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Remembering Jim Steinman: 10 Songs To Know
If there’s ever been a rock ballad you can’t seem to get out of your head, chances are it was a Jim Steinman tune. Exploding with raw emotion and outfitted with theatrical production, the music the storied producer and writer concocted was in an effusive style all its own. News of Steinman’s death this week saddened the world, but the GRAMMY winner leaves behind an immense discography, including career-making hits for the likes of Meat Loaf, Bonnie Tyler and Celine Dion that will live on. Here are ten of Steinman’s most notable musical gems from a sparkling career full of them.
"Bat Out Of Hell"
One of Steinman’s most prolific collaborations in his illustrious run was with Micheal Lee Aday, better known as Meat Loaf. When the two met, Steinman was a fledgling writer of musicals and Loaf was a fledgling actor. The two came together to create their debut album, Bat Out of Hell, featuring a frenetic title track that Steinman hoped would be "the ultimate slash motorcycle crash song." Originally stemming from a rock-influenced musical version of Peter Pan, the project was routinely rejected thanks to its outlier style. "Everyone hated it," Steinman later said in an interview posted on his official website, noting he was turned down by at least 30 record companies. "I used to say at the time, there are people who just have a vague notion of someday starting a record company whose first act is simply to reject us," he joked. Turns out the joke was on them. Bat Out of Hell later became one of the best-selling albums of all time.
"Paradise By The Dashboard Light"
An epic tale of teenage love, a karaoke classic, and a hallmark of classic rock radio all in one, "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" is another legendary Bat Out of Hell track that Steinman penned. The track is essentially a three-act musical in itself. At the heart of it, Meat Loaf infectiously and infamously begs his love interest: "Let me sleep on it." Steinman once said in an interview that he hoped people paid attention to the epic song’s third and final part: "You can’t get much bleaker than when [the lyrics say:] ‘I swore I’d love you until the end of time, I’ll keep that promise, I’ll keep that vow, and so now I’m praying until the end of time.'" He continued: "I just think that’s about as true and as bleak a thing you can say about the sexes and how they get together."
"I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)"
Meat Loaf and Steinman did the impossible on 1993’s Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell, the follow-up to Bat Out of Hell, by creating a slew of tracks that were somehow both increasingly epic and more successful than the original. Case in point: the gargantuan, 12 minute-long "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)," a tongue-in-cheek ballad that turns romantic schmaltz on its head. The song went on to become Meat Loaf’s only Billboard No. 1 hit and later netted a GRAMMY for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Solo.
"It’s All Coming Back To Me Now"
"It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” was originally concocted for Steinman’s musical project Pandora’s Box and later intended for Meat Loaf who ended up recording it for 2006’s Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster is Loose. But it was Celine Dion who made the blisteringly emotional track off her Falling into You album famous. Dion's album won Album Of The Year at the 39th Annual GRAMMY Awards, earning Steinman a GRAMMY in 1996. The song's thundering lyrics inspired by Emily Brontë’s classic novel Wuthering Heights and over-the-top production, including the sound of clattering drums, is classic Steinman: boisterous and bubbling with passion. "I was trying to write a song about dead things coming to life," Steinman wrote about the song. "I was trying to write a song about being enslaved and obsessed by love, not just enchanted and happy with it. It was about the dark side of love and about the extraordinary ability to be resurrected by it once dead."
"Total Eclipse Of The Heart"
"Total Eclipse of the Heart" is another rock ballad that packs a wallop thanks to both Steinman’s handiwork and a powerhouse female singer. Steinman wrote and produced the track for Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler. One of the biggest hits of 1983, he later explained the track was a tribute to the 1922 silent horror classic Nosferatu. "I had a vision of this woman lying on the ground looking at the moon like a sacrifice." The hit became so massive that it earned Tyler a GRAMMY nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for her efforts.
"Holding Out For a Hero"
A lighter Steinman classic sung by Tyler, "Holding Out For a Hero" was produced for 1984’s Footloose soundtrack. Steinman teamed up with the movie’s screenwriter Dean Pitchford to co-write the track featuring introductory synth drums and fast-paced piano, now synonymous with '80s-era culture. The song brought Tyler and Steinman another hit together. "I made two albums with Jim, despite my record company initially thinking he wouldn’t want to work with me," Tyler told Rolling Stone upon the announcement of his passing. "Thankfully they were wrong, and can say without any doubt that Jim was a true genius."
Peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart in 1983 —only held back from No. 1 by the aforementioned Steinman hit "Total Eclipse of the Heart"—this Air Supply ballad is a heartfelt operatic rock track that serves as a rumination on passion. "I know just how to whisper," the song goes. "And I know just how to cry. I know just where to find the answers. And I know just how to lie." The song Steinman wrote and produced, like many others, originally intended for Meat Loaf.
"Left In The Dark"
A testament to Steinman’s range, the music-maker also counts Barbra Streisand as an artist he helped craft a hit for. In 1984, they released "Left in the Dark," which tells the story of a cheating lover. The song was originally written for what would be Steinman’s only solo album as an artist (1980’s Bad for Good), but Streisand recorded the track that also takes production elements from another of his songs: Billy Squier's "All Night Long."
"Hulk Hogan’s Theme"
Any fan of wrestling knows that the mighty Hulk was a towering legend. The powerful fighter has Steinman to thank for his wrestling ring theme song released commercially in 1985. Sung by Rick Derringer, the song is another impressive notch on Steinman’s incredible grip on '80s culture throughout music, film and sport.
"Read ‘Em And Weep"
Released by Barry Manilow in 1983 (and subsequently becoming his most recent Top 10 hit), "Read ‘Em and Weep" was written by Steinman and produced by both him and fellow music powerhouse Jimmy Iovine. However, the song wasn’t intended for Manilow originally, with Steinman penning the rock ballad for, you guessed it, Meat Loaf. "If I could only find the words I could write it all down," the song proclaims. It’s an ironic statement, considering that Steinman never seemed to be at a loss for the perfect lyric.