Rosanna Arquette, a High School Sweetheart, and the Women Who May Have Inspired Toto’s 1982 Hit “Rosanna”

When Toto was working on their fourth album Toto IV, keyboardist David Paich was reflecting on an old high school sweetheart and some other past girlfriends. At the time, bandmate Steve Porcaro was dating actress Rosanna Arquette. Though the song was initially believed to have been written about the future Desperately Seeking Susan actress, Paich admitted that it was about a combination of several women.

“‘Rosanna” is about three girls I knew, all rolled into one,” said Paich in 2015. “After I met Rosanna Arquette I just stole her name and stuck it on there.”

Paich continued, “‘Rosanna’ was about a high school love, one of my first loves, but I just tagged another Rosanna’s name on there because she was going at the time with Steve Porcaro, my best friend. He had just met her and was looking to title a song with her name, and it just fit perfectly for that song right there. So it’s got her name on it, but it’s really about another high school sweetheart, which is how songs happen sometimes.”

Videos by American Songwriter

[RELATED: Top 10 Toto Songs (1978 – 2018)]

Rosanna Arquette

Though it started as a joke when it was titled “Rosanna,” Arquette initially played along with it, saying the Toto hit was written about her for “showing up at 4 a.m., bringing them juice and beer at their sessions.”

In his 2018 memoir The Gospel According to Luke, singer Steve Lukather confirmed that the song was about Arquette and that she admitted the song was about her.

Singer Bobby Kimball later denied that the song was about Arquette.“It was just an opportune moment for her to grab the brass ring and run with it,” said Kimball in 2023. “She was just starting her career, and the song was so big that she went on several talk shows and said it was about her. But I can tell you that it wasn’t. David’s line was always that he just used the name because it fitted into the song. Then she came into the picture and claimed it.”

Rosanna Arquette, 1979. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)

The Music Video and Weezer

The West Side Story-inspired music video, directed by Steve Barron (Michael Jackson‘s “Billie Jean” and Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69“) also features a younger (uncredited) Patrick Swayze in the group of male dancers backing up Rosanna, who is played by Cynthia Rhodes—Swayze’s later co-star in the 1987 romantic drama Dirty Dancing.

In 2018, Weezer covered “Rosanna” after fans continued requesting that they record “Africa,” which the band also released a few days later.

[RELATED: Steve Lukather Still Has a Love-Hate Relationship with Toto Mega Hit “Africa”]

Regardless of who the real “Rosanna” was in the song, it went to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it remained for five consecutive weeks.

In 1983, “Rosanna” was nominated for a Song of the Year Grammy and won for Record of the Year. Toto IV also picked up two more Grammys for Album of the Year and Producer of the Year.

Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for TCM

Yamaha Pacifica

Yamaha Pacifica 112V Review: A Compelling Entry-Level S-style Option