m stipe
David Shankbone / Wikicommons
  • Faith: Unknown
  • Career: Musician
  • Birthday:  January 04, 1960

Michael Stipe is a songwriter, singer, and artist best known as the lead singer and lyricist of the band R.E.M. With his distinctive voice, Stipe has been noted for the "mumbling" style of his early career. Since the mid-1980s, he's sung in "wailing, keening, arching vocal figures" that R.E.M. biographer David Buckley compared to Celtic folk artists and Muslim muezzin. He was in charge of R.E.M.'s visual aspect, often choosing album artwork and directing several of the band's music videos.

Outside of the music industry, Stipe owns and runs two film production studios, C-00 and Single Cell Pictures. As a member of R.E.M., he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. As a singer-songwriter, he's influenced a wide range of artists, including Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and Thom Yorke of Radiohead. Bono of U2 has described Stipe's voice as "extraordinary," and Yorke told The Guardian that Stipe is his favorite lyricist, saying, "I loved the way he would take an emotion and then take a step back from it and in doing so, make it so much more powerful."

Stipe was born in 1960 in Decatur, Georgia, to Marianne and John Stipe. He was a military brat as his father was a serviceman in the U.S. Army whose career resulted in frequent relocations for his family. During his childhood, Stipe and his family moved to various locales, including Texas, Illinois, West Germany, and Alabama. In 1978, he graduated from high school in Collinsville, Illinois. His senior photo is pictured in the album artwork of "Eponymous." He also worked at the local Waffle House.

When he was 14, Stipe was turned on to punk rock by an article in Creem magazine by Lisa Robinson on the CBGB scene. The article featured a picture of Patti Smith, whom Stipe came to idolize. He remembers buying her debut album, "Horses," the day it came out, saying, "Since then, I never looked back." While attending the University of Georgia in Athens, Stipe frequented the Wuxtry record shop, where he met store clerk Peter Buck in 1980. Buck recalled, "He was a striking-looking guy, and he also bought weird records, which not everyone in the store did." The two became friends and eventually decided to form a band. They started writing music together, although, at the time, Stipe was also in a local group named Gangster.

Buck and Stipe were soon joined by Bill Berry and Mike Mills, who named themselves R.E.M., a name Stipe chose at random from a dictionary. All four members of R.E.M. dropped out of school in 1980 to focus on the new band, and Stipe was the last to do so. The band issued its debut single, "Radio Free Europe," on Hib-Tone; it was a college radio success. Then, they signed to I.R.S. Records for the release of the "Chronic Town" EP one year later. In 1983, R.E.M. released its debut album, "Murmur," which critics acclaimed. Stipe's lyrics and vocals received particular attention from listeners. "Murmur" went on to win the Rolling Stone Critics Poll Album of the Year over Michael Jackson's "Thriller." Their second album, "Reckoning," followed in 1984.

What religion is Michael Stipe?

Although previous generations of Stipe's family were Methodist ministers and rumors circulated that he was a Buddhist, it's unclear what Stipe's religious beliefs are. In response to the rumors, Stipe said, "I'm actually not Buddhist. It's just that I'm bald, and I have a certain demeanor and my voice is really low when I talk. I was raised Christian, though I'm not Christian either."

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