Marvin Lee Aday is a singer and occasional actor who, for reasons never definitively answered, has recorded under the name Meat Loaf. In all likelihood a childhood nickname, the tag stuck, and many puns followed as the performer -- who tipped the scales at well over 300 pounds -- became one of the biggest chart acts of the 1970s before enjoying a commercial renaissance two decades later.
Meat Loaf was born in Dallas, Texas. The product of a family of gospel singers, he moved to Los Angeles in 1967 and formed a group known as both Meat Loaf Soul and Popcorn Blizzard. The band earned some renown through opening gigs in support of the Who, the Stooges, and Ted Nugent before Meat Loaf won a role in a West Coast production of the musical Hair. During a tour stop in Detroit, he and a fellow castmate named Stoney teamed to record the 1971 LP Stoney & Meat Loaf for Motown's Rare Earth imprint. After a tenure in the off-Broadway production Rainbow (In New York), Meat Loaf earned a slot in More Than You Deserve, a musical written by classically trained pianist Jim Steinman. An appearance in the cult film The Rocky Horror Picture Show followed, and in 1976 Meat Loaf also handled vocal duties on one side of Nugent's LP Free-for-All.
Soon, Meat Loaf reteamed with Steinman for a tour with the National Lampoon road show, after which Steinman began composing a musical update of the Peter Pan story titled Never Land. Ultimately, much of what Steinman composed for Never Land became absorbed into 1977's Bat Out of Hell, the album that made Meat Loaf a star. Produced by Todd Rundgren, the record was pure melodrama, a teen rock opera that spawned three Top 40 singles -- "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad," "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," and "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth" -- on its way to becoming one of the best-selling albums of the decade.
A sequel was planned, but in 1981 Steinman issued his own solo debut, Bad for Good. After Meat Loaf released his own follow-up, Dead Ringer, rumors began flying, and it was reported that Loaf had been unable to record the Steinman album songs due to physical and emotional problems. Eventually, Steinman filed suit against Meat Loaf and his label, Epic, and none of his songs appeared on the 1983 Meat Loaf effort Midnight at the Lost and Found. After subsequent records like 1984's Bad Attitude and 1986's Blind Before I Stop bombed, the singer declared bankruptcy and began physical and psychological rehabilitation to restore his road-ravaged voice.
After several years in relative obscurity, Meat Loaf and Steinman reunited in 1993 for Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell, which continued the original's story line and duplicated its thunderous sound. The follow-up proved almost as successful as the first Bat Out of Hell, selling over five million copies and yielding a massive hit single with "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)." Without Steinman, he returned in 1995 with Welcome to the Neighborhood. The career-long concert compilation Live Around the World followed one year later, but Meat Loaf released no more new material until well into the 2000s. He finally recorded Couldn't Have Said It Better, which was released on Sanctuary in 2003.
Three years later, after resolving the disputes surrounding its release, Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose came out (sans Steinman, though many of his songs were used, which was what caused the problems in the first place), tracks from which were added to the production of Loaf's Bat Out of Hell play. Meat Loaf's 11th studio album, Hang Cool Teddy Bear, appeared in 2010. Featuring guest spots from Jack Black, Hugh Laurie, and Queen's Brian May, it was based on a short story by his friend screenwriter and director Kilian Kerwin and told the story of a wounded soldier whose life begins flashing before his eyes. The less conceptual Hell in a Handbasket LP arrived a year later and was produced by Meat Loaf's guitarist, Paul Crook. Finally, two decades after their last collaboration, Meat Loaf and Steinman reunited to work on his 13th studio album, Braver Than We Are. The album appeared in September of 2016. ~ Jason Ankeny