Marvin Lee Aday, whose backstreet operatic vocals and soaring dramatic rock’n’roll tales of teenage love and lust recorded under the stage name Meat Loaf defined youth in the 1970s, passed away late Thursday evening from as-yet undisclosed causes. He was 74.
Meat Loaf was the unlikeliest of rock stars. Severely overweight throughout most of his life, a singer who was anything but an option as this week’s Cute Guy, seemed destined for oddball outlier roles. His first public appearance of note came in 1971 when he performed in a Los Angeles-based stage production of the 1960s hippie musical Hair. Two years later, while still in Los Angeles, he worked as part of the original cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, later appearing in the 1975 movie adaptation.
In 1977, he and his usual songwriting partner Jim Steinman, who passed away in 2021, had their unique musical vision rewarded with Bat Out Of Hell. First picked up on due to the love-lost ballad “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad,” its perfectly balanced mix of angst and suitably impassioned music struck a chord in teenagers everywhere. Bat Out Of Hell is one of the ten most popular albums of all time, with over 43 million copies sold worldwide.
Meat Loaf seldom received full credit for how he and Steinman possessed a sly sense of humor, evidenced in songs such as “Paradise By The Dashboard Light.”
But after Bat Out Of Hell, Meat Loaf had difficulty maintaining such lofty heights, and his career waned until 1993 when he and Steinman rejoined forces and released Bat Out Of Hell II. The 1970s teens now navigating midlife’s murky waters seized upon the album with glee, as it sold 14 million copies and reestablished Meat Loaf as a commercially viable musical presence.
Meat Loaf was one of the few unabashed and unafraid conservatives in rock, routinely speaking his mind on political matters. He campaigned for Republican candidates, one of whom paid tribute to his friend Friday.
Heartache—but with warm memories—with news of Meat Loaf’s passing. A man of gentle kindness, generous spirit and exceptional talent. The unique quality of his music will stand the test of time. Like many who knew him, I will miss his friendship. https://t.co/fqdCm1RcAM
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) January 21, 2022
Meat Loaf was a deserved cultural icon, a hero to those needing one who, like them, didn’t fit in much of anywhere. He was the singer who shouldn’t have made it but did. He loved his fans and never took them for granted.
At a concert in San Francisco I attended in 1995, during the show which had been postponed for several months due to health reasons, Meat Loaf came up with an on the spot offer to provide those in attendance with a free ticket to his concert the following night at another San Francisco Bay Area venue. Meat Loaf was that rarity among artists in any field: one said to be larger than life who actually fit the bill.
Godspeed, Mr. Aday. Heaven just gained a singer worthy of its eternal stage.
And finally, this might be one of the best renditions of our national anthem ever, by anybody.
Editor’s Note: The article identified Meat Loaf’s given name as “Michael Lee Aday,” rather than “Marvin Lee Aday.” It has been updated to correct that. We regret the error.