It’s hard to see him with any other name, but Meat Loaf‘s real name and the story behind it is almost as fascinating as how he came to be known as one of America’s classic dinner dishes.
Meat Loaf was born in Dallas, Texas, on September 27, and was the only child of Wilma Artie, a school teacher, and Orvis Wesley Aday, a former police officer. After he attended the University of North Texas, Meat Loaf—who had acted in musicals like Where’s Charley? and The Music Man in high school—moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music. While in L.A. Meat Loaf formed his first band, Meat Loaf Soul, which released singles like “Once Upon a Time” and “Hello” and went on to open for artists like Janis Joplin, the Who and Grateful Dead. While he was in Meat Loaf of Soul, Meat Loaf was cast in the musical Hair in L.A. The success of Hair led Meat Loaf to be cast in the Broadway production of the musical in New York City, as well as the Broadway musical Rainbow.
After Hair, Meat Loaf went on to be cast in the original production of The Rocky Horror Show in L.A., playing the parts of Eddie and Dr. Everett Scott, as well as the musical’s movie, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Around the same time, Meat Loaf started recording his debut album, Bat Out of Hell, which was released in 1977 and went on to sell more than 43 million copies worldwide. The album also led to two more records in the Bat Out of Hell trilogy—Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell, and Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose—and a Grammy award for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance for the song “I’d Do Anything For Love” from the second Bat Out of Hell album, as well as the title of one of the greatest hard rock artists of all time.
After a 60-plus-year-long career, Meat Loaf died on January 20, 2022, from COVID-19. He was 74 years old. “Our hearts are broken to announce that the incomparable Meat Loaf passed away tonight surrounded by his wife Deborah, daughters Pearl and Amanda and close friends,” Meat Loaf’s agent Michael Green said in a statement to People at the time. “His amazing career spanned 6 decades that saw him sell over 100 million albums worldwide and star in over 65 movies, including Fight Club, Focus, Rocky Horror Picture Show and Wayne’s World. ‘Bat Out of Hell’ remains one of the top 10 selling albums of all time. We know how much he meant to so many of you and we truly appreciate all of the love and support as we move through this time of grief in losing such an inspiring artist and beautiful man. We thank you for understanding of our need for privacy at this time. From his heart to your souls… don’t ever stop rocking!”
So what is Meat Loaf‘s real name and what is the meaning behind his stage name? Read on for what we know about Meat Loaf’s real name what the inspiration is for the nickname the world would come to know him by.
What is Meat Loaf’s real name?
Meat Loaf’s real name was Marvin Lee Aday, but he legally changed his name to Michael Lee Aday in 1984. Throughout his career, Meat Loaf has told several stories about the inspiration for his stage name, some of which he’s hinted are not true. “Names and ages piss me off. So I just continually lie,” Meat Loaf told The Guardian in 2003.
In an interview on Oprah Winfrey’s TV show, Where Are They Now, in 2016, Meat Loaf claimed that the first half of his stage name, Meat, was given to him by his father after he was “born bright red” and his dad told the hospital to put a “Meat” tag on his crib because “looked like nine-and-a-half pounds of ground chuck” as a newborn. “‘So, uh, I want you to name my son there―because he looks like nine-and-a-half pounds of ground chuck―I want you to put a name tag on the front of that plastic crib and it say ‘Meat’ on it,’” he recalled his father saying. “They stuck that printed card [that] said ‘Meat’ and that was it.”
The second half of his stage name, Loaf, came from a time when he was in eighth grade and stepped on the foot of a coach, who called him the nickname as an insult. “I stepped on a coach’s foot and he screamed, ‘Get off my foot, you hunk of meat loaf!’ he recalled.
Another story for Meat Loaf’s stage name came in an interview with People in 1973, where he claimed that the name came from from his size as a chil and the initials of his first and middle name: ML. (He told the magazine that he couldn’t remember ever weighing less than 185 pounds.) “[Meat Loaf] adopted his stage name and closely guarded his real one — Marvin Lee Aday — to save his devout Church of Christ kin from embarrassment,” People reported at the time. “The nom de guerre itself originated with seventh-grade classmates in commemoration of his initials and size — 5 foot, 2 inches, 240 lbs.” The New York Times also reported in 2022 that Meat Loaf’s stage name came from a high school stunt, in which he let a Volkswagen drive over his head, which led someone to tell him, “You’re as dumb as a hunk of meat loaf.”
In an interview with CNN in 2011, Meat Loaf revealed that he changed his legal name from Marvin to Michael after he watched a Levi’s ad with the slogan: “Poor fat Marvin can’t wear Levis.” “When I was a kid, I was so big…I literally could not wear blue jeans…so I wore pleated pants in the first grade,” he said. “And a commercial came on the air when I was around five or six years old for Levi’s. And the commercial was ‘Poor fat Marvin can’t wear Levi’s.’ I was called Meat, but people would call me Marvin, and after that, nobody called me Marvin.”
He changed his name to Michael in 1984—seven years after the Bat Out of Hell—and told the judge the story about the Levi’s commercial. “‘If this was today, you’d own the company [Levi’s],’” Meat Loaf recalled the judge telling him before they approved his legal change name.
Though “Michael Lee Aday” was his legal name, Meat Loaf told CNN that he had “Meat Loaf” on his pass port when he first toured Bat Out of Hell. “I had Meat Loaf on my passport when we were first touring Bat Out of Hell. I went to Germany and showed them my passport and they kept me in immigration for six hours. So at that point I thought probably the best thing to do was to get ‘Meat Loaf’ off my passport immediately, if not sooner,” he said.
For more about Meat Loaf, read his 1999 autobiography, To Hell and Back. The book—whose title is inspired by Meat Loaf’s 1977 album, Bat Out of Hell—follows the “rages to riches” tale of Meat Loaf’s career and life, from his childhood with an alcoholic father to the time he picked up hitchhiker who he later learned was Charles Manson. The autobiography also tells the story of how Meat Loaf he was cast in the Broadway musical Hair while trying to get a job as a parking attendant and how he landed a lead role in one of the most beloved cult-favorite movies of all time, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Filled with never-before-told stories from Meat Loaf’s life, To Hell and Back tells the tale of how a boy from Dallas, Texas, went on to sell 28 million records worldwide in an industry that initially rejected him.
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