With his latest release, Richard Marx shows he’s not only a talented songwriter but has the gift of gab as well. On Tuesday, the Grammy-winning musician behind perennial pop-rock hits “Right Here Waiting” and “Endless Summer Nights” releases his debut memoir “Stories to Tell” (Simon & Schuster), which shares its name with a 2010 album.
Nearly 300 pages, it’s a quick-moving and highly engaging read that offers candid snapshots of an illustrious 30-plus-year career. The pages are filled with the backstories of Marx’s Midas touch on his own 14 No. 1 singles as well as the inside scoop on successful collaborations with the likes of Keith Urban, Luther Vandross and even ‘N Sync (it was Marx who wrote and produced the boy band’s megahit “This I Promise You”).
“It was never an intentioned thought to write a book. It all happened so organically,” the Chicago native said on a phone call from Malibu, California, where he now lives with wife, former MTV VJ and model Daisy Fuentes, after years spent raising his three sons with ex-wife Cynthia Rhodes in Lake Bluff.
“These stories are all ones I’ve told on stage for years, when I started doing solo acoustic shows in theaters about nine years ago. My goal at every show is for people to walk out of there and feel like they hung out with me for a couple hours, and that’s what I wanted in my book,” he adds. Marx’s casual and very vocal narrative style shares the same tone as his Twitter feed, which has gotten much attention in recent years for scorching Donald Trump and speaking up for social issues.
“I’ve also had a really unique career,” he adds, “and when you’re exposed to and work with such a wide array of superstar performers and songwriters, if you don’t come away from that with funny stories, then you’re not paying attention.”
Now 57, Marx begins his book humbly with recollections of growing in Highland Park, Illinois, hanging out at his father’s studio on the Mag Mile (Dick Marx was a highly sought-after advertising jingle writer) and his first “on stage” moment singing the Monkees’ “I Wanna Be Free” while in kindergarten at North Shore Country Day School.
But it’s when Marx moves to Los Angeles that things really get interesting. He was encouraged to make the cross-country hop by none other than Lionel Richie — the quintessential emerging-artist breakthrough story after Marx’s teenage demo tape landed in the hands of the Commodores great — and he relays how that single moment of kismet launched the rest of his career.
“One of the best parts of the book is it’s given me the opportunity to heap praise on people like Lionel. Not just for the opportunity he gave me but to show what kind of person it took to do what he did for me, and I’m sure he’s done it for others,” says Marx, who adds he gets great joy seeing Richie mentor others on “American Idol” episodes. “His whole M.O. is to be a gracious, kind, encouraging human being. I can’t say enough about him, everyone should know what an incredible guy Lionel is.”
Another person Marx goes into great detail about in “Stories to Tell” is the late singer Luther Vandross, with whom he wrote the heartwarming hit “Dance With My Father” in 2003, shortly before Vandross’ passing. In his retellings, Marx humanizes these megastars and lets readers in on the characters the public might not see on the surface.
“In the case of Luther, I do feel a responsibility to keep his memory and legacy alive. it’s pretty much why I do ‘Dance With My Father’ at every show because I don’t want people to forget him,” Marx says. “He’s been gone a long time now and I miss him dearly; he was one of my best friends.”
There are moments of levity too — the time he caught Prince playing hoops outside a studio, meeting his idol Davy Jones as a kid and again at an airport years later, his fear of meeting Madonna, Whitney Houston divulging to him when she was pregnant and the time he faked being Barry Gibb on Barbra Streisand’s record.
A “soundtrack” album complementing the book closes with a new song called “Take Me Down” that he wrote with country singer Vince Gill for a new, unannounced project. As Marx says, “I wanted to end in the now and looking forward,” alluding to the many stories he’ll tell in the future.