When superstar singer-songwriter Richard Marx began work on his new autobiography, Stories to Tell, he knew it wouldn’t be a racy, sex/drugs/rock ‘n’ roll tell-all like Motley Crüe’s The Dirt or Pamela Des Barres’s I’m With the Band. “I’ve always been a very private person. I’ve never been in the tabloids. I’ve never been that kind of celebrity, if you will,” he explains to Yahoo Entertainment. In fact, Marx never expected to write his memoirs at all, but after playing VH1 Storytellers-style acoustic shows about a decade ago, he realized, “I have great stories. I’ve had some really crazy, funny s*** happen to me.”
Those tales, which cover Marx’s early days apprenticing for Lionel Richie to his work with Kenny Rogers, Madonna, Barbra Streisand, NSYNC, Olivia Newton-John, Keith Urban, Luther Vandross, and many others, comprise Stories to Tell: A Memoir, which comes out July 6 and hit No. 1 on Amazon’s bestsellers list the day it went up for preorder. “I chose [stories] that were either compelling or funny or self-deprecating or whatever,” says Marx. “There’ll be stories I’ll tell you about my life that I wouldn’t necessarily, you know, write on Twitter or whatever.”
Marx is big into the self-deprecation thing. The funniest line in Stories to Tell is when he says the upside to undergoing double hip-replacement surgery was that “Richard Marx” and “hip” could finally be used in the same sentence, for instance. And his Twitter page is a delight, a compelling read in its own right — his famous tweet about going to the dentist because he felt like hearing some of his own music is but one RT-worthy example of his snark. Marx owns his squareness, but ironically, his posts have, intentionally or not, made the public realize that he’s a pretty cool dude.
The perpetually unbothered Marx also gets very political on social media. And one since-deleted tweet in particular, when he wrote — “If I ever meet Rand Paul’s neighbor I’m going to hug him and buy him as many drinks as he can consume” (a reference to a 2017 incident when Paul was assaulted by his neighbor, Rene Boucher) — made headlines in May 2021, after the Kentucky senator outrageously cited Marx’s tweet as the reason he’d received a suspicious package at his home. It was a rare moment when Marx actually was in the tabloids, and he uses his Yahoo interview to clarify that situation.
“I mean, it seems pretty obvious. I made a quip. Let’s start with this: Do I, would I, ever really endorse and support physical violence against someone? I can’t think of a circumstance,” Marx stresses. “I made a quip, which I likened to you hear about some raging assh*** who’s just constantly an assh*** getting his ass handed to him — and you might go, ‘He kind of asked for it,’ or, you know, ‘He kind of had that coming.’ Show me a person who’s never, ever thought of that in regards to anyone, and I’ll show you a liar, right? To me, what I quipped was nothing more than that. Stupid me — Rand Paul used that to his advantage. He went on Fox News and pathologically, as he always does, lied about what I tweeted, what I said. He actually claimed that I incited violence against him, that I was the reason he got a suspicious package of powder the next day in the mail. I thought, if I did that, [U.S. Postmaster General] Louis DeJoy should get a raise. If you can get a piece of mail to somebody overnight now, then I’ve been misinformed.
“I made a joke. And you know, the people who rallied to [Paul’s] defense are the same people who defended, or had nothing to say, when Trump retweeted someone saying, ‘The only good Democrat as a dead Democrat,’ or never had a problem with Donald Trump at a rally saying, ‘Knock the hell out of ‘em, I’ll pay the legal fees; go beat up protestors exercising their First Amendment rights.’ So, these people who were supporting Rand Paul and attacking me are just the typical ultimate hypocrites, and they’re full of s***. So, that’s my comment about that.”
Marx actually prefers not to use the adjective “political” when describing his non-partisan social media stance. “I am definitely opinionated, and I definitely find it next to impossible not to respond to what I consider to be blatant ignorance or bigotry or certainly racism. I guess the word ‘political’ is the easiest one to use, but I don’t know that it’s the most accurate, because I’m not on Twitter or in any other part of my life espousing policy or opinions about much other than proper treatment of everyone — and especially when it comes to elected officials,” he clarifies.
“For instance, I’m 57. I started voting as soon as I could. So I guess my first presidential vote was in ’84, and it was for Ronald Reagan. I have voted for Republican politicians in my life. I’ve definitely voted more for Democrats, but I’m a registered Independent. I’m not a Democrat. Also, as much as I find the current GOP to be the most distorted, vile, awful group of people I’ve ever seen in my lifetime in terms of politics, I’m also no fan of anyone in the Democratic party. None. Joe Biden would not have been my… maybe 20 years ago, I would have been like, ‘Yeah, Joe Biden might be a really good president.’ And don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that he won this election. But he would not have been my choice to be the president of United States. The screwed-up thing is I can’t necessarily point to anyone I would say should be, on either side of the aisle. I think they’re all, to a degree, different forms of reprehensible and mercenary.”
Marx says, “In a span of an hour, if I were to look through my mentions, I’ll find 50 people calling me every name,” but he balks at the argument that pop stars shouldn’t express their opinions. “It’s interesting, because when I get into a thing on Twitter, especially when you have people on the far right who say things like ‘shut up and sing’ and ‘nobody cares about the opinions of celebrities,’ these are the same people who voted for Donald Trump and follow Scott Baio, you know what I mean?” he chuckles. “So, that kind of tells you right there with the kind of mental decision-making we’re dealing with. … I feel like I can’t be on the [Twitter] platform and see something that is so outrageous and awful and not respond to it.”
Watch Yahoo Entertainment’s full, extended Richard Marx interview below, in which he tells stories about Luther Vandross, Vixen, Barbra Streisand, and more:
There are plenty of people who follow Marx online who are now well aware of his frankness and hipness — but unless they read Stories to Tell, they still may not be familiar with the simply stunning breadth of his discography. Sure, he has scored 14 of his own Billboard top 20 hits, including nine that made the top 10 and three that went to No. 1, and was the first male solo artist to have four singles from a debut album make the top three on the Billboard Hot 100. But has always been an in-demand songwriter for other artists as well. However, as Marx himself notes, many people don’t even know that he co-penned Luther Vandross’s signature song “Dance With My Father” — despite the fact that he accepted the Song of the Year honor for that single, and performed it with Celine Dion, at the 2004 Grammy Awards when the ailing Vandross was unable to attend. Hits written or co-written by Marx have topped the charts in four different decades and in almost every genre (“Not polka, though,” he quips), but there’s one more thing he’d still like to accomplish.
“I’ve gotten to work with amazing people, and hope to continue to. But the one thing that has eluded me in my career… Vixen, for example, I wrote and produced their breakthrough song [“Edge of a Broken Heart”]. I wrote co-wrote and produced Josh Groban’s first single, ‘To Where You Are.’ So, I’ve worked with brand-new artists who broke out — but I didn’t discover them,” says Marx. “That’s probably something that I would like before I really call it quits: to discover a talent, bring them to light and launch them, and then just wish them well, whether I work with them or not. … I’d like to be able to have some artists say, ‘Yeah, it was Richard Marx who started my career.’ That would be nice.”
Early in his autobiography, Marx details how Lionel Richie played that role in his own life — when Richie randomly heard the then-teenage Marx’s demo tape and was so impressed that he reached out and encouraged Marx to move to Los Angeles to pursue music professionally. But one sweet Richie story, which Marx shares with Yahoo Entertainment during our interview, actually didn’t make the book.
“A year and a half or two years ago, two summers ago, I went with Barbara Streisand to London and she asked if I wanted to be part of the opening act slot for her concert in Hyde Park. Lionel Richie was one of the support acts, and I’d hoped to run into him. I think I had texted him on the way to London and we were going to try to get together, but it was chaotic. I closed my show. And by the time I got back to my hotel, there was a text from Lionel,” Marx recalls fondly, putting his hand on his heart. “He was staying somewhere else. He texted me and he said, ‘I’m sitting on my balcony of my hotel room, listening to you sing “Right Here Waiting” and hearing thousands and thousands of people singing it even louder than you are. And I can’t tell you how proud I am.’ And I remember texting him back and saying, ‘It’s because of you, man.’”
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— Video produced by Jen Kucsak, edited by Jimmie Rhee