Remembering Mike Porcaro, late bassist with Toto: ‘One of the greatest musicians and finest men I’ve ever known’

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For bandmates like Steve Lukather, there likely is some consolation in knowing they had the late Mike Porcaro’s blessing as he battled ALS. Lukather says he sent Porcaro a copy of Toto’s forthcoming album Toto XIV, in what turned out to be the final weeks of his life, and that Mike Porcaro approved.

“I did play the record for Mike, as a matter of fact, in one of my last visits with him,” Lukather told us, in an exclusive Something Else! Sitdown held days before Porcaro died. “You don’t know whether to play the record for him or not, whether it’s going to make him happy or it’s going to make him remember that he’s not part of it and can’t play anymore. But he whispered to me, ‘Yeah, man. I want to hear it. Send it to me.’ I said, ‘OK, bro, but just remember that your blood is in every track.’ The next morning, I got a text back from [Mike Porcaro’s wife] Cheryl saying how much he loved the album. He thought it was amongst one of our best, and I know he really meant it. He always told you just how he thinks. It was nice to get his seal of approval.”

The 59-year-old Porcaro, a member of Toto from 1982 until he was diagnosed in 2007, died early this morning (March 15, 2015). “Our brother Mike passed away peacefully in his sleep at 12:04 a.m., last night at home surrounded by his family,” Toto’s Steve Porcaro has confirmed. “Rest in peace, my brother.”

Mike Porcaro took over for original Toto bassist David Hungate, just after the group’s breakout album Toto IV. Together, he and Toto released a pair of gold-selling albums in 1984’s Isolation and 1986’s Fahrenheit, as well as the well-regarded Kingdom of Desire in 1993 and 2006’s Falling in Between — Toto’s last studio effort. Hungate has, more recently, returned to the Toto lineup for a tour in support of Toto XIV.

“We’ve lost one of the greatest musicians and finest men I’ve ever known,” Hungate said this afternoon. “Mike Porcaro was a hero and an inspiration to me — as a bassist, and as a person. I first met Mike and heard him play shortly after I moved to L.A. in ’71 when I stopped by the Porcaros’ house to pick Jeff up for a gig. He was 14 or 15 and completely blew me away, and still does after all these years as I’ve spent the past couple of months preparing for Toto’s next tour, listening to his brilliance every day. That will never fade and will continue to be an inspiration to me, and a standard to aspire to.”

Like Lukather, Hungate had recently made a pilgrimage to see Mike Porcaro, and said he treasured the opportunity to reminesce. “His final years were spent in a fight with a terrible disease,” Hungate added. “He faced his struggle with courage and dignity. I was privileged to spend a couple hours with him last summer. We talked about old times, the house at 4428 Kraft where he and Cheryl lived after I’d lived there, Jeff, Toto, life. I wouldn’t trade those couple of hours for anything.”

Jeff Porcaro, Steve and Mike Porcaro’s brother, was also a founding member of Toto, and passed in 1992, just after Kingdom of Desire was completed. Lukather said the sessions for the new Toto XIV were dominated by thoughts of both Porcaros.

“That makes the whole thing bittersweet,” Lukather told Something Else!, “but those guys are always in the room with us. Getting Mike’s thumbs up really meant a lot to me, because he’s been my brother since I was 15 years old — and he was a huge part of this band.”

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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