Meat Loaf, 'I'd Do Anything for Love' singer and Rocky Horror Picture Show actor, dies at 74

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Meat Loaf — the operatic, outsized rock singer whose 1977 "Bat Out of Hell" album sold 43 million copies, and who had memorable roles in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Fight Club, and many others — died Thursday night, a representative for Meat Loaf confirmed to EW. He was 74.

A cause of death was not immediately known, but a Facebook post on the singer's official page confirmed the news: "Our hearts are broken to announce that the incomparable Meat Loaf passed away tonight with his wife Deborah by his side. Daughters Pearl and Amanda and close friends have been with him throughout the last 24 hours. ... 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."

Born Marvin Lee Aday, the singer had one of the most unusual personae in rock — his albums were bombastic and over-the-top, the biggest hits structured as theatrical skits, yet in person, he was painfully self-deprecating. "I'm not built to be a celebrity," he told Rolling Stone in 2006. "I met Elvis and John Lennon, and I was an idiot, a complete moron. I think of myself as a plumber."

The singer performed in numerous bands through the '60s and early '70s, including a stint with Detroit's famed Motown Records as part of a duet called Stoney and Meat Loaf. But success didn't kick in until 1973, when he hooked up with theatre composer and classically trained pianist Jim Steinman, who wrote the songs for "Bat Out of Hell."

"Bat" and its hit single "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" turned Meat Loaf into one of the decade's biggest stars — "a sold-out tour, limos, room service, dealers," as he recalled in his 1999 memoir "To Hell and Back." But within a few years, he split with Steinman, wound up in 22 lawsuits, for a total of $85 million, went bankrupt, and made a series of uninspiring flop albums. After retreating to western Connecticut with his wife and their two daughters, coaching sports and volunteering at school, he made a comeback in 1993 with "Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell." His one and only Grammy — Best Rock Vocal Performance — for a song from that album, the sweeping ballad "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)," which was written by Steinman; the song was also his first and only no. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Born in Dallas, Aday's father was a police officer and salesman and his mother an English teacher. His father drifted in and out of bars, prompting his mother to drag 8-or-9-year-old Marvin around town looking for him. As a kid, Marvin ran away from home so frequently that his mother literally tied him up, to a clothesline, a rope around his waist. Owing to his hefty frame, classmates, teachers, and coaches called young Marvin "ML," "Mighty Large," "Tree Trunks," "Meat" and, eventually, Meat Loaf.

Meat Loaf took off from his parents' home in 1966 and moved to California to make it in music. His early band, Popcorn Blizzard, opened for the Who and Iggy Pop, among others, but it had such little commercial success that Meat Loaf wound up living in a communal home by 1969. His first break came that year, at an audition for Hair; he nailed it and traveled with the show around the U.S. for $187.50 a week.

After he auditioned for Steinman's 1973 play More Than You Deserve, the songwriter thought to himself, "Get this Negro music away from him. He should be singing Wagnerian rock opera," as told to Rolling Stone five years later.

Inspired in part by producer Phil Spector's Wall of Sound, Steinman and Meat Loaf refashioned seven of the composer's songs into what would become "Bat Out of Hell." An established star, Todd Rundgren, produced the album, but at first it didn't go anywhere. "People at record companies hated it," Meat Loaf wrote in his memoir. Eventually, CBS-owned Epic Records threw its weight behind the album, which became one of the best-sellers in history, thanks in part to Meat Loaf's feverish touring. "I get so possessed by the songs, so wrapped up in the show, that it's like withdrawal when it's over," he told Rolling Stone. "It's like I have to be exorcised from these Steinman demons."

When Meat Loaf appeared alongside Brad Pitt in Fight Club in 1999, some were surprised by his range — he once complained a casting director for an Eddie Murphy movie had insisted on "real actors" and rejected him. But he made his character, Robert Paulson, who had "bitch tits" from testicular-cancer treatment, memorable.

Meat Loaf applied his gifts for operatic drama to reality television, spewing 24 expletives in two minutes at Gary Busey during Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice in 2011. "I was wondering, 'What's he going to be like?'" Jerome Sable, who directed him in 2014's Stage Fright, told EW. "But... he is the most passionate human being I have ever met and worked with. Once he gets into something, he goes all the way."

In 2016, Meat Loaf released what ended up being his final album, Braver Than We Are. It was his first collaboration with Steinman in more than 20 years. (Steinman died in April 2021.) In a Nov. 2021 Facebook post, the singer said he and his band had plans to record new music in Jan. 2022 for a forthcoming album.

Meat Loaf often spoke of his great joy of performing live and touring. But even then, it seemed his best would perhaps never be enough for him. "I'll never be happy, I'll never be satisfied, until I'm dead," he told Billboard in 2015. "I told the band, 'If I die on stage, leave me laying there, play "When The Saints Go Marching In," then get the audience to sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." And, if leaving me laying there is too morbid, remove me and then do those songs.' "

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