So there’s this thing called Spotify. Like most modern contraptions, I approach it warily. I’m not sure how it works. Do the artists get paid? What’s the catch? Is it only having to listen to a commercial for Amazon every three or four songs, like the radio? I don’t have a lot of time to listen to music, but when I do have time I like to discover something new. Then there’s the oldies. And I can’t help but feel a deep sense of loss at the death of Jim Steinman. I discovered Steinman earlier than I realized it when “Total Eclipse of the Heart” came out the year my first romantic relationship ended. That song can still reduce me to a quivering lump of emotion. All I knew at the time was that it was a Bonnie Tyler song.
Growing up fundamentalist, even album titles like Bat out of Hell, Meatloaf’s Steinman breakthrough, were enough to scare said toponym right out of me. I never knowingly listened to any of the songs on that album until after earning my doctorate. When I did I was hooked. My research skills had grown by that time to include finding out who the writer of a song was. I discovered that “Wagnerian rock” really spoke to me. And the only guy who seemed to know how to write it was Jim Steinman. Most kids, I suppose, settle into their music tastes much younger, but in my thirties and forties I found Steinman a most compelling artist. I listened to his older stuff, and his newer stuff. I found out some surprising things, such as that even Air Supply’s “Making Love out of Nothing at All” was a Steinman song.
I seem to be hopeless at playing musical instruments. I’ve studied piano and taken guitar lessons, leaving bewildered teachers in my wake. My wife tried to teach me the recorder. Despite my failure as a player, music means a lot to me. I don’t listen to it unless I can pay attention to it. For me it’s not background noise. When I learned to identify operatic rock, I soon came to realize that it was the work of a singular genius who was covered by a wide variety of artists. No one else, it seems, could capture the feeling of being young like Steinman could. Now he’s gone. In my noodling around with this thing called Spotify, I wonder if I can discover any more of his songs. Meanwhile, I’m thankful that I found him when I did.