James Richard Steinman was born on the 1.november 1948 in New York athough he spent most of his childhood in Claremont, California, before moving back to New York.
His father owned a steel distribution warehouse and his mother was a teacher. Jim attended high school at Hewlett high, where he’s described as very intelligent and one of the 4 brightest kids in his class. He wasn’t considered "cool" or popular, in fact he’s said to not have had a date all through high school. A former classmate has said:
"Jimmy was the type of person who knew what it meant and took to be cool and he knew that he wasn’t"
The teachers considered him quite a slacker, so much that the guidance counselor refused to sign his application to Amherst College. According to Jim, the only reason he was accepted into Amherst was because he told some amazing stories about himself at the interview. After High school he attended Amherst, in which period he signed a contract with Robert Stigwood, to write songs for the RSO label. Evidence of this is the song "Happy ending" by Yvonne Elimann
At Amherst his academic results left a lot to be desired. He claims that he was almost kicked out 4 times and called to an academic comity to explain his grade of 16 in physics and 33 in calculus, he simply explained:
"I’ve always done better at math than science".
To make up for his poor academic results, he wrote and performed a musical called "The Dream engine", about a conspiracy by the government to control the nation’s youth by drugging them and controlling their emotions. Present in the audience at the performance was theater legend Joseph Papp, who was so exited that he bought the rights to it during intermission. Also record producer Paul Rothchild was so impressed that he wanted to produce the cast-album. He arranged an audition for the heads of Warner records in a big airline hangar in Burbank. Jim:
"I don’t think they realized that it was only gonna be me, two other people from the school and a piano, just like a theatrical audition".
The presentation included lyrics such as "How do you bury the scull of you country" and "You got to love me with the sun in your eyes until the day that you go blind". The Warner executives were not amused. One guy got up and said:
"We don’t need people like you in the world".
Joe Papp didn’t give up. He wanted the show to open in New York’s Central Park, but city officials thought it was to sexually explicit to be performed. The show did have a short life at the Washington D.C. Arena, with Richard Gere taking the lead. Jim:
" Richard has one of the great rock’n roll voices, which he won’t use, because he feels people won't accept him as an actor if he sings".
In 1971,while working in various projects for Papp and the New York Shakespeare festival, he met a guy called "Meat Loaf". Jim:
Meat was the most mesmerizing thing I’d ever seen, much bigger than he is now and since I grew up with Wagner, all my heroes were larger than life. His eyes went into his head, like he was transfixed. He sang "you gotta give your heart to Jesus". I can seem arrogant at times, because I’m certain of things and I was certain of him.
Jim teamed up with lyricist Michael Weller for the musical "More than you deserve", in which Meat Loaf had a role. The show wasn’t a big success but the audience was thrilled with Meat’s performance.
In 1975 Jim left the theater life to tour with the National Lampoon show together with Meat Loaf. During that time Jim was working on a musical called "Neverland" which he has characterized as a rock’n roll Peter Pan. Three of the songs from "Neverland" were to be included in a project called "Bat out of hell", a collection of 7 songs, in a style unlike nothing else. It was rock'n roll, but with a Wagnerian and operatic twist to it. Jim and Meat went from one record company to another, with Meat singing and Jim pounding at the piano until his fingers dripped with blood. Jim:
"No one could deal with it. They couldn't figure out what it would sound like when it was finished"
They eventually got a deal with Epic, with Todd Rundgren as a producer and it was released in 1977.The radio stations were reluctant to play it, because the saw the style as "over the top", to which Jim has said:
"How silly. If you don't go over the top, you can't see what's on the other side"
Even though "Bat out of hell" got of to a slow start, it has become a mile stone in rock music and one of the best selling albums of all time, spending over 400 weeks in the British album charts, earning it a place in Guinness book of records. All of the songs including such classics as "Paradise by the dashboard light","You took the words right out of my mouth" and "Two out of three ain't bad", have been released as singles.
After the release of "Bat out of hell", Meat Loaf went on the road, with Jim occasionally making special appearances on the piano and sometimes singing. While Meat was on tour, Jim prepared for what would become the follow up to "Bat" and also wrote the score for the 1980 flop-movie "A small circle of friends". The soundtrack included melodies, which were later to become famous as "Total Eclipse of the heart" and "Making love out of nothing at all".
When the time came to record the follow up to "Bat", originally titled "Renegade Angel", Meat had abused his voice from all the touring and couldn't utter a decent note. Jim:
"Technically he has a lot more in common with an opera singer, enormous lung-power and people with voices like that usually don't sing extended tours"
Tired of waiting and realizing that the songs were to demanding for Meat at the time, Jim decided to put out the album, now titled "Bad for good", with himself doing the vocals, with help from Rory Dodd. Even though the album was very much in the style of "bat", Jim didn't have the voice to make the album as big a success as it's predecessor.It did however reach no.7 in the U.K and the single "rock'n roll dreams come through" was a moderate hit in various countries.Having released "Bad for good" himself, Jim was still obligated to write songs for a new Meat Loaf record. He wrote 7 less demanding songs for an album eventually called "Deadringer". Jim:
"Meat's album is different. His album is more intimate than mine."
In august of 1981, only 3 months after "Bad for good", "Deadringer" was released, with modest success in the states, but the single "Deadringer for love", a duet with Cher, was a big hit in Europe. After "Deadringer" was released Meat and Jim went their separate ways. Meat went on to record 3 less than successful albums and Jim was asked to produce a single for the Australian duo Air Supply,to which Meat is supposed to have responded:
"Jim producing Air Supply? That goes against anything he lives for"
Jim produced his own song "Making love out of nothing at all", which would turn out to be one of their biggest hits. Jim:
"Two boring idiots from Australia. Working with them was almost an accident. When I took that, I didn't have any other work at all and I needed the money".
Jim was asked to try and save the career of Bonnie Tyler, mostly known for hits like "It's a heartache" and "Lost in France", but who's career was going nowhere fast. Jim completely changed her image and style. He produced the album "Faster than the speed of night" on which he wrote the title song and a song called "Total eclipse of the heart". Both the album and the song was very successful, making Bonnie the first woman to ever break into the No.1 spot on the British album charts. In addition to being nominated for a Grammy for best song, "Total eclipse" was the best selling single of 1983.The release of "Total Eclipse" inthe US coincided with the release of "Making love out of nothing at all", which reached no.2, while "Total eclipse" was no.1, making Jim the only individual songwriter to have both the no.1 and 2, at the same time. Rumor has it that these two songs were first offered to Meat Loaf, for the follow up to "Deadringer", but was turned down by the record company. Jim has dismissed those rumors by saying, that he wrote the song as a showpiece for Bonnie's voice.
The following year was very busy for Jim. Producing for artists like Billy Squier, Barbra Streisand, even Barry Manilow, which surprised all, but to which Jim has said:
"I remember everybody being really shocked that I would go and do a Barry Manilow single. I couldn't imagine not wanting to do it". "Do you know what the most boring rock group in the World is? Fucking U2.Give me Barry Manilow anytime."
In 1984 Jim supplied music for 2 movies: Footloose, which included Bonnie Tyler's "Holding outFor a hero" written by Jim and Dean Pitchford and Walter Hills movie "Streets of Fire" in which Jim wrote both the opening and closing song. The songs "Nowhere fast" and "Tonight is what it means to be young" were performed by the project-group Fire Inc. and though some of Jim's best they didn't do well in the charts.
In the mid eighties Jim spent one week working with Andrew Lloyd Webber on the musical "Phantom of the opera", but had to abandon the project to fulfill his contractual commitments to produce the follow up to Bonnie's "Faster than the speed of night". This album, titled "Secret dreams and forbidden fire" was released in 1986.First single release was the classic "loving you is a dirty job (but somebody's got to do it) a duet with Todd Rundgren. The album also included "Holding out for a hero", "If you were a woman and I was a man", written by Desmond Child and two other songs written by Jim.
After "Secret Dreams" Jim went on to produce to singles for Sisters of mercy's comeback-album "Floodland". The singles "This corrosion" and "Dominion/mother Russia" were both top 20 hits.
Sister's frontman Andrew Eldridge had this to say about Jim:
"He's one of the few people in this business who can really hold their own on Eldridge Boulevard"
And Jim about Andrew:
"Eldridge very, very intelligent. I would have done the entire "Floodland" album, but I didn't have the time"
The release of "Deadringer" was the last that featured all Jim-songs. He had only done occasional songs and singles, so in 1989 he thought it was time to make a whole album .Jim at the time:
"About two years ago I got really sick of it, because I would give songs to people like Donna Summer and I'd get letters from her saying that it wasn't Christian enough. Please make it more Christian."
Jim put together the band Pandora's box, which consisted of 4 female singers: Elaine Caswell, Gina Taylor, Deleria Wilde and Ellen Foley. The album was called "Original sin" and the first single was called "It's all coming back to me now" sung by Elaine Caswell, who is said to have fainted 5 times trying to hit the high notes. It was released along with a video by the well known director Ken Russell. The whole album had a budget of $150.000, but he ended up spending $1.000.000 of his own money on it. He explains it this way:
"Some-one would pay a millon dollars in ransom for their kids. I care as deeply for these songs, as other people care about their children"
Although the album was very critically acclaimed it was a flop in the UK and didn't get released in the US. Only in South Africa, Where the album hit no.1, did it get the success it deserved.
After co-writing the 1990 Sisters of mercy-hit "More", Jim and Meat Loaf started work on an album that was going to be called "Back into hell". Meat had approached Jim in 1987 for a possible reunion and Jim asked him to sing the entire "Bat out of hell", to see if his voice was up to it. Meat:
"It was like no time period had elapsed. That's the way it's always been"
The album "Bat out of hell II-back into hell" was released in 1993 and contained songs from "Bad for Good" and "Original Sin". As well as 4 new songs, one of which, "I'd do anything for love, but I won't do that" was released as the first single. Unlike its predecessor the album was and instant hit, all around the world and both the album and "Anything for love" went to no. 1 in most countries.
In 1994,after producing "Original Sin" for the movie "The Shadow" (performed by Taylor Dayne), Jim was, once again, contacted by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who wanted him to work on a musical version of the British movie "Whistle down the wind". Jim would provide lyrics to Webber's score. The musical opened in Washington in December 1996,but received some mixed reviews, which caused Webber and Steinman to rework the piece for opening in 1998.
Even though he was in the middle of working on "whistle", Jim found time for other projects such as producing for Bonnie Tyler's album "Free Spirit". The album included a remake of "Making love out of nothing at all" and a dance version of "two out of three ain't bad". Neither was very successful in the charts.
Another project was Celine Dion's album "Falling into you" on which she covered the song "It's all coming back to me now". The song was a big hit around the world and the album went into number one after the song was released as a single. Jim also produced "River deep, mountain high" and "Call the man". The album won a Grammy for album of the year.
In July 1997 Jim started work on yet another musical. This time as a composer on the musical version of Roman Polanski's 1967 film "The fearless vampire killers" (in Europe called "Dance of The vampires").Polanski also directed the musical and Michael Kunze wrote the lyrics. Jim on Polanski's work:
"I saw fearless vampire killers when it came out. I loved Chinatown. Repulsion and Rosemary's baby is easily two of the most brilliant, stylish, innovative and stunningly realized horrorfilms made"
The show which feature both new and old songs like "tonight is what it means to be young", opened in Vienna in October and was such a success that plans to take it to Broadway have been discussed.
Two Steinman productions was released in late 1997.The first was "In the dark of the night" from the animated movie "Anastasia" and the other was "Us" on Celine Dion's album "Let's talk about love"
Edward James Xavier Derosa II