This song got its name from the actress Rosanna Arquette, who was dating Toto keyboard player Steve Porcaro at the time. Porcaro didn't write the song - it was written by Toto leader David Paich, who was always looking for good ideas for lyrics.
In a Songfacts interview with Paich
, he explained: "'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."
Steve Porcaro and Rosanna Arquette broke up not long after this song was released. It would not be the last time Arquette dated a musician: she had a turbulent relationship with Peter Gabriel in the early '90s, and in 2007, she went on some dates with Paul McCartney.
This song caused some justifiable confusion, as it was written by David Paich, inspired by Steve Porcaro's girlfriend, yet sung by lead singer Bobby Kimball. Many listeners assumed it was Kimball who was involved with Arquette.
From the opening line, it seems like this is going to be a love song to Rosanna:
All I want to do when I wake up in the morning is see you eyes
But a few lines in we learn that she's a heartbreaker:
I didn't know you were looking for more than I could ever be
By the end of the song, we learn that she's been gone for nearly a year, and this poor guy is still a wreck:
I never thought that losing you could ever hurt so bad
The catchy chorus and optimistic opening line belie the heartache in the song, making it maybe not the best choice for Steve Porcaro to impress Rosanna Arquette, although the song ended up being more popular than most of her movies.
The girl who played Rosanna in the video will look familiar to fans of the movie Dirty Dancing
: It's Cynthia Rhodes, who played Penny Johnson in the movie. Patrick Swayze is also in the video, but much less visible - that's him wearing the red jacket among Rosanna's suitors. The West Side Story
-style dance fighting was used in the clip almost a year before Michael Jackson did it in his video for "Beat It
." Even more trivia: Rhodes was married to Richard Marx
David Paich had the initial idea for the video. When the song breaks down for the line, "Not quite a year since she went away," there is finger-snapping in the mix, which is a hallmark of West Side Story. Paich thought about doing something similar to what Phil Collins did in his "You Can't Hurry Love" video, where guys do some shadow dancing while snapping their fingers. His simple idea became far more elaborate after director Steve Barron started working on it. "We got down to the lot, and all of a sudden, there's like, ten pairs of guys dressed in leather jackets like Grease, jumping around and dancing," Paich told Songfacts.
This won a Grammy Award for Record of the Year and helped Toto IV win for Album of the Year. The band also won Producer of the Year for their work on the album, which they produced themselves.
Toto's first seven albums each contain at least one song with a girl's name in the title. Most of these songs were written by David Paich, who did so as a sort of tribute to his father, Marty Paich, who arranged the Ray Charles album Dedicated to You, in which every song had a girl's name in the title. Here are the womanly songs from Toto's early albums:
"Angela" - Toto (1978)
"Lorraine" - Hydra (1979)
"Goodbye Elenore" - Turn Back (1981)
"Rosanna" - Toto IV (1982)
"Carmen," "Holyanna" - Isolation (1984)
"Lea" - Fahrenheit (1986)
"Pamela," "Anna" - The Seventh One (1988)
Later in 1982, Eddie Money had a hit with "Shakin'
." The first line: "Rosanna's daddy had a car she loved to drive."
Here's another '80s hit with a connection to Rosanna Arquette: When The Tubes needed a young kid to star as a carnival rider in their "She's A Beauty
" video, Arquette suggested her 12-year-old brother, Robert, who got the role. Rosanna was friends with The Tubes, and Toto guitarist Steve Lukather co-wrote the song.