Saturday, February 5, 1983

Toto hit #1 with “Africa”



Writer(s): David Paich, Jeff Porcaro (see lyrics here)

First Charted: October 29, 1982

Peak: 11 US, 3 CB, 2 GR, 2 RR, 5 AC, 3 UK, 11 CN, 5 AU, 16 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 6.0 US, 1.8 UK, 8.89 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 855.0 video, 1475.62 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“Africa” was the third single from Album of the Year Grammy winner Toto IV. The lead single, “Rosanna,” was a #2 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and won the Grammy for Record of the Year. The follow-up, “Make Believe,” was a minor hit, peaking at #30. “Africa,” however, went all the way to the top of the charts and, thanks to a revival in the 2010s, ended up selling over 4 million copies in the United States. In December 2017, a 14-year-old girl launched a viral Twitter campaign to get the band Weezer to record the song. They did – and it gave the band their first Hot 100 hit since 2009. SF

The band’s keyboardist, David Paich, created what became the song’s opening riff when playing around with a new keyboard. Regarding the lyrics, bandmate Jeff Porcaro joked that “a white boy is trying to write a song on Africa, but since he’s never been there, he can only tell what he’s seen on TV or remembers in the past.” WK Paich said he watched a TV documentary about the suffering in Africa and imagined how he’d feel if he was there. He based the landscape descriptions on a National Geographic article. WK He’s also said the song isn’t about a romance, but a man’s love of a continent. WK

Band members Steve Porcaro and Steve Lukather have described the song as a dumb experiment with goofy lyrics as placeholders. Porcaro said it was the last song the band recorded and it barely made the album. WK Lukather said it was the worst song on the album. SF

The video was directed by Steve Barron, who would go on to do classics like a-ha’s “Take on Me” and Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing.” Paich is in a library doing research, trying to match a scrap of a picture to the book from which it was torn. His efforts are interspersed with shots of a spinning globe and the band performing. It’s “a very stylized, conceptual video with memorable imagery and an abstract storyline…What’s going on is clearly open to interpretation.” SF


  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Toto
  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 567.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia

Related Links:

First posted 11/17/2019; last updated 7/14/2023.

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