Cutting an imposing figure at 350 pounds and belting out songwriter Jim Steinman's Wagnerian compositions with appropriate grandiosity, Meat Loaf achieved stardom in 1977 with his blockbuster breakthrough album Bat Out of Hell, which eventually sold more than 43 million copies worldwide and spent nine years on the Billboard album chart.
Although his fame arrived virtually overnight, Meat Loaf (born Marvin Lee Aday) had actually been kicking around the fringes of showbiz for a decade. He had led an L.A. band known alternately as Meat Loaf Soul, Popcorn Blizzard, and Floating Circus, had been a cast member of the Los Angeles and Broadway companies of the rock musical Hair, had acted and sang in the original stage production of The Rocky Horror Show and its cult-classic film version The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He'd also recorded an album for Motown Records, 1971's Stoney and Meatloaf ("Stoney" being fellow Hair cast member and future Little Feat singer Shaun Murphy) and sung lead on five tracks of Ted Nugent's 1976 album Free for All.
Meat Loaf first met composer Jim Steinman while both were working on the Off-Broadway musical More Than You Deserve in 1973. At that point, Steinman had already begun to work on the song cycle/Rock opera that would become Bat Out of Hell. With Todd Rundgren producing and playing lead guitar, the album took off, propelled by widespread airplay for such tracks as "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad, " "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)."
Meat Loaf experienced serious difficulties coming up with a followup to his worldwide smash, experiencing vocal trouble, substance problems, and eventually a nervous breakdown. The Steinman material intended for his next album was repurposed and released as Steinman's vocal debut in 1981. A new, Steinman-penned Meat Loaf album, Dead Ringer, appeared later that year.
Meat Loaf's career went into steep decline after 1983's poorly received Midnight at the Lost and Found. He went bankrupt, and spent several years touring in club-sized venues to rebuild his popularity. By the 90s, his career was on the upswing, and he reunited with Steinman to work on Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell. Released in 1993, it sold over 15 million copies. Thirteen years later, he released Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster is Loose, to mixed reviews and relatively low sales. In recent years, Meat Loaf has been most visible as an actor in films and television.