How Richard Marx became an unlikely rock 'n' roll success story

A few weeks ago, yet another Twitter troll tried to come at Richard Marx.

“Richard’s pronouns are has/been,” tweeted a critic by the name of Jake Coco.

Marx quickly fired back: “Yours are ‘has not been.’ ”

That exchange was typical for hit musician Marx, whose detractors regularly creep out of the digital mud to make cracks about his 1980s mullet and ask, “Where is he now?”

“My favorite is ‘washed up,’ ” Marx, 57, tells The Post. “Whenever I get called ‘washed up,’ I tweet a picture of my beach house. ‘You mean like this kind of washed up?’ ”

No amount of success is an inoculation against the trolls. But as his new book “Stories to Tell: A Memoir” (Simon & Schuster), out Tuesday, makes clear, the singer-songwriter is having the last laugh.

He’s rich, happily married to former MTV veejay Daisy Fuentes, and at peace with his place in music history, which has included 14 No. 1 songs both as a solo artist and a writer for many others.

Richard Marx in 1989 at the height of his solo career. Picture Alliance via Getty Images

In fact, Marx has had more success than many casual fans may know, due to an almost Forrest Gump-like ability early in his career to pop up at major musical moments.

Remember the chant in Lionel Richie’s 1983 smash “All Night Long (All Night)?” That’s actually Marx and two others singing, “Tam bo li de say de moi ya. Hey, jambo jumbo” — a job he got as a young backup singer.

During a break in the recording, Marx approached Richie and asked what the lyrics meant.

“Jambo is Swahili for ‘hello,’ ” Richie told him, before leaning in close. “The rest, my man … I just made that s–t up.”

Lionel Richie was Marx’s first mentor, convincing him to get out of Chicago and move to LA to start his music career. Marx later played and sang backing vocals on an album for Richie. Getty Images

That’s also Marx on Whitney Houston’s 1985 debut album, doubling the voice of Teddy Pendergrass — weakened from a car crash a few months earlier — on the duet “Hold Me.”

And that’s him on the live version of “Guilty” by Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb. Gibb had forgotten to sing a line, so Marx was hired to imitate his voice later in the studio, singing in falsetto, “It oughta be illegal.”

“No one was any wiser,” Marx writes.

Born in 1963 in Chicago, Marx was destined for a career in music. His mother was a big-band singer and his father was a successful jingle writer.

“I watched my father every day when he couldn’t wait to go to work,” Marx says. “He had a high-pressure career, and all I remember is him dying to get to work.”

As a young boy, Marx performed a Monkees song in front of his classmates and knew right then that he wanted to work in music.

“I guess somewhere in that brief two and a half minutes something inside me clicked because I never lived another single second wondering what I wanted to do with my life,” he writes.

Marx began writing songs, and by the time he was in high school, he had cut a four-song demo.

‘I don’t have an addictive personality. I didn’t smoke a joint until I was 50.’

Richard Marx on avoiding the classic rock ‘n’ roll pitfalls

Through a friend of a friend who knew a guy, Marx was able to get his tape in front of Lionel Richie. A few weeks later, Marx was home when the phone rang. It was Richie himself.

The singer, then with the Commodores, liked Marx’s songs and singing voice.

“You can’t have a real career in the music business if you stay in Chicago,” Richie told the then-senior in high school. “Move to LA and things will start happening for you.”

Marx did just that in the spring of 1981 and began landing gigs as a backup singer.

While working on a session for Kenny Rogers, Marx overheard the singer saying he needed more songs for his 1984 “What About Me?” album. Marx went home to his small LA apartment that night and, on a Yamaha keyboard, wrote “Crazy.”

Marx filled in for Barry Gibb on “Guilty,” his duet with Barbra Streisand, after the Bee Gee forgot to sing a line. Getty Images

At the next session, he summoned the courage to play it for Rogers, and the bearded superstar loved it enough to record it. It turned into a No. 1 country hit.

Marx soon began eyeing a solo career, and in 1984 put together a new four-song demo that he shopped to record labels. They all passed, with one asking, “Have you considered another profession?”

Finally, Marx got his music in front of an executive at Manhattan Records and was quickly signed.

The first single, “Don’t Mean Nothing,” from his eponymous debut album came to Marx as he was driving.

“It began as a guitar riff in my head, and then lyrics started to join the melody,” he writes.

Marx has had 14 No. 1 hits both as a solo artist and a composer for other artists, including Kenny Rogers (“Crazy” in 1984) and Luther Vandross (“Dance With My Father” in 2004). He also wrote Keith Urban’s No. 5 country hit, “Everybody.” Getty Images (2); FilmMagic

The song quickly became a radio and MTV smash.

“It really was a case of me going into a 7-Eleven on Tuesday and no one knowing or caring who I was, and the next day I walked into an LA mall and had 50 people following me,” Marx says. “It was such a life lesson in that it happened so fast.”

His follow-ups, “Should’ve Known Better” and “Hold On to the Nights” — a No. 1 song in 1988 — blasted him further into stardom.

Marx was opening for REO Speedwagon and Night Ranger at the time, and as his songs climbed the charts, it became clear more and more of the crowds were there to see him, not the headliners.

Despite his meteoric rise, Marx says he never indulged in the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. 

“I think it was partly about never wanting to disappoint my parents,” he says. “Also, I don’t have an addictive personality. I didn’t smoke a joint until I was 50.” 

Marx met his first wife, actress and dancer Cynthia Rhodes, in 1983, who kept him honest during the rock ‘n’ roll years. Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

He was also spoken for. Marx had a longtime girlfriend in Cynthia Rhodes, an actress and dancer whom he’d met while recording a demo song for the 1983 John Travolta film “Staying Alive.” (The couple married in 1989 and divorced in 2014.)

Throughout his career, Marx rarely appeared in the tabloids and the closest he came to scandal was a mild, 1990 on-air dust-up with MTV’s Adam Curry. Marx’s low-key and stable lifestyle may have dinged him when it came to his image.

“Guys from Motley Crue and artists of those times came with legit stories,” Marx says. “They were partiers and poster boys for debauchery, and I just wasn’t. I wasn’t going to try and pretend, and what was left wasn’t terribly interesting. Who wants to write about a guy who’s well-adjusted and focused on his work?”

Although Marx considers himself a rock artist, his public image — as well as a string of hit ballads — seemingly left him caught between worlds. He wasn’t “pretty” enough for pop, he writes, and not tough enough for rock.

Whatever genre he was, plenty of listeners were digging it.

His sophomore album, 1989’s “Repeat Offender,” sold more than 5 million copies, thanks in part to the smash piano ballad “Right Here Waiting.” 

Marx married former MTV veejay Daisy Fuentes in 2015 after being enamored with her on television. Getty Images

He continued releasing albums and writing hits for other artists, including 2004’s Grammy-winning “Dance With My Father” by Luther Vandross and Keith Urban’s 2007 No. 5 country hit “Everybody.” 

Lately, he also become a bit of a Twitter celebrity, with more than 300,000 followers. He’s active on the social media platform, weighing in on politics and occasionally poking gentle fun at himself. When one father tweeted that his son had heard “Right Here Waiting” for the first time, Marx tweeted back, “How’d the rest of his dental appointment go?” 

“I saw Twitter as an opportunity to be funny or self-deprecating, which is a component of my life-long personality,” Marx says. 

Twitter has also gifted him with something else: his new wife. 

Marx first spotted Daisy Fuentes on MTV in the early 1990s. 

“Daisy was stunning. Physically, as gorgeous as it gets, but she had this other quality that exuded through the TV screen. She seemed cool,” he writes. 

Fast forward to 2013, when the pair exchanged quips on Twitter. Marx eventually direct-messaged Fuentes, and they began dating. The two married in 2015. 

And although Marx seemingly has it all, he says it does irk him that some people, like those Twitter trolls, still afford him no respect. 

“I won’t deny that I find it frustrating,” he says. “But for the most part, it’s coming from people who feel insecure. I’ve never heard a successful person refer to someone as a ‘has been.’ The [trolls] never stop to think what ‘has been’ means. Has been wealthy. Has been successful. Has been all around the world. 

“They’ll say, ‘You’re not as famous as you used to be,’ ” Marx says. “It’s like, ‘Yeah, so?’ ”

https://nypost.com/2021/07/03/how-richard-marx-became-an-unlikely-rock-n-roll-success-story/