Meat Loaf, one if the best-selling rock artists of all time, has died aged 74. The news was broken by the singer and actor's agent in a statement on Facebook (opens in new tab).
The statement read: "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.
"His amazing career spanned six decades that saw him sell over 100 Million albums worldwide and star in over 65 movies, including Fight Club, Focus, Rocky Horror Picture Show and Wayne’s World. Bat Out of Hell remains one of the top 10 selling albums of all time.
"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.
"From his heart to your souls…don’t ever stop rocking!"
Born Marvin Lee Aday in Dallas, Texas in 1947, Meat Loaf's career began in musicals: he was in Hair, toured as understudy to John Belushi in National Lampoon's Lemmings show, was part of the original LA cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and wound up playing Eddie in the 1975 movie.
His recording career had begun four years earlier, when he released an album as one half of Stoney and Meatloaf (one word). The album – a collaboration with singer Shaun "Stoney" Murphy, who went on to sing for Bob Seger, Eric Clapton and fronted Little Feat for a while in the 90s – was released on Motown subsidiary Rare Earth. And in 1976, he sang five of the tracks on Ted Nugent's album Free-for-All.
But Bat Out Of Hell is considered his real debut. The album had a long and difficult birth, beginning life in 1972 as a set of Jim Steinman songs for a musical about Peter Pan, and slowly morphing into the set of songs that would become known around the world. Record companies weren't convinced, and the project was saved by Canadian musician and producer Todd Rundgren, the man Steinman called "the only genuine genius I've ever worked with." On hearing the Bat… songs, Rundgren claims he "rolled on the floor laughing. It was so out there. I said, 'I've got to do this album…'"
Rundgren roped in members of his band Utopia, and drummer Max Weinberg and pianist Roy Bittan of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, and the album was finally released by Cleveland International on October 21, 1977.
The album proved to be a classic 'sleeper' album. Six months after its release, the Old Grey Whistle Test took the ambitious step of airing a film clip of the live band performing the nine-minute title track. Response was so overwhelming, they screened it again the following week. It finally entered the UK album charts in March 1978, the same week that an album called Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols sat at 31. Bat Out Of Hell scraped in at 60.
In a year of massive change for the music business, Bat Out Of Hell seemed out of step: theatrical and overblown at a time when punk was seemingly ushering in a new wave of gritty realism and anti-rock stars. But maybe that was the secret to its success. It was the fun antidote to punk's nihilism and prog's navel-gazing and Meat Loaf was a new kind of rock star.
Big and daft, with gloriously huge songs about teenage love and going-all-the-way, Bat Out Of Hell is both preposterous and, with its songs about first kisses, falling in love, and losing your virginity, actually very relatable.
Eventually every track on the album became a hit single and the album became a phenomenon. It was also the most profitable release in history, beating even Michael Jackson's Thriller, which had cost ten times as much to make.
Bat Out Of Hell became the world's third best-selling album, with an estimated 50m sales. It spent over 500 weeks in the UK album charts, and is one of the biggest-selling albums to never reach the number one spot. Their 1993 sequel, Bat Out Of Hell II, yielded the single I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That) – it went to number 1 in 28 countries and was the best-selling single of that year in the UK.
The massive success of Bat took its toll on the Meat Loaf/Steinman partnership. Arguments over billing and credits meant the two men went their separate ways. The planned follow-up, Bad For Good, became a Steinman solo album and their eventual collaboration on Meat Loaf album Dead Ringer didn't surface until 1981. It went to number 1 around the world and the title track, a duet with Cher, Dead Ringer For Love, went to number 5 in the UK.
Meat Loaf released 12 albums in his lifetime – including Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose in 2006 – and if they all suffered from the long shadow cast by Bat Out Of Hell, they still made the charts, delivered some hit singles, and featured numerous collaborations: Mick Ronson, Cher, Rick Derringer, Nicky Hopkins, Roger Daltrey, Pat Thrall, Sammy Hagar – his albums were a who's who of rock.
Meat Loaf also starred in over 40 movies, including a stand-out role in David Fincher's 1999 movie Fight Club, but his work rate was occasionally undermined by his health: he fractured a leg jumping offstage in Ottawa in 1978, collapsed onstage in 2003, 2011 and 2016, and broke a collarbone falling offstage at a horror convention in 2019. He also underwent emergency surgery after a pinched nerve caused him to suffer spinal fusion.
"I’ve got to go to physical therapy," he told us. "I had back surgery and knee surgery within the last two years, and the knee surgery failed so I haven’t been able to work out on tour. I’m going to acupuncture, physical therapy and a trainer for four days a week, an hour and a half each session."
Larger than life, Meat Loaf was the kind of man who ensured that those who met him came away with a story to tell, but he was also modest to a fault, insisting his longevity was down to his reliability rather than the record-breaking success of Bat Out Of Hell.
"I think of myself as a plumber," he told us in 2016. "You have a leak in your kitchen, you need a plumber. You go to the book, find somebody, he comes, fits your pipe, does it quickly and well, and gives you a fair price. And if something else happens in your house, you will call that plumber back."
No cause of death has been announced. Jim Steinman, Meat Loaf's Bat Out Of Hell partner, died last year aged 73.