Another rock legend has left the stage. I just learned that Meat Loaf passed away, probably from COVID-19 in combination with his already poor health, on January 20th.
By coincidence and because of the time difference, that day marked three years since I broke my leg and was set onto a path of hospitalization, surgery, rehabilitation, and--in a head start on my colleagues just prior to the pandemic's effects--exclusively remote work. I had forgotten the anniversary, actually, until the sad news about Meat Loaf, and the mention that he was 74, brought the date, and the time, and the years, into sharper focus. I'll be 72 in a couple of months, and it hasn't been that long since my physique rather resembled Meat Loaf's in his--for want of a better term--prime.
When closing time came for Leonard Cohen, he was 82...but I was only 66. When Charlie Watts put his sticks down for the last time this past summer he was 80...but I was already 71. Meat Loaf was only a couple of years older than I am, and his passing was a stronger memento mori for me than I expected. Or needed, really.
Due to some lifestyle changes beginning in the late '70s, most of my initial exposures to new songs around then came by way of my car radio. I don't recall anymore exactly when it was, but when I heard "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" for the first time, I had to pull the car over to the side of the street and listen, rapt and amazed and amused. No song before or since has elicited that response from me. "Let me sleep on it", indeed. I've since had to struggle several times to explain that phrase to Japanese friends, but it was always worth it when realization dawned.
Seeing it performed on TV video clips and more recently on the internet of course added a lot to the experience: Meat Loaf was a hell of an actor as well as a powerful singer. He was certainly worth watching, whether he was playing a (long ago) "barely 17, and barely dressed" youth, or Eddie in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, or the enigmatic Beast-like character from the music video for "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)".
That last song contains the rather grim line "It'll all turn to dust and we'll all fall down". That does seem to be pretty much inescapable, but before that happens I'd like to live with the passion and energy that Meat Loaf put into his performances. The lyrics also include the "Can you make it all a little less old?" line, and I believe that he's done that, and it's worth emulating. He may seem to be an unusual role model, but he's a worthy one in many ways. We're diminished by his loss, but enriched by his memory.