MEAT Loaf was a great man. Six feet tall in her transparent stage stockings.
But he was the runt of the family, or so he said.
“Some of my family members were seven feet tall and some were 700 pounds,” said the singer, who died yesterday at the age of 74.
“The men on my side of the family were huge. I am the shortest of all the men on my father’s side.
I met him once, and he was right. It was backstage at an awards show in London in the 1990s, and he was holding court in his dressing room.
He was tight in a shiny evening suit that had obviously been made for a much shorter man, and he looked a little ridiculous.
But he still looked cool. After all, he was Meat Loaf.
“Hi,” he said, beaming a huge showbiz grin. “I am Meat”, as if he had said it all his life.
And in a way, he had. He was born Marvin Lee Aday, but was called Meat Loaf since he was a boy. For less than obvious reasons.
He told Oprah Winfrey in 2016 where his name came from.
“I got it when I was four days old. Not the Bread part, just the Meat, because I was born bright red.
“The doctor suggested they should keep me in the hospital for a few days and my dad said, ‘He looks like nine and a half pounds of ground chuck (meat).
“I want you to put a name tag on the front of this plastic crib with meat on it.”
The second part of his name came when he was in high school.
“I stepped on a football coach’s foot and he yelled, ‘Get off my foot, big piece of meatloaf’.”
When I met him, everyone knew him as Meat Loaf.
Backstage at the awards show, as soon as he stopped shaking my hand, he tilted his head back and howled like a wolf, almost like he was barking at the moon.
He could have sung with the noise that the band – which I remember was Coldplay – was doing on stage, but he was perhaps doing what Meat Loaf did better than most people: singing very loudly, in a way that little other people might.
I was in love with his music since I first heard it in 1977 when he released his debut album Bat Out Of Hell. It had been written for him by songwriter Jim Steinman.
It wasn’t remotely cool – back then you were only really allowed to like punk or disco – but I didn’t care.
“My father freaked out”
It turned out to be one of the best-selling records in history, selling over 40 million copies, including three million in the UK.
The music was melodramatic and bombastic and had a huge tongue in cheek.
It dated back to the days of Phil Spector and had been recorded with Bruce Springsteen’s band. But it was like nothing on earth.
The single, You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth, from the album was a huge hit around the world, and it’s been one of my favorites ever since.
In fact, I loved his music so much that I was also one of the few people who went to see the musical Bat Out Of Hell when it premiered in London a few years ago.
In between, Meat Loaf had had an extraordinary and troubled life.
He eventually fell out with Steinman, and although they collaborated on a number of follow-ups – including 1993’s Bat Out Of Hell II, which contained the hit single I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’ t Do That) – they resented each other’s success.
Meat Loaf was born on September 27, 1947 in Dallas, Texas, the son of an alcoholic police officer.
His mother was a schoolteacher who sang in a girls’ gospel quartet, and it was her who instilled in her son a love of the stage. But he was a complicated boy, both extroverted and introverted, which made it difficult to find the confidence that would be needed to sustain him throughout his career.
There was also the matter of being so big.
No rock star before him had ever looked like Meat Loaf.
After his mother died of cancer in 1966, when the singer was only 19, his father attacked him with a knife.
Meat Loaf recalls: “My dad freaked out. I went to my room and my father came towards me with a butcher knife, like in a movie. I fell off the bed and the knife struck death in the center of the bed.
He realized it was time to leave home and left for Los Angeles.
There he found initial success as an actor, playing small roles.
In 1971 he starred in the nude musical Hair and four years later appeared in the camp film The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Later, he would appear in Spice World in 1997, playing the Spice Girls bus driver and in the movie Fight Club in 1999. What changed his life was his encounter with songwriting genius Steinman , whom he had met while auditioning for a play.
They spent three years writing and recording Bat Out Of Hell, only to spend another two years trying to find a record label willing to release it.
After an appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1978, the record took off and Meat Loaf became a star.
The beatings then came in droves and quickly, but he destroyed his voice with heavy drinking, endured a painful divorce, and was often so awkwardly shy that he hated going to showbiz parties.
In 1979 he married his first wife, Leslie, a secretary at Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, New York, where he recorded Bat Out Of Hell.
Producer Todd Rundgren recalled Meat Loaf winning her over by handing her a giant whole salmon.
He remembers: “It was as if a bear had made its marriage proposal to its companion. Instead of a ring, a salmon.
The two were married within a month, and Meat adopted his new wife’s daughter, Pearl. He and Leslie then had another daughter, Amanda.
They separated after 21 years and he later married Canadian Deborah Gillespie in 2007. She was by his side when he died.
Health problems plagued him throughout his life, as did accidents.
As he once said, “I’ve fallen three stories, been in car crashes, near misses, crash landings so many times I should have died. .”
He succumbed five years ago to a back injury which he says “hurts a lot”.
He added in his own inimitable style: “It doesn’t hurt when I sit down but when I get up it’s like I’m in the movie Psycho, being stabbed by Norman Bates.”
Later, he underwent knee replacement surgery, which made him difficult to perform.
And in an attempt to relieve some long-standing allergies, he drank a concoction containing his own urine. Rock’n’roll!
He was well known for his wild tales. He once claimed to have given serial killer Charles Manson a lift.
Another story he told was how the Secret Service commandeered his car in Dallas the day JFK was shot in 1963. One of his other infamous threads involved Prince Andrew.
He claimed the Duke of York got hard on him in 1987 when they were both filming an It’s A Royal Knockout charity event.
Apparently, the prince thought the mighty Pain was flirting with his future wife Fergie, and he tried to push him into a ditch.
He apparently said to her, “You don’t know who I am? You can’t touch me, I’m a royal.
Flirting with Fergie
Meat Loaf, unimpressed with Andrew’s predictable rude behavior, grabbed him by his royal lapels and shouted in his wolfish fashion, “I don’t give a damn who you are!”
He died yesterday after a career that had known extraordinary highs, while he himself had known terrible lows.
Troubled by health issues towards the end of his life, he could never quite reconcile the twin elements of his character.
On the one hand, he was a larger-than-life introvert, and on the other, an insecure extrovert.
He had talent and success, if not the easiest of starts. But as he sang it so forcefully: Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad.