‘Bat Out of Hell’ singer and actor Meat Loaf dies at 74

Meat Loaf, the larger-than-life rocker whose 1977 debut album, “Bat Out of Hell” — a campy amalgamation of hard rock and Broadway-style bombshell — became one of the best-selling albums of all time , died on Thursday. He was 74 years old.

His death was confirmed by his manager, Michael Greene. A cause of death was not given.

Meat Loaf, who was born Marvin Lee Aday and got his stage name from a childhood nickname, had a career few could match. He was a trained Broadway belter and multi-turntable selling megastar whose biggest hits, like “Bat Out of Hell” and “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” were radio staples — and bar songs — for decades. decades.

Despite its success, it earned little respect from rock critics. That’s how Rolling Stone dismissed “Bat Out of Hell” — an LP that would sell at least 14 million copies in the United States — in the 1993 edition of its album guide. Still, some critics gave grudging admiration. In a 1977 New York Times review, John Rockwell wrote that Meat Loaf had “a low, fervent tenor who was present enough on stage to dispense with the limelight altogether.”

Meat Loaf has also appeared in ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’, ‘Fight Club’ and other films.

The singer’s death came just a year after that of Jim Steinman, the songwriter who wrote “Bat Out of Hell,” a record that brought audiences Broadway-style lyrical rock at a time when, in the face of disco and punk, it couldn’t have been more old-fashioned. The pair met when Mr. Steinman was commissioned to co-write a musical called “More Than You Deserve”, which ran at the Public Theater in New York in 1973 and 1974. Meat Loaf auditioned and went on to joins the cast.

His girth was a frequent source of jokes from disc jockeys and magazine caption writers, although Meat Loaf was on board.

Describing his encounter with Mr Steinman at Mojo, a British music magazine, in 2017, Meat Loaf said he auditioned with a song called “(I’d Love to Be as) Heavy as Jesus”. Mr. Steinman, impressed, said to him: “By the way, you are as heavy as two Jesuses.

“It was my kind of humor,” recalls Meat Loaf.

Later, Mr. Steinman was trying to write a post-apocalyptic musical based on ‘Peter Pan’, but, unable to secure the rights to the tale, he turned the work into ‘Bat Out of Hell’, bringing in Meat Loaf to give the songs the style and energy that made them hits.

The album, painstakingly produced by Todd Rundgren, blended hard-rock power chords, 1950s-style bubblegum, and flashes of disco beats in songs that unfolded in multi-part suites; the title track stretches over almost 10 minutes. In some ways, the album resembled Broadway-style rock musicals like “Hair”, which Meat Loaf had starred in early in his career.

His roster of backup musicians was stellar, with players from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, like drummer Max Weinberg and keyboardist Roy Bittan. Members of the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra contributed; the eight-and-a-half-minute “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” even includes Yankees announcer Phil Rizzuto giving a baseball play that doubled as the description of a seduction.

After “Bat Out of Hell”, Meat Loaf struggled to repeat his success. He temporarily lost his singing voice and was involved in lawsuits. Subsequent albums like “Dead Ringer” (1981) and “Midnight at the Lost and Found” (1983) were flops. He then declared personal bankruptcy.

“The problem was with a million different forces – his manager, his lawyers, his vocal cords, his brain,” Mr. Steinman told Rolling Stone in 1993. “He had lost his voice, he had lost his home and he was pretty much losing my mind.

His comeback came that year when he worked with Mr. Steinman on a sequel to their original hit, “Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell.” It included the song “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do This)”, a No. 1 hit that in 1994 won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Solo Performance.

“Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose”, released in 2006, also included songs by Mr. Steinman, who created a musical based on “Bat Out of Hell” which premiered in England in 2017. M Steinman died in April 2021 at age 73. Meat Loaf told Rolling Stone shortly after that Mr Steinman had been the “centerpiece” of his life.

Meat Loaf eventually released 12 studio albums, the last being “Braver Than We Are” in 2016.

His first major film role came in 1975 in the cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” in which he played Eddie, a delivery man murdered for his brains by cross-dressing Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Meat Loaf also appeared in “Wayne’s World” (1992), “Spice World” (1997) and “Fight Club” (1999). More recently, he had a role in several episodes of the 2017-18 “Ghost Wars” TV series.

Marvin Lee Aday was born and raised in Dallas, the son of Orvis Wesley Aday, a former police officer, and Wilma Artie Hukel, an English teacher. “I often stayed at my grandmother’s,” Meat Loaf wrote in his 1999 autobiography “To Hell and Back,” adding that he didn’t know if those stays were because his mother was busy working. or because she didn’t want him to. see his father “on a bender”.

According to his autobiography, and confirmed by Texas birth records, Meat Loaf was born on September 27, 1947, but reports of his age have varied over the years. In 2003 he showed a reporter from The Guardian a passport showing the date of birth as 1951 and later said of the discrepancy: “I lie continuously.”

Meat Loaf said he changed his first name to Michael from Marvin as an adult due to childhood taunts about his weight and the emotional impact of an advertisement for Levi’s jeans with the slogan “The poor Fat Marvin can’t wear Levi’s.”

He then cited the ad when he asked to change his name, which the judge granted within 30 seconds, Meat Loaf wrote in his autobiography.

Meat Loaf has had health issues throughout his career. He underwent heart surgery in 2003 after collapsing on stage at London’s Wembley Arena and told an audience in Newcastle, England, in 2007 that the gig was “probably the last show I’ll ever do” after another health problem.

His survivors include his wife, Deborah, and daughters Pearl and Amanda. According to a statement on the musician’s Facebook page, these three people were with him when he died.

In 2013 he told the Guardian he was retiring from music for good after another farewell tour. “I had 18 concussions,” he said. “My balance is off. I had a knee replacement. I need to have the other one replaced. He wanted to ‘focus more on acting,’ he added, because ‘that’s where I started and this is where I will end”.

Although Mr. Steinman was the mastermind behind “Bat Out of Hell,” its success might not have been possible without Meat Loaf’s charisma, a point the singer has occasionally made to interviewers.

“I know there are people who think I was Frankenstein’s monster from Jim’s Dr. Frankenstein, but that’s not how it happened at all,” Meat Loaf told The New York Times in 2019, when a production of “Bat Out of Hell – The Musical” came to New York.

“I never do anything the way the writer intended,” Meat Loaf added. “Jim wrote it, but it became my song.”