Toto was typically renowned as a band of talented musicians that only wrote paint-by-numbers songs. “Africa,” Billboard #1 for a week in February of 1983, has spawned one too many annoying acapella covers. It does (sort of) consider the poverty of the “Dark Continent” in a way most pop songs did not. As well, “We Are The World” and Live Aid came two years later.
Lead vocalist David Paitch explained, “At the beginning of the 80’s I watched a late night documentary on TV about all the terrible death and suffering of the people in Africa. It both moved and appalled me and the pictures just wouldn’t leave my head. I tried to imagine how I’d feel about if I was there and what I’d do.” (source)
Still, the lyrics don’t seem to be explicitly aimed at reducing poverty. If “Gonna take some time to do the things we never have” can be taken to mean that there is no quick fix at improving the lives of Africans, perhaps the song is realistic, politically. Still, the phrasing of “Serengeti” is cringe-inducing, if perhaps unavoidably so.
It’s a great song most don’t mind when it comes on the radio.