An American songwriter, composer, arranger and Record Producer famed for his love of both Peter Pan and Rock & Roll clichés, James Richard Steinman (November 1, 1947 - April 19, 2021) claimed that he became enamoured of rock music at an early age when he heard a Fender Telecaster overloading a Marshall amplifier. His work, which he described as "Wagnerian rock", is characterised by a sound that is simultaneously massive and low-key, combining influences ranging from Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound", Springsteen-influenced anthems of Townshendian teenage angst.
Steinman got his start in musical theatre, scoring, arranging and playing piano in a number of productions. He met Meat Loaf, then an aspiring singer and actor, when he auditioned for an off-Broadway musical composed by Steinman called More Than You Deserve and they began a partnership that led to the massively successful album Bat Out of Hell.
Since then, he worked as a prolific producer and composer. While more inclined to be involved in the behind-the-scenes aspects of the music business, his solo excursions included the 1981 album Bad For Good (originally intended for Meat Loaf) and the all-female rock group Pandora's Box.
Aside from his occasional reunions with Meat Loaf, he collaborated in some capacity with artists such as Billy Squier, Barbra Streisand, Barry Manilow, Bonnie Tyler, Air Supply, Céline Dion and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Steinman died of kidney failure on April 19, 2021, at the age of 73.
Tropes associated with Steinman include:
- Cloudcuckoolander: He was famous for his eccentricity. When Meat Loaf told the story of his first meeting with Steinman on VH1 Storytellers, he began with, "Have you ever seen Jim Steinman? He's one weird dude."
- Epic Rocking: His compositions tend to last a bit longer than the average pop song, and in some cases they're more like mini-operas with distinct movements than songs with verses and choruses. Steinman reportedly burst into tears when he heard that radio stations wouldn't play the twelve-minute album version of "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)" (keep in mind that the single edit was pushing it at seven minutes, and it's still one of the longest songs to get to number one in America).
- Large Ham: Based on his bizarre spoken word interludes on Bat Out of Hell (the introduction to "You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth") and Bat Out of Hell II ("Wasted Youth") he was quite possibly one of the Largest Hams who ever lived. His songs also tended to be performed by melodramatic vocalists like Meat Loaf, Bonnie Tyler, and Céline Dion.
- Long Title: "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)," "Objects In the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are", and "Life Is A Lemon And I Want My Money Back." The only things longer than the titles are the songs themselves.
- Love Nostalgia Song: Wrote more than a few of these. "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" is probably the most successful.
- Pop-Star Composer: His greatest success in this capacity was composing the music for the enormously popular European Vampire Musical Tanz Der Vampire. He also wrote the lyrics for the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Whistle Down the Wind and was asked to score Batman The Musical before that project fell through.
- Record Producer: Comes under several of the categories listed on that page —
- Acrimony Producer: Steinman was infamously hired at the behest of the record company to produce the album Hysteria with Def Leppard after Robert John "Mutt" Lange initially decided to pull out. What should have been a Dream Team partnership promptly went south. Steinman wanted to produce a raw-sounding rock and roll record while the band wanted to make a more polished, Queen-style album. These differences proved irreconciliable, and Mutt Lange came back to take over.
- One Trick Pony: Most of his productions have grandiose, bombastic sounds, drawing influence from Bruce Springsteen, Phil Spector and classical composers such as Wagner.
- Rock Opera: Meat Loaf once explained that every song Steinman writes is treated as though it's part of his never-produced Neverland project, although only a few of his compositions have been identified as part of the potential production ("Lost Boys and Golden Girls" is only the most obvious).
- His contributions for the film Streets of Fire. Most notably the song "Tonight is what it means to be young."
- Self-Plagiarism: Steinman has a habit of reusing choice bits from earlier songs in later works. One of the most obvious is a bridge composed of repetitions of the line "Godspeed! Godspeed! Godspeed! Speed us away!" which has appeared in several different songs over the past 25 years.
- The melody for "Stark Raving Love" was reused for Bonnie Tyler's hit "Holding Out for a Hero".
- Steinman wrote an instrumental entrance theme for Hulk Hogan that was later used as the opening and ending theme for Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling (even after Hogan himself had switched themes, to the better-known "Real American"), and still later repurposed with added lyrics as "Ravishing" for Bonnie Tyler. All in just over a year.
- Steinman had been tinkering with melodies that eventually wound up in "Total Eclipse of the Heart" for over a decade before the song was finalized in 1983. The line "Turn around, bright eyes", and the melody of how that line is sung, originated with his very first project, the 1969 student musical The Dream Engine. The opening piano riff of "Eclipse", among other melodies, originally appeared in his score for the 1980 film A Small Circle of Friends.
- These could more feasibly be considered intentional recurring leitmotifs, as the use of melodic or lyrical references does not decrease the difficulty of writing long pieces. His admiration of Richard Wagner, the master of the leitmotif, is well-known.
- Tanz Der Vampire (an adaptation of Roman Polański's The Fearless Vampire Killers) is not quite a Jukebox Musical because the lyrics are for the most part rewritten, and it's in a different language, but the general idea is similar because it repurposes his older songs. Including "Total Eclipse", and "Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young" from Streets of Fire.
- Of course, he plays this trope straight, too. Many of the songs that some artists have done he has allowed other artists to cover, probably more than any other songwriter.
- If it's a Steinman song, you can almost bet the house that Meat Loaf will record it or has already done so at some point.
- "Read Em And Weep", originally done by Meat Loaf, was given to Barry Manilow with an altered second verse.
- "Left In The Dark" was done by Steinman, Streisand, and Meat.
- "Original Sin" by Steinman's girl group, "Pandora's Box", then by Taylor Dane as a tie-in to The Shadow (with altered lyrics including the character's Catchphrase), and, you guess it, Meat Loaf. It was also repurposed for his musical Tanz Der Vampire.
- Many of Steinman's songs from "Bad For Good" have been done by someone, sans "Dance In My Pants", which has yet to be recorded by anyone other than Steinman. Most famous being "Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through", which Meat Loaf made into a huge hit. "Stark Raving Love" was not covered straight, even though, as mentioned above, the melody was reused. Others include "Surf's Up", "Lost Boys And Golden Girls" (Steinman actually nested the entire song's lyrics as a bridge in the middle of "Stark Raving Love"), "Left In The Dark", and "Bad For Good".
- "It Just Won't Quit" and "Good Girls Go To Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere)" were first given to Pandora's Box.
- "Seize The Night" was originally called "Carpe Noctem" and was a major song in his musical Tanz Der Vampire. An English version based on the musical exists, but Meat Loaf later recorded it for Bat Out Of Hell III. And, by the way, the intro to Seize on Meat's version is a rendition of "The Storm", which came from Steinman's Bad For Good.
- Steinman rerecorded "Life And Death Of An American Guitar", that he did for Bad For Good, to be included in Meat Loaf's Bat II. He, again, was the vocal lead for that track.
- "More Than You Deserve" was a song for a musical that Jim produced. It was later recorded by Meat for Dead Ringer.
- "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" was originally recorded in 1989 by Steinman's girl group, "Pandora's Box," and in 1996 the song gained popularity after having been covered by Celine Dion.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Aside from the spoken word passages he has contributed to some Meat Loaf albums, Steinman performed lead vocals on the 1981 album Bad For Good after Meat lost his voice. Most critics noted that his singing turned out to be the weak link on an otherwise strong album.
- Teenage Death Songs: The title track on Bat Out of Hell is his most enduring homage to this style.
- Vocal Range Exceeded: His solo album Bad for Good is full of this, due to the backings being intended for the aborted followup to Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell. Some songs ("Surf's Up" being a standout) have such a high tessitura that Jim admitted defeat and let frequent backup vocalist Rory Dodd Step Up to the Microphone. In fact, the aforementioned song is so high (it goes up to the second E above middle C in actual pitch, twice) that when Meat Loaf eventually recorded it for 1984's Bad Attitude even he took it down a minor third.