Was Toto’s “Rosanna” Really About Rosanna Arquette?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC LEGEND: Toto’s “Rosanna” was about Rosanna Arquette.

Toto was a long-lived band that was particularly popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The band was unique in that it was made up of musicians who were veteran musicians working on albums for OTHER bands and performers. They were the session musicians you call in to do your album.

A group of these session guys got together and formed their own band, and they won the Grammy for Best New Artist in 1977.

In 1982. the band hit its zenith in popularity with the multi-Grammy award winning album, Toto IV, which is the rare album where you really can’t pick which of its singles is THE most famous Toto song. That album featured the smash hits “Africa” AND “Rosanna.”

At the time of the recording of the album, band keyboardist Steve Porcaro (seen here)…

was dating the actress, Rosanna Arquette.

So, naturally, everyone assumes that the song was written about Arquette, and all sorts of reference books still list that as fact. But IS it true?

A few things seem to go against such a position.

1. Porcaro did not write the song, fellow band member David Paich did. Paich wrote (or co-wrote) almost all of Toto’s hits.

2. David Paich has said repeatedly over the years (including back in the 1980s) that he did not write the song about Arquette, but rather that they just needed a name for the song and “Rosanna” sounded good so they went with it.

3. If you look at the lyrics of the song, it really does not fit being written about Arquette.

All I wanna do in the middle of the evening is hold you tight
Rosanna, Rosanna
I didn’t know you were looking for more than I could ever be

Not quite a year since she went away, Rosanna
Now she’s gone and I have to say

Meet you all the way, meet you all the way, Rosanna [x2]

At the time of the song’s writing AND release, Arquette and Porcaro were still together, so the song really doesn’t fit their relationship.

So….the song was not written by her boyfriend, the guy who did write the song (and the rest of his bandmates) say that he did not write the song about her and the lyrics to the song don’t really fit being about her.

I’m willing to bet that they are not, in fact, about her.

Unless, of course, you wish to argue that featuring her name in the song period means that you’re at least KIND of writing about her, which is fair enough, but I think you get what we’re talking about when we say “written about her” – it doesn’t mean “uses her name,” it means “actually about her.”

The legend is…

STATUS: I’m Going With False

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

2 Responses to “Was Toto’s “Rosanna” Really About Rosanna Arquette?”

  1. She was interviewed on a late night talk show some yrs ago and and was asked if the song was written about her, she said yes. She was asked if that mattered to her,after their breakup, she just shrugged her shoulders and said no.

  2. Actually, Toto was only nominated for the Best New Artist Grammy in 1979. The band, along with Elvis Costello and The Cars, all lost to one-hit disco wonder A Taste of Honey.

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