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How Cleveland helped launch Meat Loaf's music career

The larger-than-life singer got his start right here in Cleveland back in 1977.

CLEVELAND — The rock and roll world as we know it lost a spark when we learned Friday that legendary singer and actor, Meat Loaf, had died at the age of 74. His cause of death has not yet been released.

Meat Loaf's voice and style were undeniable. He was a larger-than-life rocker with a Broadway flare. 

In 1977, he burst onto the music scene with his debut album, "Bat Out of Hell."

And his start? That happened right here in Cleveland.

After years of rejection from other labels, Meat Loaf got his big break thanks to the late Steve Popovich and his Cleveland International Records. 

Popovich's son, Steve Jr. remembers the day his dad took a chance on the would-be megastar.

"David Sonenberg, who was Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf's manager at the time, sent (my dad) a copy of the cassette. It was something that, you know, he had listened to and eventually it really grew on him. And, you gotta remember, this was a day and age where, you know, it's like pretty-boy rock, you know? And, here's this long hair, 350-pound guy with seven-minute songs in a opera-added voice, so, definitely wasn't hip back in those days. But, he heard that 'thing.' It was something he felt in his heart that he wanted to sign to Cleveland International and go to war for," Steve Popovich, Jr., said.

Credit: Steve Popovich, Jr.
John Belushi; Meat Loaf; Steve Popovich; Karla Devito.

Popovich, who signed other big Cleveland names like Ian Hunter and Polka king Frankie Yankovic, saw something in Meat Loaf that would hit home with the hard-working folks in our town.

"He wanted to bring that same blue-collar type label to the City of Cleveland, you know, a city that embraced him at a very young age, in a city that he loved and was very passionate about. I think Meat Loaf represented that," Popovich, Jr., said.

After a slow start, "Bat Out of Hell" picked up steam. The album Meat Loaf made with songwriter Jim Steinman and producer Todd Rundgren would become one of the best-selling albums of all-time.

Meat Loaf went on to have a six-decade career, with over 100 million albums sold and appearing in more than 65 movies. Yet, he never forgot about the town, or the people, who put him on the map.

"He did a lot of things with WMMS, and the fact that the label was in Cleveland -- this was pretty much his second home for those years," said Cleveland radio icon and WOW Media, LLC. CCO, John Gorman.

Credit: John Gorman
Meatloaf’s “comeback album” party in 1993 held at Peabody’s Down Under, a rock club in the Flats. Left to Right: Gina Iorillo, national album promotion for MCA Records; John Gorman; Ravenna Miceli, and Meat Loaf.

Cleveland is long known as the "Birthplace of Rock." But, Meat Loaf took us to another level of Rock and Roll respect. He would do anything for love ... and for the love of music.

"He helped us as much as we helped him," Gorman said.

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