“I feel that our powers as songwriters and copartners in this venture that we call R.E.M. are as strong as they ever have been.” Michael Stipe
American singer, songwriter and producer Michael Stipe is famous as the lead vocalist of the alternative rock group R.E.M., which he co-founded in 1980. The group first enjoyed critical acclaim with their albums “Murmur” (1983) and “Reckoning” (1984) before achieving mainstream success in 1987 with the single “The One I Love,” which went to No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was included in their fifth album, “Document” (1987), which marked the first platinum album for the group in the United States. R.E.M., however, did not emerge as a huge international act until the early 1990s after they released the Grammy Award winner “Out of Time” (1991), “Automatic for the People” (1992) and “Monster” (1994). Except for the compilation album “In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988–2003” (2003), the group has suffered a decline in sales of their albums since the platinum album “New Adventures in Hi-Fi” (1996). The Group has collected three Grammy Awards and received the International Group at the Brit Awards in 1992, 1993 and 1995.
Outside R.E.M., Stipe has also collaborated with other artists, such as 10,000 Maniacs, the Indigo Girls, Kristin Hersh, Vic Chesnutt, Rain Phoenix, Community Trolls, and 1 Giant Leap. He was a producer on Magnapop's 1992 album “Magnapop.” As a TV and film producer, Stipe is probably best recognized for his work on the successful comedy film “Being John Malkovich” (1999), from which he netted an Independent Spirit Award and a Vision Award at the 2000 PGA Awards. He also lent his producing talents to the films “Velvet Goldmine” (1998), “Olive, the Other Reindeer” (1999, TV), “The Sleepy Time Gal” (2001), “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing” (2001), “Everyday People” (2004) and “Johnny Berlin” (2005).
Once an art major, Stipe is a photographer and frequently contributed his pictures to the artwork of REM's albums. A fan of Radiohead, he developed a strong friendship with Radiohead lead vocalist Thom Yorke and is also friends with the rest of the band members. He is also friends with fellow musicians Courtney Love and Natalie Merchant and is the godfather of Love's daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, who was fathered by Nirvana's Kurt Cobain (deceased). Stipe is also a good friend of independent filmmaker Tom Gilroy and was a friend of actor River Phoenix (deceased). He dedicated the 1994 REM album “Monster” to River.
Childhood and Family:
John Michael Stipe was born January 4, 1960, in the Atlanta suburb of Decatur, Georgia. The son of a military man, he moved to various places during his formative years and lived in Texas, Alabama, Illinois, Georgia and Germany. He was quiet as a child, but enjoyed high school socially thanks to his talent in music. After graduating from Collinsville High School in Illinois in 1978, he studied photography and painting at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. He, however, dropped out of college in 1980 to focus on music.
Michael has two sisters named Cindy and Lynda. After keeping his sexual orientation private for many years, Stipe disclosed he was gay in 2001.
Being John Malkovich
Michael Stipe joined a punk cover band when he was in high school. While in college, he hooked up with record shop clerk and aspiring guitarist Peter Buck and in 1980 they founded R.E.M., with drummer Bill Berry and bassist Mike Mills. The group embarked on their first concert in Athens, Georgia, later that same year. In 1981, they launched the single “Radio Free Europe” on the small Hib-Tone label and it was a success on college radio. The group eventually signed to IRS Records and released an EP called “Chronic Town” on August 24, 1982. The group's first full length album, “Murmur,” followed on April 11, 1983. Produced by Don Dixon and Mitch Easter, it rose to No. 36 on the Billboard 200 and earned critical acclaim from critics. “Murmur” only sold about 200,000 units by the end of 1983, but received gold certification by RIAA in 1991. “Murmur” produced the singles “Radio Free Europe” and “Talk About the Passion.” The re-recorded version of “Radio Free Europe” became the group's first charting single on the Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked at No. 78. The song also charted at No. 25 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.
Stipe and his band members returned with the sophomore album “Reckoning” on April 17, 1984. Like its predecessor, the album was also a critic success upon its release and rose to No. 27 on the Billboard 200 and was certified gold by RIAA. The album also charted in the U.K. at No. 91. The lead single “So. Central Rain (I'm Sorry)” went to No. 85 on the Billboard Hot 100. The third studio album, “Fables of the Reconstruction,” was released on June 10, 1985, with new producer Joe Boyd. “Fables of the Reconstruction” peaked at No.35 in the U.K. and No. 28 in the U.S., where it eventually went gold. The lead single “Cant Get There from Here” failed to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, but managed to make the Top 20 on the Modern Rock Tracks (#14) and gave the group visibility on MTV with its video. The second single, “Driver 8,” rose to No. 22 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks. Still in 1985, Stipe contributed to the Golden Palominos' second album “Visions of Excess.” In addition to co-writing the songs “Boy (Go)” and “Clustering Train,” he also sang lead on “Omaha,” a cover of Moby Grape.
After changing his image by adding weight and shaving his hair into a monk's crown, Stipe was reunited with the group to release their fourth studio album, “Lifes Rich Pageant,” on July 28, 1986, for producer Don Gehman. The album climbed to No. 21 on the Billboard 200 and stayed on the chart for more than 30 weeks. It went gold in the U.S. and platinum in Canada, where it peaked at No. 29. The album also charted in the U. K. (#43), Norway (#17) and Australia (#37). The lead single “Fall on Me” rose to No. 94 on the Billboard Hot 100. The group covered The Clique's 1969 song “Superman” for their second single, with the reluctant Stipe singing background vocals and bassist Mike Mills taking over lead vocals. The R.E.M. version rose to No. 17 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.
Following a collection called “Dead Letter Office,” (April 1987) R.E.M. scored a commercial breakthrough with the album “Document.” Released on September 1, 1987, (produced with Scott Litt and the band) the album became the group's first Top 10 hit on the Billboard 200 and achieved platinum status in January 1988. The album spawned the group's first Top 10 hit single on the Billboard Hot 100 with the lead track “The One I Love” (#9). The song also rose to No. 11 in Canada, and when it was re-released in 1991, went to No. 16 in the U.K. and No. 5 in Ireland. The group next released their first compilation album, “Eponymous,” on October 18, 1988, their last record with IRS.
Stipe and his group gained bigger commercial success with their sixth studio album, “Green,” the group's first major label release for Warner Bros. Released on November 7, 1988, the album rose to No. 12 on the Billboard 200 and sold over 2 million copies in the U.S., giving the group their first double platinum record. It also went platinum in the U.K. (#27) and double platinum in Canada (#4). “Green” scored No. 1 hit singles on the Mainstream Rock Tracks and the Modern Rock Tracks with “Orange Crush” and “Stand,” which also became the group's second Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 (#6). The third single, “Pop Song 89,” went to No. 86 on the Billboard Hot 100. In support of the album, Stipe and R.E.M. embarked on a world tour that began in 1989.
Stipe collaborated with other artists when he performed “A Campfire Song” for the band 10,000 Maniacs' album “In My Tribe” (1987) and “Kid Fears” on Indigo Girls' critical acclaimed self titled album (1988). In 1989, he also provided vocals on Syd Straw's debut album, “Surprise” (1989), on the song “Future 40's.” Throughout the 1990s, Stipe could be heard on such songs as “Alive and Living Now” on The Golden Palominos' album “Drunk with Passion” (1991), “Trout” on Neneh Cherry's “Homebrew” (1992), “Your Ghost” on Kristin Hersh's debut album “Hips and Makers” (1994), “Injured Bird” on Vic Chesnutt's “The End of Violence” (1997) and “Happiness,” with Rain Phoenix, for the motion picture soundtrack of the same name (1998).
With R.E.M., Stipe enjoyed international success with “Out of Time,” which was released on March 8, 1991. The album rose to the top spots in the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Australia and went multi platinum in the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Switzerland. The album spawned the group's first gold single, “Losing My Religion,” which went to No. 1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks and the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks. It also rose to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song brought the group Grammys for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Short Form Music Video. The album won a 1992 Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album. “Out of Time” also produced the group's next Top 10 hit in the Billboard 100 with “Shiny Happy People” (#10). The group cemented their reputation as mainstream music stars with the follow up “Automatic for the People” (1992), which went to No. 2 in the U.S. and No. 1 in the U.K. The album earned positive reviews from critics and was certified multi platinum. It was nominated for a Grammy for Album of the Year in 1993 and yielded the singles “Drive” (#28 US), “Man on the Moon” (#30) and “Everybody Hurts” (#29 US, #7 UK). Also in 1992, Stipe emerged as a music producer when he co-produced Magnapops' self titled debut album.
The group had another success with the album “Monster,” which was released on September 26, 1994. The album achieved the No. 1 position in the U.S., the U.K., Austria, Canada, the Netherlands New Zealand, Switzerland and Sweden. It was certified 4X platinum in the U.S., 3X platinum in the U.K., 6X platinum in Canada and Platinum in Austria, Germany and Switzerland and generated the Billboard Hot 100 hit singles “What's the Frequency, Kenneth,” “Bang and Blame” and “Strange Currencies.”
The tenth album, “New Adventures in Hi-Fi,” hit the music stores on September 9, 1996, and went to No. 2 in the U.S. and No. 1 in the U.K. and gained platinum certification in both countries. The group's received their next three Billboard Hot 100 hits with “E-Bow the Letter” (#49), “Bittersweet Me” (#46) and “Electrolite” (#96). The album “Up” was released on October 27, 1998, without original drummer Bill Berry. The album rose to No. 3 in the U.S. and No. 2 in the U.K. It went gold in the U.S. and platinum in the U.K. The first single, “Daysleeper,” peaked at No. 57 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 6 on the U.K. Singles chart.
In 1998, Stipe debuted as an executive producer on “Velvet Goldmine” (1998), a drama directed by Todd Haynes and starring Ewan McGregor, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Christian Bale. The next year, he co-produced the documentary film “American Movie,” helmed by Chris Smith, executive produced the drama “Spring Forward,” written and directed by his friend Tom Gilroy, and produced the animated TV film “Olive, the Other Reindeer,” which was directed by Steve Moore and starred the voices of Drew Barrrymore and Edward Asner, to name a few. However, Stipe did not experience victory until he produced the critically acclaimed comedy “Being John Malkovich” (1999), for director Spike Jonze. The film was nominated for Oscars for Best Director, Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen and Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Stipe shared an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature - Over $500,000 and PGA's Vision Award for Theatrical Motion Pictures, not to mention a PGA nomination for Motion Picture Producer of the Year and an Australian Film Institute nomination for Best Foreign Film for his work in the film. Also in 1999, Stipe and R.E.M. recorded the soundtrack for the motion picture “Man on the Moon” (1999), which was directed by Milos Forman and starred Jim Carrey. The song “The Great Beyond” was nominated for a 2001 Grammy for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media and was later included in R.E.M.s' 2003 successful compilation album “In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988–2003,” which went multi platinum. Through his production company C-100 Film, which Stipe co-founded with Jim McKay in 1987, Stipe co-produced the documentary film “La boda” (2000, TV) for director Hannah Weyer. He then executive produced the drama “Our Song” (2000), written and directed by McKay, and co-produced the drama “The Sleepy Time Gal” (2001), which was directed by Christopher Munch. The latter film was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. He also produced the HBO film “Stranger Inside” (2001). For Single Cell Pictures, he served as executive producer on the Jill Sprecher helmed drama “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing” (2001), which starred Matthew McConaughey and David Connolly.
It was also in 2001 that Stipe was reunited with his band to launch “Reveal.” The album went to No. 1 in the U.K. and No 6 in the U.S. The single “Imitation of Life” peaked at No. 83 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 6 on the U.K. Single chart. The group did not release a new album until three years later with “Around the Sun” (released on October 5, 2004). The album received lukewarm reviews and became the group's first studio album to miss the U.S. Top 10 since 1988's “Green.” It fared better in the U.K., where it achieved the No. 1 spot and earned gold certification.
Back to film producing, Stipe executive produced “Everyday People” (2004), a drama written and directed by producing partner McKay, produced the comedy film “Saved” (2004) by director and co-writer Brian Dannelly, and executive produced the 2005 films “Room,” which was written and directed by Kyle Henry, and “Johnny Berlin,” a movie directed by Dominic DeJoseph. In 2006, he produced the short documentary “In the Sun: Michael Stipe and Special Guests” (TV).
On October 15, 2007, R.E.M. released the live album “R.E.M. Live,” which was recorded at the Point Theatre in Dublin, Ireland. “Accelerate,” the follow up to 2004's “Around the Sun,” followed on April 1, 2008. The album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. Despite receiving good reviews from critics, the album only went silver in the U.K. and was not certified by RIAA. On October 27, 2009, Stipe and his band released a second live album titled “Live at The Olympia.” More recently, in 2010, Stipe served as an executive producer on the short film “Fourplay: San Francisco.”
A multi talented artist, Stipe appeared as an actor in “Arena Brains” (1987) and “Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day” (1996) and in an episode of the TV series “The Adventures of Pete & Pete” (1993). He also provided the voice of Schnitzel in the cartoon film “Olive, the Other Reindeer” (1999, TV), which he produced.
Independent Spirit: Best First Feature - Over $500,000, “Being John Malkovich,” 2000
PGA: Vision Award, Theatrical Motion Pictures, “Being John Malkovich,” 2000
Brit: International Group, REM, 1995
Brit: International Group, REM, 1993
Brit: International Group, REM, 1992
Grammy: Best Alternative Music Album, “Out of Time,” 1992
Grammy: Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Short Form Music Video, “Losing My Religion,” 1992