Today, we take a look at the surprising origins of Toto’s hit song, “Africa.”
This is Quite a Story, a sort of catch-all feature where I share short, interesting anecdotes from interviews or books that don’t really fit into any other feature.
Sorry for the delay. I meant to do this yesterday (if you’ve noticed, I’m trying my best to do a feature a day, with each day of the week getting its own distinctive feature) but was distracted when I came across that “improvised slap” story that led to yesterday’s Just a Reminder post.
The song has typically been a bit of a mystery, as the lyrics make it SOUND like a romantic song, but IS it?
It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you
There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
I bless the rains down in Africa
Gonna take some time to do the things we never had
Luckily, Grantland’s Melissa Locker interviewed Toto keyboardist David Paitch, who wrote the song, and he explained its origins:
I would see UNICEF commercials on TV, way back in the day, and I was a big reader of National Geographic. I’ve just always kind of been fascinated with Africa. I just kind of romanticized this story about a social worker that was over there, that falls in love and can’t — is having kind of a paradox, trying to tear himself away from Africa to actually have a life.
I went to an all-boys Catholic school, and there were a lot of brothers that were teaching us there, and they were going to Africa and coming back. A lot of them were deciding whether to go into the priesthood, or whether to get married or not, and there were a lot of issues — like, celibacy was obviously a big issue. I had all these things rattling about in my brain when I was writing the song. All these thoughts about priests and young social workers that have gone over there, devoting their lives to helping people, and having to choose what kind of life they’re going to have — whether to keep doing this, what I’m doing here, or can I have a life, get married, have kids, and do that kind of thing. So it was a life choice mixed in with a geographical fascination there.
The full interview is great, especially Paitch discussing how weird it was when the song blew up.
If you see any interesting anecdotes from interviews or books that you think would be worth spotlighting, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.