Jim Steinman, Master Of Pop Bombast, Dead At 73
Jim Steinman, the producer and songwriter responsible for some of the most operatically maximalist hits in pop music history, has died. TMZ reports that Steinman died yesterday in Connecticut. No cause of death has been reported. Steinman was 73.
Steinman, a New York native, got his start in musical theater. While studying at Amherst College in the late ’60s, Steinman directed musicals and wrote music for them. After he wrote the book, music, and lyrics for the play The Dream Engine as a college project in 1969, Steinman moved to New York and wrote songs for the 1973 Broadway musical More Than You Deserve. While working on that play, Steinman became close with one of the actors, a young man who went by the name Meat Loaf. Steinman and Meat Loaf worked together on more musicals, and they also spent much of 1975 recording a bombastic concept album called Bat Out Of Hell.
Todd Rundgren produced Bat Out Of Hell, and Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg, two members of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, played on the record, but Steinman and Meat Loaf still spent years finding a label to release the album. Finally, Bat Out Of Hell came out on the small label Cleveland International Records in 1977, and it was a tremendous success, selling tens of millions of copies.
Steinman continued to work in theater, and he also scored the 1980 film A Small Circle Of Friends. Steinman released the solo album Bad For Good in 1981, and he worked with Meat Loaf on the album 1981 album Dead Ringer before falling out with the singer. In 1983, Steinman produced Bonnie Tyler’s album Faster Than The Speed Of Light, and he also wrote most of its songs, including the global smash “Total Eclipse Of The Heart,” perhaps the greatest example of Steinman’s brand of pop maximalism. Around the same time, Steinman also worked with the Australian band Air Supply. For three weeks in 1983, the #1 and #2 songs in America, “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” and Air Supply’s “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All,” were Steinman songs.
In the ’80s, Steinman worked with people like Barbra Streisand, Barry Manilow, and Billy Squier. He wrote songs for the deeply underrated 1984 Walter Hill film Streets Of Fire, and he co-wrote and produced “Holding Out For A Hero,” Bonnie Tyler’s song from the Footloose soundtrack. He wrote Hulk Hogan’s theme music. (Not “Real American.” The other Hulk Hogan theme.) In the late ’80s and early ’90s, Steinman worked with goth greats the Sisters Of Mercy a number of times.
In 1993, Steinman and Meat Loaf reunited on the album Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell, a blockbuster success. Its single “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” became Steinman’s second and final #1 hit. Later in the ’90s, Steinman wrote and produced “It’s All Coming Back To Me,” a #2 hit for Céline Dion. He produced hits for the UK boy bands Take That and Boyzone, and he and co-wrote the musical Whistle Down The Wind with Andrew Lloyd Webber. Steinman also wrote much of Meat Loaf’s 2006 album Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose, but he got into a legal battle with Meat Loaf over the album’s title shortly thereafter. The staged production Bat Out Of Hell The Musical, built from Steinman’s songs, opened in London in 2017.
Steinman’s whole dramatic, overblown style flirted with the ridiculous, and that’s what was great about it. Steinman and his collaborators took the inherent grandeur of Phil Spector and Bruce Springsteen records and blew them all the way out, turning them into vast spectacles. The world is a better place with those Steinman songs in it.
Below, check out some of Steinman’s work.
Bonnie Tyler has issued a statement and Meat Loaf has paid tribute on Facebook.