He’s sold 30 million albums and written 13 No. 1 Billboard singles. Still, Richard Marx is likely most memorable for his haircut.
However, he’s spent the better part of the last three decades forging a humble legacy in pop history as a musician, producer and, most notably, a songwriter.
“I’m so excited I still get to make new music,” Marx said. “I have a song on the radio right now, but that’s an anomaly. If you hear something I wrote that’s new, it’s probably being sung by somebody else, and that’s fine with me. I had a really good run, and I certainly don’t ever think that I deserve another hit song — I don’t. I’ve been really lucky.”
Marx’s current single, “When You Loved Me,” follows the formula he perfected in the late ’80s with hit singles like “Right Here Waiting” and “Don’t Mean Nothing.” He’ll perform songs old and new Friday and Saturday, backed by a 20-piece string section.
“I’ve reworked a lot of these songs,” he said. “Even with my band, I don’t play them anything like I did 20 years ago. It’s not a totally different animal, but I’ve got to keep it fresh. I have an old ’57 Corvette that I really love, but it takes maintenance; I have to keep it clean and get it tuned up. Songs are the same way: They require a little maintenance now and then.”
As a pioneer of the adult-contemporary pop song, it helps that Marx has stayed true to his songwriting roots.
“I’ve never recorded a song I’m embarrassed by,” he said. “I’ve written many songs that I didn’t think were up to snuff, but you’ve never heard them.”
His belief in his catalog, along with a veteran’s comfort level onstage, leave nothing up to chance except the changing audience. Marx is acutely in tune with and caters to his crowds on a nightly basis.
“I always want to give the best musical performance I can,” Marx said. “For me, the mindset is to entertain. I want every single person in the room to feel like they hung out with me.”
While many artists of Marx’s day are struggling to stay afloat, Marx’s diverse talents make him a fixture within a large community of working musicians.
“I’ve never been more grateful in my life, period. The music business shrinks a little bit more each day,” he said. “That I’m a songwriter first and foremost, more than I am anything else, is what has sustained me through everything. If I’d just been a singer or just a musician, my career would probably have been over a long time ago, but as a songwriter, I am able to deliver what everybody needs. ... We can talk about downloading or about record companies being too big for their britches, but if people stop writing songs, none of that matters … we’re all screwed.”