You can’t write a post about James Richard Steinman without mentioning Meat Loaf…so now that we’ve done that…let’s get back to Jim.
Steinman passed away in April 2021 at the age of 73. In his legendary musical career, among other things he was a composer, arranger, lyricist, producer, and performer.
While in school at Amherst College, Jim created a musical which got the attention of one Joseph Papp, he of the New York Shakespeare Festival. After Steinman graduated, Papp hired him to help compose a musical called “More Than You Deserve.” And that is where Jim Steinman met one Marvin Lee Aday aka Meat Loaf, who was in the musical’s cast. It was the beginning of a relationship which lasted over four decades.
Jim wrote big, bombastic, theatric, over-the-top orchestrations which aligned perfectly with Meat Loaf’s desire to not just be a singer on stage, but an actor as well. Steinman wrote mini-operas, not just songs. In an era of disco and punk, no major recording companies wanted any part of the Steinman-Meat Loaf collaboration which eventually became “Bat Out Of Hell,” one of the biggest selling albums in history. The opening, title track is almost ten minutes long. Seven songs in all…all heavily influenced by opera, one of Jim’s boyhood passions. Just a few years ago, Steinman’s vision of “Bat Out Of Hell” becoming a stage musical was finally realized, and remains on tour to this day.
When I met my wife, I learned she was a fan of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” movie which Meat Loaf co-starred in. She also introduced me to “Bat Out Of Hell,” and that’s how I became a fan of both Meat and Jim. We wound up seeing Meat Loaf in concert on multiple occasions before he passed away in January of this year at the age of 74. My wife and I even got to meet Meat once. The best thing about his performances was you could easily see he was giving everything he had each time out.
We unfortunately never got to meet Jim Steinman. His career has certainly always been tied to Meat Loaf’s, but below is a sampling of Jim’s better-known works, some of which he also performed himself:
“Bat Out Of Hell” (Meat Loaf)
“Dead Ringer” (Meat Loaf with Cher)
“Heaven Can Wait” (Karla DeVito, Ellen Foley, Meat Loaf)
“Holding Out For A Hero” (Bonnie Tyler)
“I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” (Meat Loaf)
“It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” (Celine Dion, Meat Loaf with Marion Raven)
“Left In The Dark” (Barbra Streisand, Meat Loaf)
“Making Love Out Of Nothing At All” (Air Supply, Bonnie Tyler with Matt Petrin)
“More Than You Deserve” (Meat Loaf)
“Paradise By The Dashboard Light” (Meat Loaf with Ellen Foley)
“Read ‘Em & Weep” (Barry Manilow, Meat Loaf)
“Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through” (Meat Loaf)
“Total Eclipse Of The Heart” (Bonnie Tyler, Nicki French, Tori Amos)
“Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad” (Bonnie Tyler, Todd Rundgren, Olivia Newton-John, Meat Loaf)
“You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth” (Meat Loaf)
Yet, when I thought of Jim Steinman recently it was in reference to two songs in a largely ignored 1984 Walter Hill film, “Streets Of Fire.” The songs were performed under the name Fire Inc. even though such a band never actually existed. The two songs, “Nowhere Fast” and “Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young” respectively open and close the film.
“Streets Of Fire” stars include Diane Lane, Willem Dafoe, Amy Madigan, Bill Paxton, and Rick Moranis. The tagline for the movie is “A Rock and Roll Fable.” It’s a story of an unlikely group of heroes who set out to rescue pop star Ellen Aim (Lane) from the Bombers biker gang led by Raven (Dafoe).
“Nowhere Fast” sets the pace, while “Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young” brings down the curtain. There’s an interesting story behind the latter. Originally, the movie was to close with Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets Of Fire” but negotiations for the rights took too long and the movie had to make its release date, so the producers of the film asked Steinman to write a song to finish the film with.
In just two days, Jim turned in “Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young.” The producers were so blown away by his song they commissioned a million-dollar reshoot of the final concert scene so the performers could be seen singing it. I believe that reshoot resulted in one of the better film finales you will ever see. “Streets Of Fire” is certainly not for everyone. It is different. Yet, no matter what one’s overall takeaway of the film is, I am confident most who have seen it find the end scene satisfying.
Tres Dean of Vulture best describes the film and its ending:
“Streets Of Fire is very much a cult film, which is to say that it will not work for everyone. But if you are one of the people it was made for, those seven minutes will break your heart and, moments later, stitch it back together.”
Picture Courtesy Wikipedia