When discussing musical acts from the ‘70s who have managed to remain relevant heading into the 2020s, the love that still surrounds the band Toto is perhaps the most unexpected.
While the group has accounted for 17 studio albums and more than 40 million records sold worldwide over a span of four decades, much of that success can be boiled down to a period of roughly five years, from the release of their 1978 debut hit single “Hold the Line” to 1982’s “Rosanna” and 1983’s “I Won’t Hold You Back.”
Let’s not kid ourselves, though. As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti, the majority of audience members attending the Nov. 5 Toto concert at Durham’s Carolina Theatre be there for “Africa.” The song, the band’s only No. 1 single on Billboard, features lyrics that Toto’s Steve Lukather and Steve Porcaro admitted years later were “goofy” placeholders until they could return to the song and put more time into crafting it, only to figure they had spent enough time on something they viewed as filler.
The ode to the beauty of Africa by someone who only has seen it on television was the last song recorded for “Toto IV,” and barely made the cut when it was time to finalize the album. But it has gone on to become the rock group’s calling card for each generation that has come along since it was first released to radio airwaves.
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And it has seen a surprise resurgence, thanks to a cover of the song from Weezer, who released their rendition in May with a B-side of “Rosanna.” The single quickly found its way to the No. 1 slot on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart.
More on that in a bit.
But it’s clear that the love for “Africa” will live on, thanks to its appearances in pop culture. Whether in need of a song that cues up instant nostalgia for the ‘80s, or merely to soundtrack a moment of recorded giddiness, Toto remains the go-to for many creative minds.
In honor of those readying to hear the drums echoing in the night, we felt it was only right to share a few of our favorite callbacks. We didn’t even need a hundred men or more to do it.
1. Dax and Kristen’s wild adventure
Before married actors Kristen Bell (“The Good Place”) and Dax Shepard (“Parenthood”) became parents, they took one last big vacation together before future vacations would revolved around amusement parks. This decision led to an African safari, complete with a compilation video featuring air drumming and interpretive dance moves built around the sounds of ... you guessed it: “Africa.”
Shepard, writing on YouTube, points out, “Our sole objective was to rage hard and honor Toto properly.”
2. Social media keeps the memory alive
A website went viral on Aug. 1, 2017, and depending on how you view the masterminds behind the domain name — ibless.therains.downin.africa — it was because of that unwieldy URL (or maybe it was in spite of).
If you go to the site now, you’ll be met with a black screen that reads, “Sorry. This video does not exist.” In the waning months of summer 2017, though, it featured an endless loop of nothing but the video to “Africa.” We’re talking 24/7 “Africa.”
The VIP of keeping the Toto flame alight on social media has to be Twitter bot @africabytotobot, who has been tweeting the lyrics to “Africa” line by line, day by day, to its nearly 50,000 since August of 2016.
3. “South Park” Trumped It
When the first episode of “South Park”’s 20th season was forming in 2016, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone were in need of a song. Not just any song would do, however. It had to be a perfect fit for their new characters “Member Berries,” a spoof of the California Raisins, to sing when helping others reminisce about times they felt were better. So when taking a break from feeling equally nostalgic for everything from “The Bionic Man” to days before ISIS, what better way to unwind than by blessing the rains down in ... well, you know...
4. Thank you, Weezer
Weezer’s “Africa” became Toto’s first chart-topping hit in 10 years. Toto repaid the favor to Weezer by covering their classic, “Hash Pipe,” in August.
It marks only the latest reimagining of the song, which has led to its impact on every genre from bluegrass (Pickin’ on the Biggest Hits of the 1980s: Volume 2) to hip-hop. The latter format has offered samples of the songs in various forms since the ‘90s, with artists like Nas (1999’s “New World”) continuing to take inspiration from the beginning strains of the tune.
Who: Toto: The 40 Trips Around the Sun Tour
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 5
Where: Carolina Theatre, 309 W. Morgan St., Durham
Cost: $51.34; $60.64; $88.58
Info: CarolinaTheatre.org or 919-560-3030