A look back at an unusual career between rock and cult films

For some he’s the Eddie of the Rocky Horror Picture Show or the Robert Paulson of fight club. For others, he is the star of Bat Out Of Hell, album released in 1977 and sold 40 million copies around the world. Meat Loaf, who has just died at the age of 74, has had a career that is anything but banal.

First there is his pseudonym, meaning “meatloaf” in French. The story goes that he was given this nickname by his father, because of his physique, and that he suffered from it in his childhood when his comrades used it to make fun of him. The initials also happen to match his real name, Marvin Lee Aday. To take up this stigmatizing and vexatious nickname to reach glory had to have a taste of revenge.

100 million albums sold

Born in September 1947 in Dallas (Texas), he first struggled between hesitant first steps as a musician and odd jobs such as bodyguard in the early 1970s. Everything accelerated in the middle of this decade with stage roles in musicals Hate then The Rocky Horror Picture Show, quickly transposed to the big screen.

Meat Loaf’s name entered musical history with the success of Bat Out Of Hell, extended by a sequel in 1993 carried by the tube I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That). In total, he has sold over 100 million albums during his career.

It was his meeting with Jim Steinman, lyricist and composer, that triggered everything musically. Together they delivered Bat Out Of Hell, a rock-opera album for his admirers, bombastic rock for his detractors.

In production, there was another key man, Todd Rundgren, “one of rock’s best kept secrets”, a disciple of legendary producer Phil Spector (and his famous wall of sound, a stack of sound layers), like the writes Nicolas Dupuy in Take One, rock producers.

Drugs and rock and roll

“Everyone hated it when it came out,” Meat Loaf recalled in an interview on American television. It took the support of two of his best friends, prominent comedians John Belushi and Gilda Radner, for the album to be successful. “John and Gilda lobbied producer Lorne Michaels for nine months to invite me on his show Saturday Night Live. He finally programmed me for the last show in 1978. That’s what changed everything. »

The titles Paradise By The Dashboard Light, Bat Out Of Hell Where Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad thus pushed the album to the heights of sales.

In the tours that followed, Meat Loaf inserted theatrical sequences in bombastic shows, long hair and a red scarf on the wrist. Behind the scenes, all the excesses of rock and roll were there, especially the drugs, as its musicians later recounted.

From the 2000s, health problems multiplied for the artist, including discomfort on stage.

Republican Party support

His death, aged 74, was announced Friday on Facebook by his relatives. “It is with a broken heart that we announce that the incomparable Meat Loaf is gone, his wife Deborah by his side”. The precise reason for his death is not specified in this message.

Outside of his artistic pursuits, Meat Loaf was among the few prominent American singers, outside of country music, to actively support the Republican Party. In particular, he campaigned in 2012 for Mitt Romney, Barack Obama’s unfortunate opponent.

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