Toto's 1982 hit was probably Jeff Porcaro's finest five minutes and 30 seconds: his shuffle is sublime and still a benchmark for that groove. It was for this track in particular that Porcaro earned his reputation as the 'man with the golden feel'.
When you think about it, 'Beat It' was probably the most awesome musical collaboration of all time. The King Of Pop, at the very top of his game, brought in Eddie Van Halen to do the track's distinctive guitar part, and Jeff Porcaro to provide the urgent, funky and very tight beats that drive the song.
Jeff joined Donald Fagen and Walter Becker in the much-lauded US jazz-rock-pop group for the first time on Pretzel Logic, and stayed with them for 1975’s Katy Lied. Bad sneakers and pina colada… Jeff’s jazzy groove gave the track a sophisticated lounge feel.
Former Steve Miller Band guitarist and vocalist Boz was massive in the US in the '70s, and this disco-tinged soul track features a tight drum pattern; prescient of Jeff's super-tight almost drum-machine like grooves on 1980s hits.
Jeff's driving, funky shuffle makes Mark Knopfler and co's final album an essential listen from a band arguably on the wane. Sadly, the video - featuring Gerry Anderson Thunderbird puppets of the band - didn't include one of Jeff.
Jeff showed his human touch on The Boss's 1992 hit with an awesome cross-stick based groove that underpinned Bruce's soulful side. Jeff partners future X-Factor judge Randy Jackson on bass. A great example of playing for the song with both personality and subtle brilliance.
As great as he is, Floyd drummer Nick Mason famously found some of Roger Waters' odd time signatures a bit of a bugger. Enter Porcaro, who makes the track's shifting time signatures - varying between waltz-time, 5/4 and 9/8 - look easy.
'Running With The Night'
The Commodores' smoothie's second single from his 1983 album was a Toto collaboration, featuring a guitar solo by Steve Lukather, and some fantastic drumming from Jeff Porcaro, who lays down a tasty and typically-'80s pop-funk groove throughout.
The Gibb brothers' 16th album was chosen to be the first CD ever manufactured, fact fans. It also featured Jeff Porcaro and Steve Gadd sharing drum duties. On the title track the playing is unspectacular but unarguably tight as Jeff backs up the toothy falsetto family.
'What A Fool Believes'
A mark of Jeff's reputation was his inclusion on legendary soul diva Aretha Franklin on an album already over-staffed with the drumming talent. Bernard Purdie, Steve Jordan and James Gadson also feature. 'What A Fool...' is sublimely groovy, setting an early benchmark for 1980s soul drumming.
Read more about the great Jeff Porcaro in May’s Rhythm.