would be rather awkward for some of us). Whether one looks at their own popular body of work or at their larger body of work as studio musicians even before becoming popular, work whose influence is demonstrated by the amount of support they were able to gather from musicians like two members of the Eagles, composer James Newton Howard, Michael McDonald, and others. Their entire body of work demonstrate a high attention to craft and a stylistic flexibility that has won them well-deserved and loyal fans who have stuck with them through thick and thin.

Why Isn’t Toto In The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Despite being the LA studio version of the famed Motown or Memphis or Muscle Shoals backing bands, Toto suffers from falling into a bit of an in-between space as far as musicians are concerned. For one, they are far too well-known as a band to be considered as sidemen whose career has been out of the limelight (such hands do not have an enduring career as bands, but are usually at best one-off studio acts or career journeymen like Leon Russell). On the other hand, the band has not reached the level of sales or popularity of other bands of their era that deserve induction like Foreigner or Journey either, which means that as a band they would probably have to wait to be in the second-wave of 1980’s pop-rock bands in terms of induction, or they would have to be among the most popular of “sidemen” to be inducted. While either is possible, the craft orientation of the band suggests that they might have to wait a while for induction (like The Hollies or other similar bands).

Verdict: These guys belong in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, as they are already well-deserved members of the Musicians’ Hall of Fame. I don’t think they are too broken up about not being inducted in the RRHOF at this time, but whether as sidemen for their stellar studio work or as a band in their own right, the core members of the band (Bobby Kimball, Steve Lukather, David Paich, Steve Porcaro, David Hurgate, Mike Porcano, and Jeff Porcaro, at a minimum, and maybe even Joseph Williams as well) deserve induction whenever the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame gets to its lengthy list of bands that merit induction from the late 1970’s and 1980’s [8].

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/i-guess-it-rains-down-in-africa/

[2] See, for example:

http://articles.latimes.com/1992-09-04/local/me-6355_1_jeff-porcaro

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=KppDAAAAIBAJ&sjid=tK4MAAAAIBAJ&dq=toto%20singer%20arrested&pg=1648%2C1915610

[3] See, for example:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toto_%28band%29

http://www.sealsandcrofts.com/lyricsgc.html

http://www.artistdirect.com/nad/store/artist/album/0,,159295,00.html

http://www.cherscholar.com/all-i-ever.htm

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-and-roll-hall-of-fame-chicago/

[4] http://www.allmusic.com/album/r20319

[5] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/giving-credit-where-credit-is-due-the-power-ballad/

[6] See, for example:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Nature

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/tell-em-that-its-human-nature/

[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toto_discography

[8] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/05/08/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-phil-collins/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-bryan-adams/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-talk-talk/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-kate-bush/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-tears-for-fears/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Music History, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Toto

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  4. Jay Careaga. says:

    They turned down a Rolling Stone cover story, THAT is what sealed their fate

  5. Sarah Murray says:

    I came home and immediately googled the band Toto! Here’s an interesting article I thought you would enjoy.

  6. Pingback: Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Huey Lewis & The News | Edge Induced Cohesion

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  9. T Gass says:

    How can a band that creates music, lyrics, sound and performances you cannot forget NOT be in the rock and roll hall of fame?

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