After the news broke that legendary actor and musician Meat Loaf died on Friday morning, tributes have been pouring in across social media as people remember their favorite ‘Loaf performances. But of all of the 74-year-old’s prolific contributions to pop culture, he may have been best known for his hit single, “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That).”
The power ballad, which was written by record producer and composer Jim Steinman and recorded by Meat Loaf and Lorraine Crosby, was released in Aug. 1993 as the first single from Meat Loaf’s album Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell. In addition to going platinum, the single earned Meat Loaf a Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance.
But one question has plagued fans for decades — what does “that” in the song refer to in which Meat Loaf won’t do for love?
Incredibly, the answer has been right under our noses almost this entire time. And it’s not “butt stuff” or period sex, as many have wondered over the years.
In a 1998 episode of VH1 Storytellers, Meat Loaf broke out a blackboard and a pointer to explain the answer to the frequently asked question on stage.
“What is ‘that,’ is that your question?” Meat Loaf asked in the special. “I get that question all the time. Well, I’m here to help you out,” he continued, rolling out the blackboard.
“What is that? I know you know. In the song, you hear it,” he explained. “Before every chorus, it goes — and there are different lines every time, before every chorus. Right here, ‘But I’ll never forgive myself if we don’t go all the way tonight. I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that.’ And every time there’s a chorus, ‘I’ll never stop dreaming of you, every night of my life, I’ll do anything for love, but I won’t do that.’ ‘I’ll never forget the way you feel right now, I’ll do anything for love, but I won’t do —’ what?”
“That!” the audience answered in unison.
“Do we know what that is now? Do we understand it?” he continued. “It’s the line before every chorus.”
“In other words, you can insert your own line,” he added, pointing to a couple in the audience. “Maybe in the near future, you might say something like that. You might take her to the door and go, ‘It was great tonight, but I’ll never stop dreaming of you, I’ll do anything for love, but I won’t do that.'”
Well, that seemed rather anticlimactic, but you know what they say about asking a stupid question. Sometimes it’s best to just let the mystery be.