Richard Marx does not eat red meat. In a recent interview, chatting about his upcoming “tour” (I'll explain the quotations later) and playing the Rialto this week, I told the multi-platinum selling pop music icon that he has to try a Sonoran hot dog during his stay in Tucson.
“I haven't had red meat in over 18 years,” Marx said. “So I'm going to have to miss out on that one.”
Well, I guess we’ll let that one slide. Why? Because he’s Richard Marx! This guy has been a success in the music business and a creative whirlwind for over twenty years. Sure, we like to think of him as the guy with the poofy mullet singing “Should’ve Known Better” and “Don’t Mean Nothing” (which landed him a Grammy nom for Best Rock Vocal Performance off of his, that’s right, debut album), or dancing around in a distressed leather coat with the sleeves rolled up, over tight jeans, crooning the moody anthem “Right Here Waiting” in the ‘80s. But the man has accomplished oh so much more than just pop culture references.
“Yeah, about the hair,” he muttered, a bit sheepish when the painful subject came up. “Hey, it was the eighties!” He now sports a much more conservative and, let’s say, up to date ‘do these days.
Richard Marx not only wrote or co-wrote all the songs for his platinum-selling albums, such as Repeat Offender, Rush Street, Paid Vacation and Flesh and Bone, just to name a few, but he has also written and recorded with some of the music industry’s heavy hitters, delivering to them more weeks on the charts than they could have realized or expected.
“I’ve been blessed, there’s no doubt about that,” mused Marx over his accomplishments and collaborations. “I’m just so fortunate to have the job that I have. A job that I love.”
He wrote the song “This I Promise You” for the now defunct boy band *NSYNC, which was one of their biggest hits. Marx also co-penned the country ballad “Better Life” for Keith Urban, which spent a whopping six weeks at number one on the Billboard Country chart. He’s worked with, written for and produced songs and albums with the likes of Josh Groban, Vince Gill, Sarah Brightman, Michael Bolton, Kenny Rogers, Natalie Cole, Travis Tritt, Kenny Loggins, Leanne Rimes, actor Hugh Jackman (who knew Wolverine could sing?) and even the illustrious Barbra Streisand. So, when you say to yourself or your buddies that after the ‘90s were over and he cut those curly locks, that Richard Marx hasn’t done anything, believe me here, the guy has done nothing but work.
In fact, he not only wrote the song “At the Beginning” with Donna Lewis for the 1997 animated film Anastasia, but also won a Grammy for the song “Dance With My Father,” which he co-wrote for the late Luther Vandross in 2004.
“That was an emotional night, to say the least,” noted Marx on the night he won the Grammy with Vandross, who couldn’t be there because he was too ill. “Getting the award was one thing, but to not have Luther there, with me on the stage, was rough. I felt so honored just to work with him.”
Outside of his vast resume of writing pop hits, producing successful albums in various genres of music and touring like crazy, he is also rather altruistic. Since the success of his 1987 debut album, Marx has been involved in many charities and worthwhile organizations, such as Toys for Tots, Make-A-Wish Foundation, the American Cancer Society and even the Special Olympics. He donated the royalties from his hit single “Should’ve Known Better” to the NYU Medical Center, which helped build a room where pediatric cancer patients can play during their stay at the hospital.
“I just feel there is a responsibility, being in the position that I am in,” he stated about his celebrity and the ability to use it for something beneficial besides fame and fortune. “This is something very close to my heart and if I can use what successes have been given to me throughout my career, even just a little bit, I feel as if I have done my duty.”
So far, the guy has raised over 3 million dollars for various charities across America. How rock and roll is that?
But let’s get back to this “touring” business.
“Yeah, I don’t like to call it a ‘tour’ anymore,” said Marx. “Now, in this stage of me playing live, I’m lucky enough to book shows but not have to do the night-after-night grind. I have a family now; I have so many things on the plate that to do an actual ‘tour’ right now, like the ones I used to do, would probably kill me.”
He still loves performing, but he was much younger in the ‘80s and ‘90s; and when he got involved with writing and producing for other people and started a family, he had to ease up on the backbreaking schedule that a promotional tour can provide. So when I asked him about the upcoming, uh, “shows” that he has lined up, including flying over to Serbia and Russia to perform after a few select dates here in the States, Marx was quite clear on why he’s back on the road.
“I just missed it. It used to be in the fabric of who I am, touring constantly, but I just got exhausted. But the show that I’m bringing to Tucson — and the ones to follow — is quite different from the ones I have done before.”
Gone are the electric guitars. Gone are the smoke machines and flashy lights. Gone are the effects pedals and towers of amps. Nope, this time around, in what could be referred to as a possible “reflective” stage in both his life and career, Richard Marx is performing all of his songs, the hits and fan favorites, completely acoustic.
“And, I’ll be honest with you here,” he said, giggling a bit, “I’m pretty nervous about it. I won’t have all that stuff to protect me up there. It’s just me, stripped down, literally. In fact, I think (I’ll) feel a little naked on the stage.”
One last thing: Before hanging up, I asked Marx about being a pop culture reference these days, and even being mentioned and featured on such shows as Family Guy and The Simpsons.
“You know, some people are mean about it, but when it comes down to it they’re all just fans. So I have fun with it. But, man, it is tough sometimes to see old footage of me with that hair. So … I guess I had it coming.”
Did I mention he sold 30 million records? Yeah, there’s that too.
8 p.m., Thursday, March 10
318 E. Congress St.
$29 reserved floor seats; all ages
740-1000; rialtotheatre.com; richardmarx.com