(JTA) — Jim Steinman, the prolific songwriter who penned 1980s pop hits and the tunes for Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out of Hell,” one of the most popular albums in history, died Monday at 73.
Steinman, who had a Jewish father and grew up on Long Island, in suburban New York, was never all that forthcoming about his Jewish identity. But in one famous instance, his Jewishness became a liability.
He became friends with Meat Loaf while the two toured in a National Lampoon show together, and Steinman showed the actor and singer songs that he had written in 1974 for what he envisioned would be a futuristic musical version of “Peter Pan.” The pair began turning some of those songs into “Bat Out of Hell,” which would go on to sell tens of millions of copies worldwide.
But the success didn’t come without struggle — they were rejected by the major record labels of the time, often demoralizingly (CBS exec Clive Davis reportedly told Steinman that he didn’t know how to write a song). Meat Loaf said Steinman lived in an apartment with an unknowable number of roommates, his bed doing double duty as his kitchen table.
Eventually a small subsidiary label under CBS released the record in 1977, and while it wasn’t an immediate hit, “Bat Out of Hell” is now listed as one of the best-selling albums ever.
Steinman was the clear creative force behind the project, completely writing all the songs (Meat Loaf would later claim that he contributed some of the lyrics) and even helping to design the iconic cover. He wanted equal billing on the cover, or for the album title to include “Jim Steinman presents …” But he wouldn’t get that — the final product featured Meat Loaf’s name and the title at the top, with the words “Songs by Jim Steinman” eventually in a faint font at the bottom.
Steinman would later argue that the album’s marketing team thought his name was “too Jewish” to include at the top of the cover and would hurt sales.
His relationship with Meat Loaf deteriorated from there, and even though they would release a “Bat Out of Hell” sequel together in 1993 (again with all songs written by Steinman), Steinman registered the “Bat Out of Hell” name as his trademark in 1995. Meat Loaf released a third album of the same name in 2006 — with some songs by Steinman, who sued the singer.
The two reportedly did not stay on bad terms forever, according to multiple reports and obituaries. And Steinman eventually would get his Jewish name in the spotlight in the form of a successful “Bat Out of Hell” musical, which played in London and Toronto in 2017 and 2018. It was promoted as “Jim Steinman’s Bat Out of Hell: The Musical.”