Updated: Jul 29, 2022
Marvin Lee Aday (27 September 1947 - 20 January 2022)
The American singer and actor, better known as Meat Loaf, garnered a following that crosses generations and different genres. A singer of extraordinary power who forged a prodigious relationship with songwriter Jim Steinman and came back from bankruptcy to slay the world with the ultimate rock opera ballad and a man full of surprises. Despite his stage name, he was a vegetarian for at least a decade.
Aday was born in Dallas, Texas as the only child of Wilma Artie (née Hukel), a school teacher and gospel singer, and Orvis Wesley Aday, a former police officer who had set up a business to sell a homemade cough remedy. His stage name, Meat Loaf, was born almost as soon as he was. When he was born he was bright red and according to his father, resembled "nine pounds of ground chuck". He convinced hospital staff to put the name "Meat" on his crib. His father was an alcoholic who would go on binges that would last for days on end. He also inflicted physical violence on Marvin. Things were just as unpleasant at school as Marvin was bullied for his weight. He would confess in later years that he believes his three and a half octave vocal range was the result of an incident at school when a shot put landed on his head.
Meat Loaf claimed a Secret Service agent hijacked his car to get to the Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas on November 22 1963, the day JKF was assassinated. Meat Loaf saw Jackie Kennedy entering the building with her dead husband on that fateful day.
He graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1965 and had made a name for himself in stage productions and his prowess as a defensive line man in the school American football team. This is where the name "Meat" became "Meat Loaf" as a nickname from the football coach. It turns out his further weight gain was part of a plan to avoid the draft for Viet Nam. He gained almost 31kgs in the effort to fail his medical and was horrified when he was declared fit to serve. He ignored the request.
His mother died when he was just 18 after a long battle with breast cancer. After the funeral, his father attempted to attack him in a drunken range with a butcher's knife. He broke his father's ribs and nose in the struggle that followed and fled the house barefoot in a pair of gym shorts and a t-shirt. He used the inheritance to rent an apartment in Dallas and became a recluse for over three months. When a friend convinced him to leave the apartment he abruptly caught a a flight to Los Angeles.
In Los Angeles, after finding work as a bouncer he formed his first band Meat Loaf Soul. Their first gig was at The Cave in Huntington Beach in 1968, opening for Van Morrison's band Them. He was immediately offered three recording contracts, all of which he rejected. The band also opened for Janis Joplin. It underwent changes to the lead guitarist, with the name changing each time. As Floating Circus they opened for The Who, The Stooges and Grateful Dead. His reputation in LA led to him joining the production of the Los Angeles musical Hair.
In 1971 he was invited to record with Motown. An album featuring Meat Loaf and fellow Hair performer Shaun ·"Stoney" Murphy was released. Meat Loaf returned to Hair, this time on Broadway and when auditioning for More Than You Deserve in 1972 he met his future collaborator, Jim Steinman. He recalled that people went crazy for his renditions of songs written by Steinman. He mused "Maybe I should work with this guy Steinman. People tell me I can sing, but I’ve never sang like that!" They started to form a bond working together further on the National Lampoon Roadshow. In late 1973, Meat Loaf was cast in the original The Rocky Horror Show as Eddie and Dr. Everett Scott. The success of the show saw a cinema version made with Meat Loaf reprising only the part of Eddie. It was at this time Bat Out of Hell started to emerge from their collaborative minds. Meat Loaf convinced Epic Records to shoot four music videos and then convinced the producer of Rocky Horror, Lou Adler, to use the video for Paradise by the Dashboard Light as a trailer for his movie.
Bat Out of Hell
Meat Loaf decided to quit theatre and concentrate solely on music and he and Steinman continued work on the album but no record labels would pick it up, regularly observing that it did not fit any recognized musical style. Eventually when they performed their work to Todd Rundgren, he enthusiastically agreed to produce and play lead guitar, with other members of his band, Utopia joining the project and Cleveland International Records released the record in October 1977. In December 1978 the pair went to Bearsville Studios where Leslie G. Edmonds worked as a secretary. In what seems an extraordinary proposal, Meat Loaf presented a giant salmon to Leslie and they were married within a month. Leslie had a daughter from a previous marriage, Pearl, Meat Loaf formally adopted her in 1979 and the family moved to Stamford, Connecticut.
Bat Out of Hell was a record breaker, with an estimated 43 million copies sold worldwide. The album has spent over 8 years on the UK album charts. The album went Platinum 14 times over. Meat Loaf talked about inhabiting the songs. He told Rolling Stone in 2021 "I left me. I was not method. I didn't have to find something in my past life to be able to sing...I became the song." The success was extraordinary and created enormous pressure on the duo to create a follow up. It was to be catastrophic for Meat Loaf, causing an emotional breakdown and the loss of his singing voice. The pressure from the record company to complete the follow up led to Steinman deciding to sing the intended follow up Bad for Good himself and write another album for Meat Loaf, which was to be Dead Ringer (1981). The titular track Dead Ringer was the greatest success, with the female vocal provided by Cher. The album also had a comedy/documentary film, that accompanied it, featuring Meat Loaf playing himself and a fan called "Marvin". In 1981 Leslie Aday gave birth to their daughter Amanda.
Meatloaf was a vegetarian between 1981 and 1992, leading to several humorous anecdotes regarding celebrity vegetarians who would not speak to him simply because of his name. He had been disturbed by a rabbit dish in 1981 and only returned to an omnivorous diet for health reasons.
An escalating feud with Steinman that would lead to the pair suing each other meant that Meat Loaf had to turn to other songwriters to complete the contractually obliged new album. That album was Midnight at the Lost and Found. Meat Loaf has stated that Steinman had written "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and "Making Love Out of Nothing at All" for the album but the record company refused to pay Steinman. The songs were eventually given to Bonnie Tyler and Air Supply, becoming massive hits. Meat Loaf's third album did not share such success.
The Difficult 80s
In 1984 Meat Loaf recorded his next album, Bad Attitude, in England. Two previously recorded Steinman tracks were included. The title track was a duet with lead singer of The Who, Roger Daltrey. While in England Meat Loaf took part in some comedy sketches with Hugh Laurie. Steinman meanwhile, was a man in huge demand, Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out for a Hero" dominated the music world that very same year. It was also in 1984 that Marvin formally changed his name Michael.
The next album Blind Before I Stop (1986), a song writing collaboration with John Parr, saw continued diminishing returns for Meat Loaf and he declared bankruptcy.
Meat Loaf participated in the ludicrous Royal It's a Knockout event in 1987 and almost caused an international incident when he nearly pushed Prince Andrew into a moat. Apparently Sarah Ferguson was paying Meat Loaf too much attention and the Prince tried to push him into the water as a discussion got heated. When Meat Loaf fought back Andrew is supposed to have protested "You can't touch me, I'm royal."
It was his touring that kept him afloat, especially with his loyal fans in Europe and the UK and in late 1989, he and Steinman buried the hatchet.
In 1990 they began work on one of the most unlikely comebacks in music history, a sequel to Bat Out of Hell. Two years later, despite industry insiders having little enthusiasm and considering the project a joke, Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell was released and became an unstoppable monster. The single "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)" reached number one in 28 countries. The female voice was simply credited as "Mrs. Loud". It was later revealed that this was English singer Lorraine Crosby from Newcastle-Upon-.Tyne. She had recorded her part as a guide vocal as Cher, Melissa Etheridge and Bonnie Tyler were all considered. She never received payment but she did receive royalties. It was not her who featured in the Michael Bay directed music video either. In 2005 she featured on ITV's The X Factor where Simon Cowell was unconvinced, stating that she "lacked star quality"!
Welcome to the Neighbourhood was released in 1995. I'd Lie for You (And That's the Truth) was the most successful single on the platinum album which featured only two Steinman tracks, both of which were covers of tracks from his Bad for Good 1981 release and the Barbara Streisand 1984 album Emotion.
His return to the public eye saw him enjoy further success in the world of cinema with memorable roles in Spiceworld (1997), Fight Club (1999), The 51st State (2001)and Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (2006). Meat Loaf and Leslie divorced in 2001. He was almost cast as Quasimodo in Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame.
In 2003 the album Couldn't Have Said It Better was released. It was not a commercial success, but the album that Meat Loaf spoke about with the most fondness. He felt it was the most honest record he produced and said something that he wanted to say. It also featured a duet with his adopted daughter, Pearl. Devastatingly, in the same year, while performing in London he collapsed on stage. He was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome (a disorder connected to the electrical system of the heart) and his insurance company refused to cover any performances longer than one hour 45 minutes.
Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster is Loose had a complicated gestation period as Steinman had suffered health setbacks, including an heart attack. The process became further complicated by another legal wrangle between the pair's camps, this time over the trademark of Bat Out of Hell. Meat Loaf strenuously denied the rift was between the two men, but between lawyers and managers. Hurdles were cleared and the album was released in 2006. The album certified Gold and the single "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" with Marion Raven made the top ten in both the US and UK. In October of that year his private jet had to make an emergency landing at London Stansted after the forward landing gear had failed.
Meat Loaf married Canadian Deborah Gillespie in 2007. In Newcastle-Upon-Tyne that year Meat Loaf announced the end of his live singing career but after resolution of a cyst on his vocal chords returned to the stage in 2008. In May 2009 he stated work on a concept album Hang Cool Teddy Bear. Base don short story about a wounded soldier who sees his life flash before his eyes. The songs told that story, Brian May, Hugh Laurie and Jack Black performed on the album. It was well received by fans and critics alike, reaching number 4 in the UK album chart.
Hell in a Hand basket was released in 2012 and in 2011 Meat Loaf stated he was working on a Christmas album called Hot Holidays, which, at the time of his death has not been released. His final album Braver Than We Are was released in 2016. He collapsed on stage while singing
“I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” in Edmonton, Canada on what would be the last tour of his career. The incident caused controversy as the playback vocal continued whilst he lay unconscious on stage.
Rolling Stone magazine spoke with him in 2018 and he explained he spend his time watching repeats of Law & Order and Blue Bloods and playing the online role playing game Gladiator. He also admitted to arguing with his fans on his Facebook page but also admitted his singing voice was not what it used to be.
When Jim Steinman died in 2021, Meat Loaf was, predictably, devastated. He expressed his emotions to Rolling Stone magazine in a tearful interview:
“I don’t want to die, but I may die this year because of Jim...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.”
He had announced he was returning to the studio with his band in January 2022 to record for a forthcoming album.
Meat Loaf had been an unlikely fan of small time English football club Hartlepool United after becoming enchanted with the historical story of the people of the town mistaking a monkey for a French spy during the Napoleonic war. His life continuously threw up curious observations. He once gave Charles Manson a lift and had a huge rubber duck collection
Meatloaf died in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 74. No official cause of death has been given. His family confirmed the news with a brief statement:
"Our hearts are broken to announce that the incomparable Meat Loaf passed away tonight surrounded by his wife Deborah, daughters Pearl and Amanda, and close friends,” the family wrote. “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."