You can still hear it blasting out of classic rock and golden oldies stations all over the world, and against all odds, Toto’s “Africa” has become a millennial anthem 35 years later.
The rousing rocker is enjoying a second life thanks in part to the internet, and web users have embraced the song as a guilty pleasure. One Twitter account called “Africa by Toto Bot” tweets lyrics from the song every three hours.
There is a website devoted to playing the song on a continual loop, and there are countless covers and affectionate reinterpretations on YouTube, including an 8-bit version that makes it sound like a classic Nintendo game.
The tune even got some love during Grammy Week in New York. DJ Z-Trip mixed a portion of “Africa” with tracks from Drake and Rihanna into his set at a Spotify party honoring the Best New Artist nominees.
It’s the song that will not die, and, naturally, it takes pride of place on Toto’s upcoming 40th anniversary compilation “40 Trips Around the Sun” (out Friday, Feb. 9).
“It boggles my mind that it has these social media legs,” keyboardist and co-songwriter David Paich, now 63, tells The Post. “It makes me laugh, smile and cry from happiness.”
The song hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 in 1983 but the group — formed in 1976 by Paich, drummer Jeff Porcaro, his brother Steve on keyboards, bassist David Hungate, guitarist Steve Lukather and singer Bobby Kimball — has long been a punching bag for critics.
Rolling Stone described the album “Toto IV” (which features “Africa”) as “about as real as a Velveeta-orange polyester leisure suit.” Even as recently as 2007, “Africa” was singled out by the Guardian as containing some of the worst lyrics of all time.
But while the too-cool-for-school crowd might scoff, Toto is having the last laugh. Aside from its life on the internet, “Africa” is still regularly used on TV shows, such as “Stranger Things” and “South Park.”
“We joke about David having a solid gold golf cart that he uses just to pick up the millions of dollars in checks,” Lukather tells The Post.
Don’t let the references to Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti fool you, because “Africa” wasn’t directly inspired by the natural beauty of the continent, as the song would have you believe. Instead, it was the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens that sparked the idea.
One of the visitors to the African Pavilion that year was a 10-year old Jeff Porcaro. Already an aspiring musician (his father, Joe, was a much-sought-after jazz and rock percussionist), Jeff was transfixed by the African drummers performing at the event.
“Jeff absorbed a lot of global and ethnic music as a child,” says Paich. “That’s why I asked him to co-write ‘Africa’ because I knew he would bring that to the song.”
Porcaro died in 1992 of a heart attack, but in a 1988 interview with Modern Drummer, he recalled how important witnessing the African drummers was in nailing the song’s distinctive opening rhythm. “I was trying to get the sounds … I heard at the New York World’s Fair.”
Paich adds that the lyrics were partly inspired by priests who taught at his Catholic boys school. “They would tell me about how they used to work in Africa as missionaries, and they would bless the books, bless the crops and bless the rains. ‘Africa’ is about a guy working down there who’s lonely and needs a companion.”
But Paich admits to feeling some embarrassment about the song’s video, which features very literal and crude imagery of Africa. “If I could have a redo on Toto’s career, I would probably redo the video.”
It’s probably the only regret they do have about the song, because “Africa” is continuing to lead a resurgence of interest in the group. Not only are they capitalizing with this new compilation, they’re also preparing to embark on an arena tour in Europe.
“God bless the young people who are getting into us,” says Lukather, 60. “Come see us; we’re a bunch of old guys but we still play pretty good!”