Toto, “White Sister” from Hydra (1979): Toto Tuesdays

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“…How can you touch the sorrow
With a leather gloved hand
When you summon the winds of anger
Just as fast as you can
You crucify an orphan
With the rainbow in your eyes
Then you send out invitations
And address them with his cries…”

How can you not scratch your head a lyrics like that? Toto’s lyrics on “White Sister,” probably penned mostly by vocalist Bobby Kimball with contributions by co-writer David Paich, combine mysticism, hard rock strut and progressive rock obliqueness.

I’ve listened to this song from 1979’s Hydra countless times and wondered: Who is the white sister, and what exactly is her game? Is the white sister cocaine? Heroin? Is she a toxic love? Perhaps this is irrelevant as “White Sister” is the hardest-rocking Toto song on this album — and one of the hardest rockers the band has ever done.

The piano-driven intro melds perfectly into the snare drum filled beat. Bobby Kimball’s vocals are power and clear. The double-tracked backing vocals of Kimball, Steve Lukather and David Paich explore even more of the sonic range of the song, with Kimball exercising his upper range to lead the ensemble. David Hungate’s bass is perfectly intertwined with Lukather’s Ibanez guitar.

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Steve Porcaro has little to do until the bridge, but then chimes in with unique synthesizer textures which recall those provided on the title track from Hydra. Toto foregoes typical rock song arrangements with a progressive rock style piano breakdown, before Steve Lukather peels of one of his most blistering guitar solos.

“White Sister” is another example of Toto pulling off the unexpected. At this point in Hydra, all themes seem to have been thrown out of the window, but who cares? There is too much good music to enjoy.

Toto Tuesdays is a song-by-song feature that explores the rich musical history of Toto. The group returned in 2015 with ‘Toto XIV,’ their first album since 2006.

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at
Preston Frazier
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