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Jim Steinman, Writer Of Operatic Rock Hits For Meat Loaf And Celine Dion, Dies At 73

Jim Steinman speaks onstage at the Songwriters Hall of Fame induction and awards in 2012.
Larry Busacca
Getty Images for Songwriters Hall of Fame
Jim Steinman speaks onstage at the Songwriters Hall of Fame induction and awards in 2012.

Jim Steinman, co-creator of power ballads and orchestral-style rock by such artists as Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler, has died. Steinman was a composer, lyricist and record producer whose work with Meat Loaf on the 1977 album Bat Out of Hell catapulted the motorcycle-loving singer to stardom. The Connecticut State Medical Examiner's office confirmed Steinman's death to NPR. He was 73. Steinman's brother told the Associated Press he died of kidney failure.

Steinman fully embraced the epic, operatic-style rock of the 1970s, and once stated, "If you don't go over the top, you can't see what's on the other side." A bio on his websitecalls him "The Lord of Excess," and notes that the L.A. Times once referred to him as "the Richard Wagner of rock." In addition to Bat Out of Hell and further projects with Meat Loaf, Steinman's credits include Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart," Air Supply's "Making Love Out of Nothing At All" and Celine Dion's "It's All Coming Back To Me Now."

Steinman wrote his first musical while a student at Amherst. His professional career began at the Public Theater in New York. That's where he met Meat Loaf when the singer auditioned for a part in the composer's first musical, More Than You Deserve.

The Steinman/Meat Loaf partnership was explosive, musically and commercially. Bat Out of Hell, once described as "like Springsteen on Broadway on steroids," became one of the best-selling albums of all time. In addition to producing, Steinman wrote a number of songs on the album, including the classic play-by-play "Paradise by the Dashboard Light."

But success was not a sure thing. Initially, record labels weren't interested. According to The Telegraph, Steinman once said, "If there was a market out there for 10-minute Wagnerian explosive anthems sung by a 350-pound guy with a huge voice, then we had that market cornered."

Songs by Steinman were used in such films as Footloose and Shrek 2. He collaborated with Andrew Lloyd Webber on the musical stage version of Whistle Down the Wind. In 2017, his "dream project," Bat Out of Hell: The Musical, opened at Manchester's Opera House, and later made its U.S. debut at New York City Center.

Steinman's many fans include Lost producer Javier "Javi" Grillo-Marxuach, who aptly captures the epic nature of the songwriter's vision: "every song a three act play. every emotion a grand opera. doesn't matter if it's celine dion, meat loaf, or the sisters of mercy on the mic: a jim steinman song is always its own magnificent beast. rest in peace to the maximalist supreme."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.