One of the greatest frontmen of the one of the greatest bands of all time celebrates a significant birthday this weekend.
Michael Stipe, formerly of R.E.M., turns 60 on January 4th – and he'll be releasing his second solo single 'Drive to the Ocean' on the day.
To mark the occasion, we've compiled some interesting facts about the iconic songwriter and musician that casual fans of the band may not be aware of.
1. His real name is John.
Yes, it's true – John Michael Stipe was born in Decatur, Georgia on January 4th, 1960. He said in a 1995 interview that he was named after the founder of the Methodist church, John Wesley – although his father and grandfather were also believed to have been called John.
2. His sister is also a musician.
His younger sister Lynda Stipe has played bass in several Athens bands including Hetch Hetchy, although none of them achieved the same level of fame as REM. In fact, Michael gave her a leg-up in the industry by inviting her to open for one of his pre-REM bands in 1980. She also contributed backing vocals to the 'Monster' track 'Bang & Blame'.
3. He has dabbled in film production.
You'll find his music on the soundtrack to several films, but did you know that Stipe has also turned his hand to production? As the owner of two film production companies, C-00 and Single Cell Pictures, he has been credited as a producer on the likes of 'Being John Malkovich', 2004 comedy 'Saved!' and most recently, 2017 drama 'En el séptimo día'.
4. He was once considered for a major film role.
Stipe was considered for the role of John Doe (i.e. the baddie) in David Fincher's 'Se7en' back in 1995. Kevin Spacey eventually made it his, of course, but Stipe told Alec Baldwin on his podcast that Fincher had approached him, but he had to turn it down because REM were due to tour 'Monster' at the same time.
5. He's a vegan. Most of the time.
Both Stipe and REM guitarist Peter Buck have been vegetarian for decades, but Stipe claimed that he “started eating everything again when I was 40.” These days, he says he is vegan 'most of the time'. He once owned a vegetarian cafe and juice bar in Athens, Georgia – but now owns the historic building that houses another veggie restaurant, The Grit, in the city.
6. He has a huge passion for photography
Stipe has a keen eye, as evidenced by his photography work, and photography has been a lifelong passion of his. Last year, he released the second volume of his work - 'Our Interference Times: A Visual Record'. Its precursor, 2018's 'Volume 1', featured his photographs of everyone from River Phoenix to author William Burroughs and his partner, Thomas Dozol (also a photographer).
7. He planned to collaborate with Kurt Cobain before his death
Stipe and Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain were firm friends; Stipe is even the godfather of Frances Bean Cobain. Concerned about his drug addition, Stipe suggested that the pair collaborate in 1994. Unfortunately it didn't come to pass before Cobain's death in April of that year.
8. He once gave himself a hernia from singing
The band's 'Monster' tour was dogged with bad luck. Drummer Bill Berry suffered a brain aneurysm in March 1995; bassist Mike Mills had surgery to remove a benign intenstinal tumour in July, and a month later, Stipe suffered an inguinal (groin) hernia, which also required emergency surgery. He blamed his efforts to “push the notes”.