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

Meat Loaf, the larger-than-life rocker whose 1977 debut album, “Bat Out of Hell,” was one of the best-selling albums of all time, died on Thursday. He had given conflicting information about his age over the years, but was widely reported to have been 74.

His death was confirmed by his manager, Michael Greene. A statement on the musician’s Facebook page said his wife was by his side and that his friends had been with him in his final 24 hours. A cause of death was not given.

Meat Loaf, who was born Marvin Lee Aday and took his stage name from a childhood nickname, had a career that few could match. In six decades, he sold more than 100 million albums worldwide, the statement said, and appeared in several movies, including “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Fight Club.”

“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,” the statement said. “From his heart to your souls … don’t ever stop rocking!”

Meat Loaf’s death came just a year after that of Jim Steinman, the songwriter who wrote “Bat Out of Hell,” a record that brought operatic rock to audiences at a time when, in the face of disco and punk, it couldn’t have been more unfashionable. The pair met when Mr. Steinman was commissioned to co-write a musical called “More Than You Deserve,” which ran at the Public Theater in New York in 1973 and 1974. Meat Loaf auditioned and later joined the cast.

Later, Mr. Steinman was trying to write a post-apocalyptic musical based on “Peter Pan,” but, unable to secure the rights for the tale, he turned the work into “Bat Out of Hell,” bringing in Meat Loaf to give the songs the style and energy that made them hits. The title track alone is a mini-opera in itself, clocking in at nearly 10 minutes and featuring numerous musical breakdowns. The album’s seven tracks also included the songs “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” and “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.”

Meat Loaf and Mr. Steinman went on to have legal disagreements, but still worked together, writing a sequel to “Bat Out of Hell” in 1993 — “Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell” — which included “I’d Do Anything for Love (but I Won’t Do That),” Meat Loaf’s only track to top the Billboard 100 singles chart. The song also won him the 1994 Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Solo.

Some critics could be sniffy about Meat Loaf’s music and spectacle. John Rockwell, reviewing a 1977 live show for The New York Times, started by remarking that “Meat Loaf is the rather graceless name that a large rock performer has chosen for both himself and for the band built around his singing.” Despite that, Mr. Rockwell was soon convinced that Meat Loaf was worthy of being the center of attention. “He has fine, fervent low rock tenor, and enough stage presence to do without spotlights altogether,” he wrote, adding that, “one had to admire the unabashed intensity with which he was willing to wallow in such soap‐opera silliness.”

Mr. Steinman died in April 2021 at age 73. Meat Loaf told Rolling Stone shortly afterward that Mr. Steinman had been the “centerpiece” of his life.

In addition to his music, Meat Loaf also appeared in dozens of television shows and movies, according to IMDb. His first major role came in 1975 in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” where he played Eddie. He also appeared in “Wayne’s World” (1992), “Spice World” (1997) and “Fight Club” (1999). More recently, he had a role in several episodes of the TV series “Ghost Wars” from 2017-18.

Marvin Lee Aday was born and grew up in Dallas, the son of Orvis Wesley Aday, a former policeman, and Wilma Artie Hukel, an English teacher. “I stayed at my grandmother’s house a lot,” Meat Loaf wrote in “To Hell and Back,” his 1999 autobiography, adding that he did not know if those stays were because his mother was busy working or because she did not want him to see his father “on a bender.”

According to his autobiography, Meat Loaf was born on Sep. 27, 1947, but news reports of his age varied over the years. In 2003, he showed a reporter from The Guardian newspaper a passport featuring a birth date of 1951 and later said about the discrepancy, “I just continually lie.”

As an adult, Meat Loaf said he changed his first name to Michael from Marvin because of childhood taunts about his weight and, he said, the emotional impact of a Levi’s jeans commercial that had the slogan, “Poor fat Marvin can’t wear Levi’s.”

He later cited the commercial when petitioning to change his name, which the judge granted it within 30 seconds, Meat Loaf wrote in his autobiography.

Meat Loaf also told numerous stories about how he got his stage name, including one about a high school stunt in which he let a Volkswagen run over his head. Afterward, a child shouted, “You’re as dumb as a hunk of meat loaf.” But Meat Loaf wrote in his autobiography that the name came from his father: “He called me Meat Loaf almost from the time my mother brought me home.”

Meat Loaf had health problems throughout his career. He had heart surgery in 2003 after collapsing onstage at Wembley Arena in London and told an audience in Newcastle, England, in 2007 that the concert was “probably the last show I’ll ever do” after another health scare.

In 2013, he told The Guardian that he was definitely retiring from music after another farewell tour. “I’ve had 18 concussions,” he said. “My balance is off. I’ve had a knee replacement. I’ve got to have the other one replaced.” He wanted to “concentrate more on acting,” he added, since “that’s where I started and that’s where I’ll finish.”

A full list of survivors was not immediately available.

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