Meat Loaf Dead at 74

Meat Loaf in 1981
Photo Credit
Sony Music Archive via Getty Images/Terry Lott

Meat Loaf, the larger-than-life rock singer whose heavens-shaking voice became synonymous with teenage angst in the '70s, has died. He was 74 years old.

The singer's passing was confirmed in a post on his Facebook page, though no cause of death was given. "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," it read. "From his heart to your souls…don’t ever stop rocking!"

With his full-throated voice and imposing frame, the man born Marvin Lee Aday became an avatar for shouldering the unbearable weight of adolescent emotions from love to lust. His childhood in Dallas, Texas was marked by struggle; he and his mother would travel through bars searching for his father, a World War II veteran prone to days-long drinking binges. His football coach would mock him for his weight - giving him the nickname we know him by today - and he'd isolate himself in an apartment for months after college, when his mother died.

Eventually he embarked on a journey to Los Angeles, trying and failing to get recognized as a musician. While he would make progress - opening gigs for groups like The Who and the Grateful Dead, a co-starring role in the hippie-rock musical Hair, a minorly successful duo with female singer Shaun "Stoney" Murphy on Motown, of all labels - he later told a radio interviewer that prospective labels saw him as a "circus clown."

Meat got his widest exposure in 1975 when he appeared as the ill-fated Eddie in the cult-classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show - a role he originated onstage in Los Angeles. By that time, he was abandoning acting and theatre, but stuck close to one of his closest allies during that phase of his career: Jim Steinman, an ambitious songwriter tinkering on a dark romantic musical adaptation of Peter Pan. With the support of producer/arranger/guitarist Todd Rundgren and an all-star cast of musicians including members of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, Meat and Steinman would finesse seven of those songs into the first proper Meat Loaf album.

Though music tastemakers weren't immediately sure what to make of Bat Out of Hell, there was no denying its magnetic charm and melodic brilliance. With relentless radio promotion and touring, the album clawed its way to No. 11 on the Billboard 200, and generated two Top 40 hits in the yearning "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad" (No. 11) and the epic "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" (No. 39). To date, it's sold upwards of 40 million copies around the world - 14 million of those in the United States.

The duo began work on a follow-up album, Bad for Good, but was waylaid by a volatile combination of overwork and drug abuse that temporarily caused Meat to lose his voice. Steinman would release Bad for Good himself, writing another brace of songs for the singer's proper follow-up Dead Ringer (1981). None of the songs, including title track "Dead Ringer for Love" (a duet with Cher), could match Bat's success, although the album would top the U.K. charts; nonetheless, the duo would become estranged, going so far as to pursue legal action against each other.

After staying afloat through the '80s - two further albums made the U.K. Top 10 - the ice between Meat and Steinman would thaw, and they embarked on a proper sequel to Bat Out of Hell. Again, no one expected much from the record - but 1993's Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell was another shocking success, this time topping the charts on both sides of the Atlantic and spawning a worldwide No. 1, "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)," a Grammy Award winner for Best Rock Vocal Performance.

Subsequent albums would feature sporadic recordings of Steinman songs, including 2006's Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster is Loose, a Top 10 hit. His last hit single was 1995's Top 20 "I'd Lie to You (and That's the Truth)." Meat would record and tour consistently - his last album was 2016's Braver Than We Are - and even make occasional, memorable appearances in film and television, including Fight Club, Wayne's World, Spice World and The Celebrity Apprentice. In 2021, he extensively mourned the passing of Steinman in a lengthy interview with Rolling Stone and announced his intention to return to the studio after a series of back surgeries.

Meat Loaf is survived by his wife Deborah and two daughters. Pearl, born to first wife Leslie Edmonds in a previous relationship and adopted by the singer, was known for singing alongside her stepfather in concert; he and Edmonds would also raise Amanda, an actress.

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