In an amazing career that spanned six decades, he sold more than 100 million albums worldwide and starred in more than 65 movies, including the legendary Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The Grammy Award-winning singer died on 20th January, with his wife Deborah, daughters Amanda and Pearl and close friends at his bedside. An announcement on his Facebook page mourned the passing of the “inspiring artist and beautiful man” who meant so much to millions of fans all over the world.
Contrary to popular belief, beneath his public persona of the hard-rocking, fast-living extrovert, Meat Loaf was a shy, non-smoking, family man, who had never owned a motorbike..
Born Marvin Lee Aday, The Dallas-born singer got his lifelong nickname after his dad joked with hospital staff about how red he was as a newborn. In an interview, Meat Loaf revealed his dad told nurses, “My son looks like nine-and-a-half pounds of ground chuck!”
He told them to put a name tag saying “Meat” on the baby’s crib. They duly obliged and the nickname was born. The “Loaf” part was added by his high school football coach, who called the youth a “hunk of meat loaf” when he stood on his foot! The name simply stuck.
Path to stardom
Meat Loaf was brought up in Dallas by his father Orvis – a World War II US Army veteran – and mother Wilma, a high school teacher. Wilma also sang in a gospel quartet and instilled a love of performing in her son. His interest in music grew at Thomas Jefferson High School, where he starred in stage shows such as The Music Man.
He moved to Los Angeles in the late 1960s, following his mother’s death, to forge a music career. His first band was Meat Loaf Soul. Their first gig was in Huntington Beach, at The Cave, in 1968, supporting Van Morrison’s band, Them.
They played covers, such as Howlin’ Wolf’s Smokestack Lightning. Meat Loaf’s amazing voice, spanning more than three octaves, led to his being offered several recording contracts.
Instead, he left the band and joined the cast of the controversial touring musical, Hair. This led to Motown Records offering Meat Loaf a recording contract. His first album, Stoney and Meat Loaf, was a collaboration with a fellow member of the Hair cast, Shaun “Stoney” Murphy, but it didn’t make the charts.
His career took off in 1973, when he was offered the roles of Eddie and Dr Everett Scott in the cult stage musical, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Richard O’Brien’s tribute to trashy Hollywood horror films. It was made into a film in 1975, when Meat Loaf reprised his role as biker Eddie.
Bat Out of Hell
Meat Loaf quit the theatre and concentrated full-time on his musical career, starting work on his famous album, Bat Out of Hell, released in 1977. The critics and fans loved it, propelling Meat Loaf to overnight superstardom.
The album has sold more than 43 million copies worldwide and the Recording Industry Association of America has certified it 14 x Platinum. It boasts the second-longest chart run in history by a studio album, spending 522 weeks in the UK albums chart.
In 2017, a musical based on Bat Out of Hell was launched at the Manchester Opera House and went on to the London Coliseum and Toronto’s Ed Mirvish Theatre.
The title track is the song everyone knows and associates with the legendary star. The album – described as “epic, gothic and operatic” – continues to sell 200,000 copies a year.
Meat Loaf collaborated with many stars of the music industry during his long career. He has worked with Marion Raven on a cover of the Celine Dion hit, It’s All Coming Back to Me Now; Cher on Dead Ringer for Love and Lorraine Crosby on I Would Do Anything For Love.
One of Meatloaf’s most famous collaborations was with the Welsh-born vocalist Bonnie Tyler, who shot to fame after talent scout Roger Bell spotted her singing with her band in Swansea’s Townsman Club in 1975.
This led to RCA Records offering her a record deal and she went on to have multiple major hits, including her most famous, Total Eclipse of the Heart, in 1983. It topped the charts in the UK, Australia and the US and charted all over Europe.
In fact, Total Eclipse of the Heart – written by composer Jim Steinman as a dark love song – was almost a Meat Loaf song!
Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler
Steinman had worked with Meat Loaf on the Bat Out of Hell album in 1977. The next planned Meat Loaf album, Renegade Angel, was scheduled for release through their joint record company. It was supposed to include Total Eclipse of the Heart.
However, Meat Loaf had problems with his voice – losing his top range for a while – and was also said to be struggling to cope with his new-found stardom. His management team was said to be reluctant to let him rest his voice, as they wanted his career to carry on growing.
Meat Loaf’s relationship with Steinman reportedly began to deteriorate, partly due to the massive stress he was under. Steinman then left the management team. Total Eclipse of the Heart was still offered to Meat Loaf, but the management team turned it down. The decision was heavily criticised later by Meat Loaf.
Tyler had already had a top three hit in the US album chart with The World Starts Tonight and a hit single, It’s a Heartache. She approached Steinman to be her producer, as she was looking for the more epic sound of Bat Out of Hell. He gave her Total Eclipse of the Heart, which was a massive hit.
There was no ill feeling when Meat Loaf met Bonnie Tyler in person. They met as a result of their individual musical partnerships with Steinman. Far from being rivals, they became friends, performing together on the single, A Kiss Is a Terrible Thing to Waste.
Their mutual admiration for each other led to their collaboration album, Heaven and Hell, in 1989, with the majority of songs written by Steinman. The album was certified Platinum by the British Phonographic Industry for sales of more than 300,000 copies.
It contained versions of some of their biggest hits, including Bat Out of Hell, Total Eclipse of the Heart, Holding Out for a Hero, Dead Ringer for Love, You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth and many more.
Tyler paid tribute to Meat Loaf on learning of his death, saying she was “shocked and saddened” and praising his Bat Out of Hell album for inspiring her. She described him as a “one-off talent and personality” and said she would miss him, as would his millions of fans.
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