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A larger than life figure - in both a literal and figurative sense - on the rock and pop scenes, Grammy-winning singer and actor Meat Loaf unleashed some of the most bombastic and beloved tunes of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, including "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad," and "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)", which appeared on 1977's Bat of Out Hell and its two sequels. Massive in figure and voice, Meat Loaf, a.k.a. Marvin (later Michael) Meat Loaf, and chief songwriter/nemesis Jim Steinman embraced the excesses and overwrought romanticism of classic rock in their music, crafting prodigious, ear-splitting tributes to everlasting love and the glories of youth. Their crowning achievement, Bat Out of Hell, became one of the best-selling albums of the 20th century, with some 20,000 copies sold each year after its release. His rise and fall and resurrection to the heights of fame was an epic unto itself, with illness, drug abuse and the tides of popular favor crashing against him time and again, only to be cast aside each time he reunited with Steinman for a new Bat album. While fighting the good fight in the rock world, Meat Loaf also carved out an impressive...
A larger than life figure - in both a literal and figurative sense - on the rock and pop scenes, Grammy-winning singer and actor Meat Loaf unleashed some of the most bombastic and beloved tunes of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, including "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad," and "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)", which appeared on 1977's Bat of Out Hell and its two sequels. Massive in figure and voice, Meat Loaf, a.k.a. Marvin (later Michael) Meat Loaf, and chief songwriter/nemesis Jim Steinman embraced the excesses and overwrought romanticism of classic rock in their music, crafting prodigious, ear-splitting tributes to everlasting love and the glories of youth. Their crowning achievement, Bat Out of Hell, became one of the best-selling albums of the 20th century, with some 20,000 copies sold each year after its release. His rise and fall and resurrection to the heights of fame was an epic unto itself, with illness, drug abuse and the tides of popular favor crashing against him time and again, only to be cast aside each time he reunited with Steinman for a new Bat album. While fighting the good fight in the rock world, Meat Loaf also carved out an impressive career as a character actor in features and on television, with carefully tuned performances in "Fight Club" (1999), among others. His passionate commitment to rock music, as well as his considerable body of material, made him one of the most iconic figures in pop culture for over three decades.
He was born Marvin Lee Aday in Dallas, TX on Sept. 27, 1947. His father, Orvis Wesley Aday, was a police officer and notorious alcoholic who frequently went absent from his son's life on lengthy binges; his mother, Wilma, a school teacher and singer, was forced to visit all the area bars in search of her husband, leaving their son in the care of his grandmother. Meat Loaf found solace in musical productions at his high school, and displayed a formidable singing voice even in his teen years. After graduating in 1965, he attended Lubbock Christian College, before transferring to North Texas State University. There, he received his draft notice, and deliberately gained almost 70 lbs to fail the physical fitness test. The gambit failed to work - despite being overweight and colorblind, he was called up for active duty, which he ignored - and the extra pounds would remain a part of his stage persona for decades to follow. Allegedly, his weight was also the inspiration for his stage moniker, which, according to conflicting stories, was bestowed upon him by his father or an irate football coach.
In 1967, Meat Loaf left Texas for Los Angeles, where he worked as a bouncer at a nightclub while pursuing a career in music. He formed his first band, Meat Loaf Soul, and while recording their first tracks, reportedly blew a soundboard fuse with the sound of his own powerful voice. The band toured the California college and club circuit, opening for some of the major acts of the period, including The Who, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead. Personnel and name changes put an end to the group in 1969, and Meat Loaf was forced to work as a parking lot attendant to make ends meet. A chance meeting with a customer inspired him to audition for the Los Angeles production of "Hair," which he landed. Soon after, he was cast in the Detroit production of the show, which drew the attention of Motown Records. Meat Loaf was paired with a fellow castmate, Shaun "Stoney" Murphy, who had recorded for Motown's subsidiary label, Rare Earth, and the pair recorded Stoney and Meatloaf in 1971. A single, "What You See is What You Get," reached No. 36 on the R&B charts, but Meat Loaf parted ways with Motown when he learned that his vocals had been removed from the song "Who is the Leader of the People?" and replaced by veteran soul shouter Edwin Starr.
Meat Loaf returned to the "Hair" franchise, this time on Broadway. He also auditioned for a new musical satire, "More Than You Deserve," which featured music and lyrics by an up-and-coming songwriter named Jim Steinman. Meat Loaf's audition and vocal talent impressed Steinman, who not only cast him in the production, but also began collaborating on "Neverland," a science fiction musical version of "Peter Pan" that would later form the nucleus of Bat Out of Hell. While the project began to congeal, Meat Loaf, was cast in the offbeat musical "The Rocky Horror Show" as Eddie, the former delivery boy who interrupts Dr. Frank N. Furter's laboratory experiments with a lusty tribute to '50s rock and roll called "Whatever Happened To Saturday Night?" before being dispatched with an axe. The song was a particular challenge for the actors who played the role prior to Meat Loaf due to its high vocal range, but the singer tackled the tune - later titled "Hot Patootie" for the film version - with operatic vigor. Meat Loaf played Eddie in the Los Angeles production in 1974, then followed the show to its disastrous Broadway run the following year before reprising Eddie a third time for the 1975 film version. The latter became one of the definitive cult movies of the 20th century, and helped to further Meat Loaf in underground circles.
During this period, Meat Loaf and Steinman were hard and work crafting the epic pop songs that would form the lineup of Bat Out of Hell. The record's most memorable song, "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," received some early previews when Meat Loaf and Steinman toured with the National Lampoon Show as a favor to Meat Loaf's friend, John Belushi. The show also introduced them to Ellen Foley, who later performed the female part on the recorded version of Paradise. Meat Loaf began shopping the music of Bat Out of Hell to record labels in 1975, but was soundly refused in nearly every case due to the complex structure of the songs and their unusual blend of Sixties pop, modern rock and light opera. Producer-musician Todd Rundgren finally took on the challenge of recording the material, which was released on the micro label Cleveland International in 1977. Clocking in at over eight minutes in length, "Paradise" was one of the longest songs ever released uncut on a 45 RPM record, but its near-Wagnerian sound, heated interplay between Meat Loaf and Foley as two former high school sweethearts reminiscing about their first bout of lovemaking, and New York Yankees announcer Phil Rizzuto offering a humorous play-by-play, found its way into the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100, as did the equally epic "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad," "Heaven Can Wait," and the boppy "You Took The Words Right Out of My Mouth." A tour followed, with Meat Loaf tearing into the songs from Bat every night with an intensity that was astonishing to behold. Word of mouth was also spread by four proto-music videos for songs from the record that were produced by "Rocky Horror" producer Lou Adler and screened before showings of the film. After a slow start, the album eventually became one of the best-selling albums worldwide, with some 43 million copies purchased since its release.
Unfortunately, life offstage was in complete contrast to the success of the album. Meat Loaf developed a prodigious appetite for cocaine, and suffered a nervous breakdown while on tour; a broken leg from a fall off a stage in Ottawa forced him to perform dates from a wheelchair. Meanwhile, a serious rift had occurred between Meat Loaf and Steinman, who had grown jealous over the attention devoted solely to the singer, whom he viewed as an equal partner in the entity known as Meat Loaf. The downward spiral reached its nadir during the recording of Bad for Good, the follow-up to Bat Out of Hell, when Meat Loaf mysteriously lost his ability to sing. Doctors could not find a medical reason for the problem, and placed the blame on the stress of the tour and subsequent fame. Steinman was forced to complete the album on his own, which, despite its failure, forged a rift between the partners. Meat Loaf retreated to Connecticut in 1979 to recuperate and rebuild his health and psyche. He married studio receptionist Leslie Edmonds, who gave birth to a daughter, Amanda, and attempted to fend off a variety of woes by launching an acting career. "Roadie" (1980) marked his debut as a lead actor. A broad comedy about a simple country boy (Meat Loaf) whose down home technical know-how made him a world-class roadie for such acts as Alice Cooper and Hank Williams, Jr. was directed by Robert Altman acolyte Alan Rudolph and was a modest cult hit.
Meat Loaf eventually regained the use of his singing voice, and began work on his next album, 1981's Dead Ringer. The failure of Bad for Good convinced Steinman to offer an olive branch to Meat Loaf in the form of eight songs for the album. Unfortunately, Dead Ringer failed to generate the same hysteria as its predecessor, despite the presence of Cher on "Dead Ringer for Love" and members of the E Street Band and Elton John's touring players in the lineup. The tension between Meat Loaf and Steinman erupted again over songs promised for Midnight at the Lost and Found (1983). Steinman had allegedly given Meat Loaf "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and "Making Love (Out of Nothing at All)," but received no payment for them by Meat Loaf's new label, Epic. He retracted the songs, which he then submitted to Bonnie Tyler and Air Supply, both of whom scored Top 5 hits with them. Meat Loaf was forced to complete the album without Steinman's help, and penned many of its numbers himself. Midnight was a resounding failure, as was 1984's Bad Attitude and 1986's Blind Before I Stop. Meat Loaf soon filed for bankruptcy and attempted to once again rebuild his life and voice, which had become ragged from endless touring.
In 1990, Meat Loaf and Steinman met during the December holidays in an attempt to patch up their differences. After performing selections from Bat Out of Hell together, they decided to reunite for its official sequel, Bat Out of Hell 2: Back into Hell (1993), and as expected, the album was an unqualified success. Featuring many of the players that originally appeared on the original LP, including Rundgren and Ellen Foley and anchored by another colossal pop number called "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)," the album sold 15 million copies and reaped a Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance. For the subsequent tour, Meat Loaf was joined by his stepdaughter, Pearl Meat Loaf, who later became a permanent member of his band.
While Meat Loaf was climbing back to the top of the rock charts, he also began developing a substantive side career as a character actor in features and television. Bit parts in films like "Wayne's World" (1992) and "Spice World: The Movie" (1997), which reunited him with his "Rocky Horror" co-star Richard O'Brien, led to larger roles in "The Mighty" (1998) as a kindly biker and "Crazy in Alabama" (1999) as a small town Southern sheriff. His most notable film role after "Rocky Horror" was former bodybuilder Bob Paulsen in "Fight Club" (1999), whose bout with testicular cancer increased his body's estrogen production, leaving him with oversized breasts. Meat Loaf's performance was widely praised for its sensitivity. In 2001, Meat Loaf formally changed his first name to Michael. Meat Loaf's career renaissance carried over to his next few albums as well. Surprisingly, Steinman's contributions to these efforts were limited; he penned just two songs for 1995's Welcome to the Neighborhood and none for 2003's I Couldn't Have Said It Better1. Pop craftsmen Diane Warren and James Michael took over the majority of the songwriting for these records, both of which performed well on the international charts. A series of dates with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 2004 yielded a live album, followed by close to 200 sold-out live dates throughout 2005. Meat Loaf was forced to curtail the length of his shows in 2003 following a collapse on stage at London's Wembley Arena. He was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat, and subsequently limited live shows to an hour and 45 minutes.
Meat Loaf began talks with Steinman to work on another chapter in the Bat saga in 2001, but health issues forced the composer to abstain from collaborating in earnest for several years. Though hesitant to progress without him, Meat Loaf began work on Bat Out of Hell: The Monster is Loose, which immediately prompted a lawsuit by Steinman over alleged infringement of his trademark on the Bat Out of Hell title. Meat Loaf countered with his own suit, which was eventually settled in 2006, allowing work to commence on the record. Steinman contributed no new material to the album, but delivered seven previously recorded songs, including two from aborted musical theater projects. The remainder of the material was penned by such established hitmakers as Desmond Child, who also produced the album, as well as Marti Fredrikson, John 5 of Marilyn Manson and Motley Crue's Nikki Sixx. The album reached gold status in the United States, though did not yield any hit singles. In 2007, he launched the Seize the Night tour - one of his biggest to date - but struggled with health issues on several occasions. While performing in Newcastle upon Tyne that year, he halted his performance and left the stage, citing that he was no longer able to carry on. Doctors discovered a cyst on his vocal chords, which required surgery. A year later, he was back on the concert trails.
Portions of the Seize the Night tour were filmed as part of a documentary called "Meat Loaf: In Search of Paradise" (2008), which depicted the singer struggling with both his voice and his desire to rise to the Olympian strengths required to perform his material. A key scene in the film depicted his frustration over negative critical response to his rendition of "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" with singer Aspen Miller, who was half his age. In the film, Meat Loaf responded by performing the song in the stage clothes he wore when the song was new, while vintage clips from '70s-era performances played on video screens.
Meat Loaf also logged numerous hours on episodic television during this period. There were numerous appearances as himself, including a memorable cameo on the "Chef Aid" episode of "South Park" (Comedy Central, 1997- ) in which he cited that the Isaac Hayes-voiced Chef inspired him to change his stage name from Couscous to Meat Loaf. As an actor, he was frequently assigned supporting roles as violent tough guys, most notably in Ronny Yu's "Formula 51" (2001) and as a vicious anti-Semite in "Focus" (2001). But he showed considerable range in a harrowing episode of the anthology series "Masters of Horror" (Showtime, 2005-07) directed by Dario Argento as an illegal fur trader driven to commit horrible acts by magical animal skins. Another solid turn came with a 2009 episode of "House, M.D." (Fox, 2004- ) as a terminally ill patient who wanted to aid his seemingly ill wife by donating his liver. In 2007, he appeared alongside pop singer Tiffany in an AT&T commercial that parodied his song "Let Me Sleep on It" by casting him as a father who wrestled with his son's wish to have a GoPhone. And in 2010, he appeared alongside his "Rocky Horror" co-star Barry Bostwick as news station managers who attempt to exploit the controversy of a "Rocky Horror Show" production at a local high school on "Glee" (Fox, 2009- ).
In 2009, Meat Loaf released his eleventh album, Hang Cool Teddy Bear. Produced by Rob Cavallo, who worked previously with Green Day, the album featured material by Jon Bon Jovi and other pop and rock songwriters, as well as guest contributions by Queen guitarist Brian May and actors Hugh Laurie and Jack Black, but no material by Steinman. The album generated chart-topping sales in the UK and positive reviews worldwide, but sent a chill through fans when he announced that it would most likely be his final recorded offering. In 2010, he was announced as one of the contestants on the fourth season of "The Celebrity Apprentice" (NBC, 2004- ), during the course of which, he exploded at fellow contestant, Gary Busey, in what was called an "epic meltdown" during a Trump-assigned task. The screaming fit brought the singer-actor his fair share of media attention, despite having made up with Busey during the course of the show.
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Sources vary as to the year of Meat Loaf's birth: it has variously been reported as 1947, 1949 and 1951. Similarly, he has given various versions of how he obtained his unusual moniker.
"I got done with Shakespeare at 10:30 at night and then I'd go to Max's Kansas City Bar, put on my motorcycle jacket and get up on stage to sing rock'n'roll songs until 3 am. Everyone thought I was a wacko." --Meat Loaf quoted in THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, April 26, 1998
"It's funny; I was interested in trying out for this small part in an Eddie Murphy movie. It was going to be two great scenes between me and Eddie, and I thought it would be really cool to work with a guy like that. So we called the lady about it, and her response was, 'Oh, get serious--we're only seeing real actors for this film.' I went loony. I mean, just because I have this name, they don't think I'm a serious actor. They always balk at the name. But then sometimes I balk at it too." --Meat Loaf to TIME OUT NEW YORK, October 15-22, 1998
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