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Meat Loaf, ‘Bat Out of Hell’ Singer and Prolific Actor, Dies at 74

** ARCHIV ** Der Musiker Meat
AP

Singer Meat Loaf, whose “Bat Out of Hell” album is among the best-selling and most enduring rock albums of the 1970s, died on Jan. 20 at the age of 74. A consummate performer, he also appeared as an actor in the cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” as well as “Crazy Alabama,” “Fight Club” and “Wayne’s World,” among dozens more film and television credits.

Meat Loaf, whose real name is Marvin Lee Aday, won a 1994 Grammy Award for best solo rock vocal performance for the song “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That).”

A cause of death was not given. An official statement from the Meat Loaf Facebook page reads:

Our hearts are broken to announce that the incomparable Meat Loaf passed away tonight with his wife Deborah by his side. Daughters Pearl and Amanda and close friends have been with him throughout the last 24 hours.

His amazing career spanned six decades that saw him sell over 100 million albums worldwide and star in over 65 movies, including “Fight Club,” “Focus,” “Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Wayne’s World.” “Bat Out of Hell” remains one of the top 10 selling albums of all time.

We know how much he meant to so many of you and we truly appreciate all of the love and support as we move through this time of grief in losing such an inspiring artist and beautiful man. We thank you for your understanding of our need for privacy at this time.

From his heart to your souls…don’t ever stop rocking!

Meat Loaf’s death comes less than a year after the death of his longtime collaborator, Jim Steinman, who composed the 1977 album “Bat Out of Hell,” which was produced by Todd Rundgren. It has gone on to sell some 50 million copies globally and yielded the hit “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” a multi-act mini rock opera that incorporates juke joint piano, a baseball play-by-play and revving engines into an explosive combination of hooks and melodies.

The only Meat Loaf album to be fully produced as well as written by Steinman was 1993’s “Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell,” a reteaming that became an international smash. The reunion was certified five-time platinum in the U.S. and gave the singer his only No. 1 album in the States and U.K. (where it was on top for 11 weeks) after the original “Bat” album.

Although the original “Bat Out of Hell” songs had been massive and enduring FM rock hits, “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” from “Bat II” became his first and only Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper, as well as his lone U.K. No. 1. While it was a Grammy-winning song that became as much of a signature hit as any of his 1977 classics, the Steinman-penned the also became a popular punchline as comics and civilians alike wondered aloud what “that” could possibly be. (Both the singer and songwriter would claim that the explanation was self-evident in the lyrics, with “forget the way you feel right now,” “forgive myself if we don’t go all the way tonight” and “do it better than I do it with you” among the things the narrator would never do.)

The enduring popularity and virality of “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” is evident in the song having been used as score for most of the Hulu “Pam & Tommy” trailer released two weeks ago.

Aday became Meat Loaf officially in the early 1970s, after moving to Los Angeles from the Dallas area, where he was raised as an only child. His first break came by way of a regional production of the musical “Hair,” which eventually led to a role on the Broadway production. His booming voice and wide frame lent a heft to his performance, a trait that would define the rock star’s sound in the years to come.

He also released an obscure album in 1971 as half of the male/female duo Stoney & Meatloaf that provided little foreshadowing of the ultimate direction he would take working with Steinman.

Although the seeds for “Bat Out of Hell” were sown as early as 1972, acting helped propel his career throughout the first half of the decade. Among his most memorable turns was the character of Eddie in the cult movie “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” which had roots as a long-running stage musical at the Roxy. He appeared both on the L.A. cast album and subsequent film soundtrack, becoming known for the song “Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul.” As the initially unsuccessful film turned into a midnight cult sensation, Meat Loaf’s stage name became part of a famous audience participation gag. When the Eddie character, murdered, was served up for dinner, cannibal-stye, the audience would shout in unison: “Meat Loaf again?”

But it was “Bat Out of Hell” that would make Meat Loaf a household name. Released in 1977, it spawned four radio smashes — “Bat Out of Hell,” “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth” and “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” — all accompanied by music videos, a novel marketing concept at the time.

It worked as the album went on to break sales records for years and decades to come. In the U.K., for instance, it’s spent more than 522 weeks in the Top 200.

The “Bat Out of Hell” project was famously rejected by all the major labels, with Clive Davis himself admitting in his memoir that he just didn’t get it. It ultimately landed with a tiny boutique label, Stephen Popovich’s Cleveland International, that was distributed by CBS. (Popovich and Meat Loaf would later often contend that CBS, then Sony, underreported the tens of millions of copies that they said the album had sold globally.)

In a 2016 conversation with Variety‘s Chris Willman, Meat Loaf talked about his and Steinman’s difficulty getting anyone’s attention with their “Bat Out of Hell” demos in the mid-70s. “We’ve always been on the outside looking in. and I think it has to go back to the fact of ‘Bat Out of Hell’ — because the songs were long,” he said. “We just got turned down by everybody. But I would not let Jimmy quit, and I wasn’t about to quit. At that time I had offers to join REO Speedwagon. They talked to me about going out with (Ted) Nugent. Mick Jones talked to me about joining Foreigner. And I said, ‘No, you don’t understand what I have and what Jimmy has with me.’ Because we’d been playing little clubs around New York and they would go completely insane. And record companies would come and they’d go, ‘Well, these are your friends (showing up at shows).’ I was like, ‘No, I don’t have any friends, dude!’ It was kind of true.”

He continued: “I’ve always been like this, and Jimmy the same way: we’ve both kind of been loners. I’d go out with girls, but I wouldn’t go hang out with guys in bars. It wasn’t my thing. I’d rather stay home and watch ‘The Price is Right’ than go out to some bar with a bunch of guys and drink beer. It’s just not my thing. Jimmy and I have always been loners — except that together we’re not.”

Meat Loaf could still feel the sting of rejection before “Bat” took off. “Clive (Davis) and I are fine now,” he told Willman. “But Clive said then, ‘You’re an actor. Actors don’t do records. You’re like Ethel Merman.’ Well, I took that as a compliment! I love Ethel Merman. But what made me mad is when he said to Jim, ‘Do you ever listen to rock ‘n’ roll records?’ Because Jim is a rock ‘n’ roll encyclopedia who can tell you the B-side of a Jan & Dean single from 1962, and who wrote it if it wasn’t them. But the way I think through everything I’ve ever done is theatrical. I have a rock ‘n’ roll band that I think is the best in the world, so it is a rock show. But my arc through every concert is that there are different characters singing all these songs.”

Meat Loaf and Steinman had a falling out in the wake of “Bat Out of Hell” that led to an estrangement for a few years in the early 1980s. The singer had what he described as a “nervous breakdown” coming off the long-running “Bat” tour and lost his voice. Steinman, who had written the “Bad for Good” album as a follow-up to “Bat Out of Hell,” grew impatient waiting for Meat Loaf to record and decided to finish the project as his own solo album, with many of the same musicians and Rundgren again producing. Meat Loaf came back around to the studio and released his official sophomore album, 1981’s “Dead Ringer,” which also consisted of Steinman songs but had little direct input from the songwriter. In the years that followed, he would mostly record material from other writers but find catalog songs from Steinman to sprinkle in. In the mid-1980s, they made amends and began plans for “Bat II,” although it took until 1993 for their epic reunion to come to full fruition.

As a live performer, Meat Loaf continued to tour throughout the 2000s, though a series of falls and illnesses made the road less tenable in his final years.

In 2006, he released what was billed as the third volume of the “Bat” series, “Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose,” with Desmond Child producing and Steinman uninvolved, beyond the use of five of his songs. It enjoyed little of the success of the previous “Bats” and was arguably famous more for the web-known tussle between the Meat Loaf and Steinman, who objected to the release and claimed a trademark on the “Bat Out of Hell” title. It was ultimately resolved, and the singer noted in later years that, contrary to some reporting, no lawsuit was ever filed. Meat Loaf also said years later that they both had wanted Steinman to be at the helm for “Bat III,” but it hadn’t been possible because Steinman was already seriously constrained from the effects of a stroke at that point.

In 2016, Steinman, while ill, gave his blessing and spent considerable time consulting on the phone when Meat Loaf went on to record one final full album of the songwriter’s material, “Braver Than We Are.” It turned out to be the final Meat Loaf album. The jacket art featured a painting of Meat Loaf and Steinman that had been rendered back in 1976.

“I loved the title ‘Braver Than We Are,” Meat Loaf told Willman in 2016. (The title came from a line in the early Steinman song “Going All the Way.”) “It was never going to be called ‘Bat IV,'” he emphasized, continuing: “I can’t listen to ‘Bat III’ now, because Jimmy wasn’t involved. Jim and I, ourselves, one on one, have never had ups and downs. It’s always been fights between managers and lawyers. I was told this record (‘Braver Than We Are’) could never happen. So literally how this record got done was, I started talking with Jim about four years ago about doing this record, and I only communicated with Jim.” Every time their respective businesspeople got wind of their collaborative discussions and threatened to get involved, “I said, ‘No, Jim and I are fine. Let me and Jimmy do what we do.’ And that’s what we did.” (The material Meat Loaf recorded for the swan song spanned an almost 50-year period. “We did the first song that Jim ever wrote, at the age of 19, and we did the last song that he ever wrote, which he finished maybe three weeks before we finished the record.”)

“Bat Out of Hell” got the stage musical treatment in 2017, opening to some strong reviews on London’s West End and leading to a tour, although plans to bring the jukebox musical to Broadway were thwarted.

In 2011, Meat Loaf appeared as a contestant on “The Celebrity Apprentice,” alongside Gary Busey, La Toya Jackson, NeNe Leakes, Lisa Rinna and Dionne Warwick, among others. Although he wasn’t affiliated with any particular political party, Meat Loaf was complimentary of former President Donald Trump, who hosted the NBC reality show, describing him as “intelligent” in a 2017 Billboard interview. He was also a frequent guest in recent years on Mike Huckabee’s cable talk show, often discussing his patriotism and fervent support for the U.S. military.

The singer described having four separate back surgeries in 2016-2018 and experiencing debilitating pain. “Before the back surgeries I was still trying to do shows, that’s when some of you saw or heard of me collapsing on stage and finally stopping the tour in the U.K.,” he wrote. “I couldn’t hit high notes because of back pain. Not a slight back pain. Pain that would bring you to your knees.”

After singing several songs on Huckabee’s show this past September, Meat Loaf wrote, “I watched it. Vocally strong. I just can’t walk very well anymore. I want to do shows but I will have to stay seated, I was upset watching me walk. I am happy I did the show and I sang very well but walking sucked. Walking really sucked!” While being candid about his physical state, he boasted in his post about the final Huckabee appearance that he did “Out of the Frying Pan” “in the same key that I recorded in on ‘Bat II’.”

Meat Loaf was active on social media as recently as two months before his death, enthusiastically talking about new recordings he was making and touting his participation in Cameo. He had appeared as a guest at conventions several times during 2021, singing for fans who stood in line for hours to get their albums and merchandise autographed, and would profusely thank them on social media after each appearance.

In his next-to-last Facebook posts in November, Meat Loaf wrote that he had booked studio time for January to work on seven new songs for a planned album that would also include live tracks from the ’70s through 2000s.

After Steinman died last April, an emotional Meat Loaf reminisced with Rolling Stone about his early days with his collaborator: “I met Jim Steinman at the Public Theater in New York when I auditioned for his musical ‘More Than You Deserve.’ I sang a Motown-style song called ‘(I’d Love to Be) As Heavy as Jesus.’ I didn’t know him. He didn’t know me. But when I was done, he walked by me and said, ‘By the way, you’re as heavy as two Jesuses.'”

Of the high points he had with Steinman, Meat Loaf singled out the climax to “Bat Out Of Hell,” which was never a single or radio hit. “I will argue with anyone that wants to argue with me on this point: I dare them. ‘Crying Out Loud’ is the best love song in history,” he said. “Please come and argue with me on this point. I’ll take you down every time.”

Steinman’s death hit him hard, he conceded. “I don’t want to die, but I may die this year because of Jim,” he told Rolling Stone in April. “I’m always with him and he’s right here with me now. I’ve always been with Jim and Jim has always been with me. We belonged heart and soul to each other. We didn’t know each other. We were each other.”