There was nobody quite like Meat Loaf. The wild-eyed Texan performer was doubted by his early critics, but he beat the odds and Bat Out of Hell remains one of the best-selling albums of all time. When he wasn’t busy conquering the music industry, Meat Loaf made film appearances in classics like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Fight Club, becoming one of the most recognisable icons of 20th century.
Here are some fun facts about this enigmatic performer.
20. He gained nearly 70 pounds in an attempt to avoid being drafted into the army
Meat Loaf was so desperate to avoid serving in the military that he purposely put on 68lbs in an effort to fail his medical. His plan was foiled when he was declared fit enough to serve in the army. Despite being colourblind as well as overweight, Meat Loaf was sent his draft notice two weeks later.
The singer was horrified. Although he had passed the medical, Meat Loaf flat-out refused to fight in Vietnam. The singer ignored the letter and promptly left Texas in 1967 to set up a new life in Los Angeles. He found work there as a bouncer before starting his first band, Meat Loaf Soul.
19. He proposed to his first wife by presenting her with a salmon
Meat Loaf met his future wife, Leslie G. Edmonds, at Bearsville Records in Bearsville, New York while recording the Bat Out of Hell album. The singer was never the most orthodox of people, so it’s hardly surprising that he popped the question in an extraordinary way.
The singer reportedly fell for Edmonds almost instantly and – ever the romantic – had a whole salmon shipped up to Bearsville for her as a token of his love. Reflecting on the event, music producer Todd Rundgren told Billboard in 2017: “it was as if a bear had proposed to his mate. Instead of a ring, a salmon.”
Meat Loaf and Leslie were together for 22 years before going their separate ways in 2001. The singer went on to marry again, staying with his wife Deborah Gillespie until his death in 2022. They met when Gillespie was working as a crew member on one of Meat Loaf’s live shows.
18. Frankie & Benny’s asked him to rebrand as ‘Veg Loaf’
Despite his stage name, Meat Loaf was a vegetarian from 1981 to 1992 and even participated in Veganuary in the years before his death. He went vegetarian in the early 80s after being disturbed by a restaurant’s rabbit dish and only returned to an omnivorous diet for health reasons.
He also participated in a campaign to promote Italian-American-themed restaurant chain Frankie & Benny’s new vegan menu. The chain couldn’t convince the singer to change his name to ‘Veg Loaf’, but he did offer his unreserved support for the company’s new plant-based dishes.
Talking to The Daily Star, the singer said: “When Frankie & Benny’s first approached me to rebrand to Veg Loaf I said no way in hell – I won’t do that,” playfully referring to his 1993 hit single I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That). “But, I’d do anything for our planet and dropping meat for veg, even for just one day a week, can make a huge difference.”
17. He claims the Secret Service hijacked his car on the day of John F Kennedy’s assassination
Meat Loaf gave conflicting accounts of his whereabouts on November 22 1963 when JFK was assassinated. But no matter the specifics, things were undoubtedly a little out-of-the-ordinary that day for anyone in Dallas – including the singer. One story in his autobiography even claims that a frenzied Secret Service agent hijacked the singer’s car in a mad rush to get to Parkland Memorial Hospital.
Meat Loaf was known to embellish or fabricate stories, so there’s no way of knowing whether or not this is exactly true. However, whether or not a government official commandeered Meat Loaf’s car, the singer was at Parkland Memorial Hospital at the time of the President’s death.
It seems likely that Meat Loaf even saw the First Lady, Jackie Kennedy, entering the building after her husband’s body.
16. He was almost cast as Quasimodo in Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Disney’s 1996 animated film The Hunchback of Notre Dame is now widely regarded as a classic. But the film we know and love could have been very different had the directors stuck with one of their original casting decisions. Speaking to Collider in August 2020, directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise revealed that they had plans to bring in the Texan singer for the film.
“The first person that was actually cast as Quasimodo was Meat Loaf,” Wise said. Trousdale corrected: “He wasn’t cast, he read for it. He was almost cast. It was an almost kind of thing. I don’t think we actually put pen to paper.” Although the pair of directors remember being very impressed with Meat Loaf, the part ultimately went to Tom Hulce.
15. He once nearly pushed Prince Andrew into a moat
The singer famously took part in the shambolic 1987 charity event It’s A Royal Knockout, competing as part of the Duchess of York’s team. Speaking to The Guardian, Meat Loaf suggested that he and Prince Andrew got into a spat over the Prince’s wife, Sarah Ferguson.
“Fergie wasn’t exactly flirting with me,” the singer said, “but she was paying attention to me.” This reportedly resulted in the Duke of York attempting to push Meat Loaf into a moat. When Meat Loaf fought back and tried to shove Andrew into the water, the Duke supposedly said: “You can’t touch me, I’m royal.”
Meat Loaf didn’t seem too concerned about making amends with the royal family. Since It’s A Royal Knockout, the singer proudly claimed that The Queen “hates” him as a result of his behaviour.
14. He once gave Charles Manson a lift
In his autobiography To Hell and Back, Meat Loaf tells an extraordinary story about one of America’s most infamous murderers. Allegedly, the singer unknowingly picked up a hitchhiking Charles Manson after spotting him hovering around Sunset Boulevard.
According to the Bat Out of Hell singer, Manson instructed him to drive to Dennis Wilson’s house where he insisted Meat Loaf could “meet a Beach Boy.” “There was no Beach Boy there, although it actually was Dennis Wilson’s house,” Meat Loaf writes in his autobiography, recalling what happened when they arrived at Wilson’s mansion.
Manson then offered to tell young Meat Loaf his fortune – although he insisted that it none of it really mattered, as the world was soon going to end. Meat Loaf didn’t think much of the incident until later, when the murderous cult leader made headlines for his crimes.
13. His most treasured possession is his rubber duck collection
Meat Loaf was such a zany figure that it almost comes as no surprise to learn he was an avid collector of rubber ducks. Speaking to Mojo magazine, the enigmatic singer revealed that his collection was his most “treasured possession. I have around 100 of them. Fans bring them to shows for me,” he said.
These are no ordinary rubber ducks: Meat Loaf claimed he owned ducks modelled after baseball player Derek Jones and the Rocky Horror character Frank-N-Furter. The singer became so attached to his army of ducks that he took them with him on tour. “They sit on the top of my road case in the dressing room every show,” he said.
12. He publicly feuded with Greta Thunberg over climate change
You wouldn’t think that Greta Thunberg, 17-year-old climate change activist, would ever interact with Meat Loaf, 73-year-old rock star. But speaking to the Daily Mail the singer suggested that Thunberg had been “brainwashed … She hasn’t done anything wrong but she’s been forced into thinking that what she is saying is true,” the singer said of the young activist.
Meat Loaf also denied believing in climate change in the interview, suggesting that it was a hoax. The two-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominee took to Twitter to denounce Meat Loaf’s comments. She wrote: “It’s not about Meat Loaf. It’s not about me. It’s not about what some people call me. It’s not about left or right. It’s all about scientific facts.”
11. Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart was almost a Meat Loaf song
Total Eclipse of the Heart made Bonnie Tyler’s career. It’s hard to imagine anyone but the husky-voiced Welsh singer executing the song as well as she did in 1983. It’s particularly difficult to imagine the song being sung by Meat Loaf,of all people. But apparently, the song was nearly given to the Bat Out of Hell singer.
It was meant to appear on Meat Loaf’s upcoming album, Renegade Angel – which was ultimately never released. The tune was written by songwriter Jim Steinman, who’d worked with Meat Loaf on his 1977 hit album, Bat Out of Hell. As Meat Loaf was going through personal issues at the time, his record company reportedly passed on the offer of the song.
It’s not that Meat Loaf didn’t have a great, powerful voice, but his persona lacked the softness and innocence that Tyler has in abundance – so perhaps things worked out for the best in the end. It’s certainly harder to imagine Bonnie Tyler singing any Meat Loaf songs!
10. He considered moving to Hartlepool after becoming a huge fan of the local football team
Meat Loaf often publicly professed his love for Hartlepool United Football Club and was a staunch supporter of the team. “I started asking ‘what would be a really odd team for me to say that I root for?'” Meat Loaf told Setanta Sports News, recalling how he became a Pools fan.
“The person who I was talking to said Hartlepool.” Speaking to The Guardian in 2013, Meat Loaf went on to explain how one story about the football team particularly struck a chord with him. “I read about them and I found that the people of Hartlepool had [allegedly] hanged a monkey thinking he was a Frenchman, and I loved that story.”
Back in 2003 the BBC went as far as claiming that the American singer was seriously looking at properties in the North East of England. Alas, the much rumoured move never happened, and Meat Loaf ended up living in his native Texas until the very end.
9. A study found that playing Meat Loaf to plants helped them grow
A 2000 study at Sussex University found that Meat Loaf’s music was an excellent stimulant for plant growth. Wallflowers, busy lizzies, carrots, and mung beans were exposed to the Bat Out of Hell album for seven days during the study. Other plants were played Rachmaninov’s piano concerto No. 2, but did not grow as quickly as those serenaded by Meat Loaf.
The plants exposed to Bat Out of Hell were also considerably stronger than those exposed to Rachmaninov. The scientists who conducted the study believe that the “extra energy” cascading from the speakers blasting Meat Loaf may have encouraged the plants to grow more. Though not particularly exciting, the “extra energy” theory probably does make more sense than concluding that plants just love Wagnerian rock.
8. He talked to ghosts, describing them as “intelligent”
Meat Loaf had quite a few near-death experiences in his time, but he also brushed with death in another way. Speaking to Shortlist in 2012, Meat Loaf revealed that he believed there is “something” after death, as he’d seen ghosts before. “I’ve seen them, I’ve been around them. Some are just energy left behind, and some are intelligent,” he said.
“I chased one across the room once.” Meat Loaf even encountered a ghost while working on his most famous album. “When we were making Bat Out Of Hell I saw a blonde girl in a white dress. I went downstairs and told the guys, “There’s a groupie up on the balcony.”
According to Meat Loaf, the ghost had mysteriously vanished by the time the rest of the team came upstairs. Meat Loaf also recalled a time where a ghost walked through a wall into his London hotel room at 6am. Do you believe his accounts of the supernatural?
7. He had to keep an oxygen mask backstage on the Bat Out of Hell tour
Meat Loaf’s breakthrough came in the late 70s during the iconic Bat Out of Hell tour. After a bumpy start supporting Cheap Trick in Chicago in 1978, Meat Loaf and his band went on to conquer the US, UK and Australia. Thanks to the tour, they quickly became one of the most recognisable music acts in the world.
However, the tour was so intense that Meat Loaf had to keep an oxygen mask hidden backstage to use whenever he overexerted himself. Things certainly haven’t calmed down since the 70s – in more recent tours, Meat Loaf regularly injured himself and fainted onstage. He collapsed on stage in 2011 while performing in Pittsburgh, as well as in 2016 in Edmonton.
6. He was once hit on the head by a 12-pound shot
Meat Loaf might have been a thrillseeker in adulthood, but he was just as accident-prone when he was a kid. One day in high school, Meat Loaf was hit in the head with a 12-pound shot. Despite standing 62 feet away from the thrower, the shot collided with Meat Loaf’s head.
“There was no way anyone thought it would be tossed that far,” he said, recalling the injury. It’s not the only time Meat Loaf had been in a potentially life-changing accident. The singer was also been involved in a plane crash, a car crash, and even once broke a bone on stage.
5. His alcoholic father nearly killed him when he was a child
Meat Loaf’s life featured some pretty extreme ups and downs. The singer’s childhood was particularly traumatic. Meat Loaf was raised by his father, as his mother tragically passed away after suffering with cancer. His father struggled with alcoholism, and one day attempted to stab his son.
Meat Loaf went on to demonstrate exceptional compassion towards his father, despite his actions. “I love my father, I’ve forgiven my father,” he told The Telegraph in 2016. The singer explained that he was reluctant to hold a grudge against his now-deceased father due to his longstanding problems with alcohol abuse. “Alcohol is a disease,” Meat Loaf explained. “You deal with it, you go on.”
4. US senators used Meat Loaf lyrics to back up their arguments in a debate on economic policy
You might expect senators to make their points with facts and statistics, but in 2017 a debate on economic policy was argued with Meat Loaf lyrics. The debate concerned the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, and saw four members of the Senate quote Meat Loaf.
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) kicked things off by pushing back against the bill: “As Meat Loaf used to sing, ‘Two out of three ain’t bad,’ but this bill doesn’t even meet the Meat Loaf minimum.” John Kennedy (R-LA) immediately hit back by saying “Meat Loaf also sang ‘There ain’t no Coupe DeVille in the bottom of a Cracker Jack box.’ In other words, we live in a real world.”
Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) chimed in: “He also sang ‘Baby we can talk all night, but that ain’t getting us nowhere’, so I’m looking forward to processing the amendments.” Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) finished: “Meat Loaf also said ‘Life is a lemon and I want my money back’, so, on behalf of all the consumers who got the short end of the stick from Wells Fargo and Equifax, I want a bill to make sure they get their money back.”
3. He sued his own tribute act for being an “impostor”
In 2012, Meat Loaf launched a $100,000 lawsuit against his own tribute act for being an “online impostor.” The Lancashire-based tribute act, named ‘To Hell and Back’, was accused of being a “cybersquatter” after claiming the much-prized domain MeatLoaf.org.
Representatives for the real Meat Loaf claimed that Dean Torkington, the man behind the tribute, had “commercially exploited the internet top-level domain name MeatLoaf.org to capitalise on the artist’s celebrity.” Torkington has been a Meat Loaf tribute act since 1996.
Before then, he worked as an Elton John tribute. “I used to be an Elton John performer before that but put on quite a bit of weight so decided to become Meat Loaf,” he told the Daily Mail. Torkington was made to pay £18,315 to the Texan singer in 2013 and went bankrupt as a result.
2. He was almost cast as Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Meat Loaf made his silver screen debut in the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but his first role was nearly something very different. According to the Bat Out of Hell singer, he was meant to play Billy Bibbit in the 1975 film adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
“I was originally cast in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest as Billy Bibbit, but there was a writer’s strike and I ended up doing The Rocky Horror Show instead,” the singer told Shortlist. In the novel and film, Bibbit is characterised as extremely shy and anxious, and suffers from a severe speech impediment.
The role ultimately went to Brad Dourif, who went on to win a BAFTA and Golden Globe for his sensitive performance. While Meat Loaf’s bombastic persona doesn’t immediately seem to be a good fit for Billy’s shy and retiring character, who’s to say that the singer wouldn’t have pleasantly surprised audiences by demonstrating his softer side in the role?
1. He appeared in the hit TV show Glee
Glee’s twee, family-friendly reputation does not seem a perfect fit for Meat Loaf’s foul-mouthed, punkish persona. But the singer was called in to make a surprise cameo in an episode centred around the Rocky Horror Picture Show, as a tongue-in-cheek reference to his role as ex-delivery boy Eddie in the original Rocky Horror film.
Meat Loaf’s Rocky Horror co-star, Barry Bostwick, also featured in the episode. In the original Rocky Horror film, Bostwick played protagonist Brad Majors alongside his on-screen wife, Susan Sarandon. Sarandon was also reportedly interested in making an appearance in the Glee episode, but a deal was never reached.
In the episode, Meat Loaf and Bostwick both portrayed scheming news station managers who plan to produce an exposé on the Glee Club’s adaptation of the show.