Perhaps the best way to understand an entertainer’s legacy is to look back at where it all began.
The origin story for rock musician Meat Loaf, who died Thursday at the age of 74, started as Marvin Lee Aday growing up in Dallas.
His childhood friend Billy Slocum said Friday he simply knew him as M.L.
“He would sing then like nobody’s business,” Slocum said. “The singing never surprised me.”
Slocum graduated with Meat Loaf from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1965, Two years later, after the death of his mother, “Meat” as friends called him, left for the west coast.
Five decades later, Robert Wilonsky, then the city columnist at the Dallas Morning News and a T.J. alum himself, hoped “Meat” would come back home to accept a distinguished alumni award.
In March 2015, Meat Loaf came back to campus and took the time to meet with high school students and share his journey.
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Wilonsky and Slocum on Friday stood outside the construction site for the new TJHS set to open in August after the original building was heavily damaged by a tornado in October 2019.
“He wanted to be a musician and his mother said ‘no’ because he couldn’t sing,” Wilonsky said.
The retelling of the story brought out an immediate reaction of laughter from Slocum.
“And he told the kids that day he became a singer after he was hit by a shotput in the head on a field behind the school. Do you remember that?” Wilonsky asked. “I don’t remember the shotput but I remember the story,” Slocum said.
In 1977, Meat Loaf released the smash album “Bat Out of Hell,” which remains one of the top 10 selling albums ever.
His theatrical style would lend well to movies too from “Rocky Horror Picture Show” to “Fight Club.”
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A Grammy would follow for his 1993 single “I Would Do Anything For Love,” an award ceremony Meat Loaf, notably, did not attend.
Which according to Wilonsky, is why his decision to accept – in-person – a distinguished alumni award from his alma mater was all the more meaningful.
“The fact he took the time to meet with students from the music class and tell them about his dream coming through here and they could do the exact same thing because they were no better than he was,” Wilonsky said. “They were in the right place at the right time at the right school, in the right class.”