Marvin Lee Aday was a singer and occasional actor who, for reasons never definitively answered, 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 and 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 which made Meat Loaf a star. Produced by Todd Rundgren, the record was pure melodrama, a teen rock opera which 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 songs which comprised the Steinman album 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 Jim Steinman reunited in 1993 for Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell, which continued the original's storyline and duplicated its thunderous sound. The follow-up proved almost as successful than 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.