2022 is not boding well for pop culture fans. I woke up to the news this morning that Meat Loaf, (born Marvin Lee Aday, September 27, 1947) passed away yesterday (January 20th) at the age of 74. Yet another piece of my childhood and teen years is slowly slipping away.
Meat Loaf’s career spanned over 6 decades and he sold over 100 million records worldwide. He also appeared in over 50 movies and TV series during his long career. Meat Loaf first found success on the Broadway stage in the groundbreaking musical Hair, and he had a brief, but memorable role in The Rocky Horror Picture Show as the ill-fated delivery boy Eddie (more on that in a bit), but it was his 1977 album Bat Out of Hell that turned him into a superstar and rock & roll icon. The album, with songs written by stage composer Jim Steinman, went platinum 14 times over thanks to the hit singles “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Nights),” and “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.” The pressure to create a follow-up caused Meat Loaf to have an emotional breakdown, and he temporarily lost his singing voice. But as Rolling Stone Magazine reported, ‘…a miracle took place in 1993 when he re-teamed with Steinman to record Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell. The album went on to sell an astounding 14 million copies, thanks in large part to the worldwide hit single “I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That).” It’s one of the most stunning comebacks in rock history.’
I discovered Meat Loaf when I first watched The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Y’all, I guess I’ve always been drawn to that ‘rockabilly’ bad boy type from the get go! He was cast as Eddie, a “pompadoured motorcycle freak”. It was a brief, but very memorable, role that helped launch him into the TRHPS cult fanbase superstardom, along with his singing career, which took him to the outer reaches of that fanbase a 100x over with the release of Bat Out Of Hell.
Meat Loaf didn’t have the best childhood. Actually, it was pretty shitty. Born in Dallas, Texas, on Sept. 27, 1947. He claimed his father named him “Meat” when he was just four days old because he was a chunky baby. His father was also a violent alcoholic that regularly beat him, and things at school weren’t much better since his large size made him the perfect target for bullying from his classmates. Things turned around, though, in high school when his size proved to be an asset on the football team. He also discovered he suddenly had a three-and-a-half-octave vocal range his sophomore year after a 12-pound shot landed on his head during a track and field event. (For the rest of his life, he believed the accident somehow created his singing voice.)
When he was 18, his mother (who had divorced his alcoholic dad and raised Meat Loaf as a single mother) died of breast cancer. Shortly after the funeral, his father (drunk and angry) lunged into his bedroom with a butcher knife in his hand. “I rolled off the bed just as he put that knife right in the mattress,” he said in 2018. “I fought for my life. Apparently I broke three ribs and his nose, and left the house barefoot in a pair of gym shorts and a T-shirt.”
During his career, Meat Loaf rode some amazing highs, and crashed hard during some soul wrenching lows. One thing he never stopped doing was working. Outside of the initial crash and burn that left him voiceless for a time, he would always find his footing and climb back up. However, his health began to suffer over the years and he collapsed onstage in 2016 while singing “I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” at a show in Edmonton, Canada. It would be the last tour of his career.
His death is just another reminder that we are all mortal, and we need to live life to the fullest while we are able. His life is a reminder to never give up, always pick yourself back up and shoot for the stars no matter how many hits ya take.
“I never fit in, I am a true alternative. And I love being the outcast. That’s my role in life, to be an outcast.” Meat Loaf
“When it’s over you know
We’ll both be so alone
Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone when the morning comes
When the night is over
Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone, gone, gone”
Lyrics from Bat Out of Hell