Monday, March 27, 2023

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Sound Circuit

Toto… is waiting for you


Lead singer Joseph Williams, fourth from left, with fellow Toto band members. Photo submitted

Some songs are so familiar, the first time you heard them is ingrained into your memory. Humming the melody and singing them word for word, you know every riff and drum beat, harmonizing at the top of your lungs each time you hear the songs.

“Africa” by Toto is one of those songs, recently hitting one billion streams on Spotify. Earlier this year, Toto celebrated an accomplishment few bands have achieved in the modern era. Cumulative streams of the ensemble’s repertoire now exceed three billion plays, more than one billion of which emanate from “Africa.”

The 1982 album “Toto IV” won six Grammy awards and produced four Top 40 hits, including “Rosanna.” Toto has sold more than 40 million albums in their career. If you want to listen to “Africa” live for the first time — or the 42nd time — then get ready as Toto opens for Journey on March 28 at Wells Fargo Arena. 

Lead singer Joseph Williams spoke to CITYVIEW in advance of their tour.

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Original members, Williams and Steve Lukather, are joined by band members: bassist John Pierce (Huey Lewis and The News), drummer Robert “Sput” Searight (Ghost-Note, Snoop Dogg), keyboardist/background vocalist Steve Maggiora, keyboardist Dominique “Xavier” Taplin (Prince, Ghost-Note), and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Warren Ham (Ringo Starr). This line-up marks the 15th incarnation of Toto, when considering band members or sidemen who joined or exited.

Williams and others band members have toured off and on for the past 45 years. During one break from the band, Williams sang for the first “Lion King” movie, when the young adult Simba sings “Hakuna Matata.”

Williams said winning and being nominated for Grammys and other awards has been the highlight of his career.

“Winning the Grammy was an amazing, special thing,” he said. “It was the biggest highlight and so incredible early on to get that.”

Williams comes from a musical family. His father is composer John Williams, who is one of the most decorated composers of all time. John Williams has been nominated for more than 100 awards, winning dozens, including Grammys and Oscars for musical composition in “Jaws,” “Star Wars,” “E.T.,” “Indiana Jones” and more.

Williams said his father didn’t necessarily guide his rock ‘n’ roll career; however, he supported all his endeavors.

“I was into rock ‘n’ roll — he wasn’t. Dad helped my entire life. He understands music; he’s been my greatest teacher.”

Over the years, Toto developed a new fan base consisting of all age groups.

“The group Weezer put out ‘Africa.’ Younger people questioned where the song came from. We’ve had a resurgence from that festival,” he explained.

Decades ago, when he first began performing, he didn’t think the band would persevere. 

“I was surprised I was able to have a career in music. I had no idea I’d end up with Toto,” he reflected.

Last year, he recorded a new DVD, “With a Little Help from My Friends,” which captured a livestream recording during the pandemic. Numerous musicians helped virtually over four months. 

His life outside of touring and music is pretty simple. He enjoys spending time with his family, including hanging out with his young grandson and his daughter.

At the end of a concert, Williams is “pretty jacked up” and admits he’s “starving.” It takes him a few hours to wind down, yet he feels a sense of accomplishment no matter where he performs.

By the time the next concert rolls around, he’s ready to experience that feeling of elation. 

“We can’t wait to get out and play. We are thrilled to do live shows,” he said. “We love Des Moines fans and appreciate your loyalty. We’ve got new music, concerts and we can’t wait to give it all to you.” ♦

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