Entertainment

Meet Bobby Kimball, voice of Africa

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL Observer senior writer

Monday, January 20, 2014    

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AT the 1983 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, Bobby Kimball and his colleagues in the band Toto were seated next to some of the biggest names in the music business.

That night, they upstaged their more heralded rivals with Rosanna, the hit song from their album Toto IV, taking home six Grammys including for Song of The Year.

"That brought us to a level where no one else was. The album started selling again after the Grammys and made us a lot of money," Kimball told the Jamaica Observer.

Kimball, who sang lead on Rosanna, also featured on Africa, another big hit from Toto IV. He is one of the acts scheduled to perform at the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival in Trelawny this month.

The Louisiana-reared vocalist had two stints with Toto, starting as a founding member in 1977. He left in 1984 shortly after their Grammy triumph.

Kimball was back in the fold in 1998, staying for 10 years. He has recorded several albums as a solo act but wherever in the world he performs, the call from fans is the same.

"They want to hear the songs they know Toto for. Can't blame them, those are great songs," he said.

After relocating to Los Angeles in 1974, Kimball says he met future Toto members, keyboardist David Paich and drummer Jeff Porcaro, during a rehearsal for the rock band SS Fools.

For the next three years, Paich, Porcaro's keyboardist brother Steve, guitarist Steve Lukhater, bassist David Hungate and Kimball were in-demand session musicians, playing on albums by noted acts like Steely Dan and Boz Scaggs.

Kimball was part of a formidable harmony trio alongside Michael McDonald and future Chicago keyboardist Bill Champlin that provided backup vocals for artistes such as Barbra Streisand and Diana Ross.

Toto formed in 1977. The next year, they recorded their self-titled debut album which contained the hit song Hold The Line with the soulful Kimball on lead.

While the first album sold well, the next two tanked. IV, however, was a monster, selling over three million copies on the strength of Rosanna and Africa. The latter was the band's first number one song.

Kimball, whose influences include Ray Charles, Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin, describes his solo work as mainly blue-eyed soul.

His last album, Kimball/ Jamison, was released in 2011.

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