Meat Loaf’s Greatest Songs: A Dozen of His Best-Remembered or Most Unfairly Overlooked Tracks
When powerhouse vocalist-actor Meat Loaf eulogized composer-producer Jim Steinman last April in Rolling Stone, the singer – who died Thursday at age 74 – said of his “Bat Out of Hell” partner, “We belonged heart and soul to each other. We didn’t know each other. We were each other.”
Meat Loaf (born Marvin Lee Aday) could not have stated the obvious better, as each man’s operatic, oversized talents were only matched by their level of grand theatricality, with thundering melodicism and melodramatic lyricism at the top of the list of their skill sets.
The best Meat Loaf songs – even those without Steinman’s tower-toppling compositions – come on in an epic, adrenalized rush. Even when singing a power ballad, Meat Loaf was loud and brazenly and heartbrokenly emotive. Here are some of the most dramatic and impactful of Meal Loaf’s musical moments:
Stoney & Meatloaf, “What You See is What You Get” (1971)
What’s fascinating about Meat Loaf (stylized as one word this early in the game) at his start is that you could sense his might, his soulful immenseness as a vocalist, bumping against the walls of this quintessentially ’70s Southern-fried bit of psychedelia. The Stoney & Meatloaf pairing made one album for the Motown label’s subsidiary, Rare Earth, that has gone sadly ignored in Meat’s canon. Time for a revival.
Meat Loaf, “More Than You Deserve”/”Presence of the Lord” (1973)
Though the A-side of this single features one of Meat Loaf’s earliest collabs with Steinman for the composer’s “More Than You Deserve” musical with Michael Weller and producer Joseph Papp, it is the spiritualized R&B of Eric Clapton’s Blind Faith ballad that give Loaf a relaxed groove to shine soulfully and cleanly. Really nice, this.
Meat Loaf, “Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul” (1975)
Was Meat Loaf simply attracted to songwriters whose sense of grandeur and love of rock ‘n’ roll were their calling cards? Richard O’Brien – the creator/composer of 1973’s stage musical “Rocky Horror Show” that became the 1975 film “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” – certainly offered Meat Loaf that vibe when the singer took on the greaser role of doomed-to-die “Eddie.” And Meat played the tragicomic biker’s love song to the hilt.
Ted Nugent and Meat Loaf, “Writing on the Wall” (1976)
Meat Loaf was invited to join Nugent’s band, but he wisely passed that up in the belief that the “Bat Out of Hell” album would find an audience, or at least a label to release it. Nonetheless, he joined up with the guitarist on a handful of the Nuge’s “Free-for-All” songs from 1976. Like what he did with Stoney, Meat Loaf had a genuine way with psychedelic song; his curt vocal cut through the swirl. Add Nugent’s guitar army soundtrack and Loaf still comes through loud, clear and meanly.
Meat Loaf and Ellen Foley, “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” (1977)
Throw a dart anywhere at the Meat Loaf-Jim Steinman-Todd Rundgren “Bat Out of Hell” collaboration, and you have a winner, an engine-revving epic where the words of baller-narrator Phil Rizzuto, “Holy cow, I think he’s going to make it,” just ring truer with every listen. Yet with its back against the wall of the then-burgeoning punk movement, the tough-as-nails, boogie-woogie, three-part, last-chance-power-drive duet of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” offers Meat Loaf something and someone to fight against: Ellen Foley. Like Meat, Foley was a theater actor and a rough rocker with hard-nosed chops on both sides of the ledger. When they sing, “Praying for the end of time, so I can end my time with you,” the brutality of love and lust is at its most vivid. If nothing else ever hit about “Bar Out of Hell,” this one was it .
Meat Loaf, “For Crying Out Loud” (1977)
In an album stuffed with AOR smashes and hit singles, the most gorgeous and winding of Steinman’s theater-worthy melodies – the incrementally building balladry of “For Crying Out Loud” – is this record’s finest. Starting with just piano (not E Street’s Roy Bittan. who plays across the rest of of “Bat,” but Steve Margoshes and Cheryl Hardwick) and blossoming into near-spaghetti western spectacle, Steinman provides Meat with almost nine minutes of menace and mirth for the singer’s G2-D5 octave range.
Meat Loaf and Cher, “Dead Ringer for Love” (1981)
Proving the above aforementioned point, this Jim Steinman-penned track, co-produced with Jimmy Iovine (!), gives Loaf a punky, sax-and-brass brand of doo-wop-ish rock ‘n’ roll to barrel through, while doing battle with none other than Cher. The only thing better than the rush of love between Meat and Cher is the video found below.
Meat Loaf, “Midnight at the Lost and Found” (1983)
While the world was robbed of Meat Loaf singing the big Steinman classics “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “Making Love Out of Nothing at All” due to a label dispute with the composer at this time, Meat carried on with a jangly, joyful metallic R&B-rocker that he penned with Steve Buslowe, Paul Christie and Dan Peyronel, and featuring production from Tom Dowd. A rollicking Meat proved to be charming with this winning track.
Meat Loaf, “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” (1993)
One of the reasons that this track has become everything from an easy soundtrack sync to a wedding bell blues favorite is the wealth of emotion and its dramatic dips – a specialty of any Steinman-penned epic, and one that gives the actor in Loaf the sort of terra firma needed to ham up the doubts of romance, loudly.
Meat Loaf, “I’d Lie for You (And That’s the Truth)” (1995)
Producers Ron Nevison, Sammy Hagar and Steven Van Zandt, with songwriter Dianne Warren, offer Meat Loaf almost everything Jim Steinman had in the past – flowery pianos, grand choruses an parenthetical song titles – but with a lighter touch for Meat’s higher notes and whispered expressions.
Meat Loaf, “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” (2006)
Coming back with a Jim Steinman composition – but Desmond Child in the production seat – Meat Loaf returns to the bawdy, touching emotionalism of a formidable female duet partner, Marion Raven, his favorite composer’s piano-led Technicolor soundscape, and all of the romantic possibilities they could wrench from the song’s tender, towering melody.
Meat Loaf, “Loving You’s a Dirty Job (But Somebody’s Gotta Do It)” (2016)
For their last project together, 2016’s “Braver Than We Are” album — in which Loaf revived a slew of older Steinman songs he’d never gotten to recording — Steinman and Loaf reach back to a composition originally sung as a duet between Bonnie Tyler and Todd Rundgren, and they make it Meat’s own with all the vocal lurches that made their finest pairings a heaven-and-hell on earth. Playing to Meat Loaf’s strengths as an expressive male voice next to that of a woman (this time, singer Stacy Michelle), “Dirty Job” is a lovely grace note/finale to a longtime musical friendship.