Ethics Hero: Meat Loaf


I’m sure many of you will react to this with a hardy, “What an idiot!” That’s all right. You don’t understand.

In the grandest tradition of “The show must go on!”, 70’s rock legend Meat Loaf, now 63, finished a concert in Pittsburgh after he fainted on stage and lay unconscious for a full ten minutes. He got up, apologized, explained (obscenely) that it was his asthma, and continued to sing his old hits for a cheering crowd. “Kept suckin’ on his inhaler & singing his ass off,” one fan tweeted from the scene.

Grand. I love it.

In these times when rock acts are often hours late or severely shortened by the artist’s physical or pharmaceutical maladies, and when performers in general often consider it too much of a sacrifice to give their best efforts when healthy, not to mention when they have the sniffles, Meat Loaf’s dedication to his craft and particularly his audience is impressive, although not surprising. His voice may have diminished greatly over the years, but Meat Loaf, always more ham than hamburger, truly loves performing, and it shows. And his determination to give an audience everything it paid for and more is what makes professional performing about love and integrity rather than money.

As I have occasionally mentioned here, I am the artistic director of a professional theater. Over the years I have fought a sometimes losing battle to instill in our younger actors the ethic of treating each performance as an obligation and a trust. Live performing requires courage, because if it isn’t passionate, dangerous and fierce there is no reason for the audience not to watch a DVD instead. I also suspect that live performance is probably doomed, as fewer and fewer audience members appreciate what stage performing requires, and fewer and fewer performers are willing to develop the skills and endure the ordeal that makes live performances memorable.

Meat Loaf understands. And to those who judge him a fool, wondering why he would risk his life to sing a song, I can only answer that as a true and noble performer,  Meat Loaf would probably love his final moments on Earth to be spent on stage, singing “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights” to a packed concert hall.

To meet the obligations of a professional performing artist and entertainer, you must have complete commitment and dedication. The next time a slickly-packaged teen idol is tempted to disappoint a full house of her fans because she has a tickle in her throat or a hangover, maybe she’ll think about the example left for her by the old man with the handkerchief and the inhaler, who learned his lesson from the gallant performers before him.

The audience is all that matters, and the show must go on.

3 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: Meat Loaf

  1. Jack, I think you are right, in the main. One caveat, however, and that is that some caution in an area like this is not uncalled for. If a man faints while going about his business, especially a man not as young as he once was, maybe his body is trying to tell him something. Now, Meatloaf knows his own health, presumably, and if he thought it was OK for him to continue the performance, I’d not say him nay any more than you. But, if other, more cautious heads had prevailed at the time, and the performance stopped early, that might have been a necessary thing. Not good, not bad, just necessary. (Then again, I seem to recall an old song lyric from “Finian’s Rainbow” that described necessity as “the most maximum thing a minimum thing can be.”)

  2. Hats off to Meat Loaf. His professional integrity and dedication is to be commended. WORK ETHIC. I couldn’t agree with you more concerning ML’s zeal to give the audience a complete show.

    Two stories . . . 1) One theatre company with whom I was associated for many years was traveling to the next theatre several hundred miles away. An accident occurred wherein their van rolled. One crew member was seriously injured and another actor lost her life. Management gave the company the choice of ending the tour there. Instead of canceling the tour, the actors voted to continue. Role adjustments were made and the company finished the tour. In spite of the loss of a friend, the company members all felt that is what their fellow actor would have wanted. I happen to agree with them. Theatre work ethic.

    2) My mother had to be hospitalized while I was in the middle run of a show in which I had one of the lead roles. My husband and I rushed her to the hospital. During her stay in the hospital, each evening I would perform. Mom took a turn for the worse. Family members were called to say their goodbyes. I held her in my arms when she passed and 45 minutes later I was on stage. It was difficult, but it was what my mother would have wanted and would have done herself. She was a musician. If she said she would be at a rehearsal, performance, meeting or whatever, she was there no matter how she felt. Work ethic.

    Thanks for sharing this post.

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