Delight in acoustic night with Richard Marx
Talented romantic singer/songwriter favors Maui with concert
When Richard Marx released his debut album in 1987, a Los Angeles Times review praised one of the songs, the Grammy-nominated “Don’t Mean Nothing,” as “the best Eagles’ song in years.” While Don Henley and Glenn Frey weren’t singing on it, it did include Joe Walsh, Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmit.
“It was a big part of what broke my career,” Marx recalls. “At that point it had been seven years since there was an Eagles’ record. I had Joe Walsh, Randy Meisner and Tim Schmit on it, and it was as close anybody was going to get to an Eagles reunion. That was a huge part of breaking into rock radio. I see Joe now more than ever before, and every time I see him I smile and go, ‘My life would have been so different if you hadn’t played on my first record.’ “
Since that debut, which produced four Top Five singles, Marx has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide. Achieving a seven-year string of triumphs that rivaled any in pop-rock music history, his No. 1 hits included “Satisfied,” “Right Here Waiting,” “Keep Coming Back,” “Hazard,” and “Now and Forever.”
As a songwriter, he has also achieved distinction. Songs he either wrote or co-wrote have topped the charts in four different decades, sung by legends like Luther Vandross, Vince Gill, Barry Manilow, Celine Dion, Keith Urban, Natalie Cole and Kenny Rogers.
And Maui’s revered kumu hula/musicians Keali’i Reichel and Uluwehi Guerrero have both recorded his songs — Guerrero with “Right Here Waiting” (also recorded by Henry Kapono), and Reichel with “Now and Forever.”
Among his songwriting collaborations, he’s especially fond of working with former Beatle Ringo Starr. He has songs on Ringo’s “Postcards from Paradise” (2015) and “Y Not” (2010) albums, and was a touring member of Ringo’s All Star Band in 2006.
“What a kind soul he is,” says Marx. “I was really excited to join his tour. At first I thought they thought they were calling Ricky Martin, my name was right next in the Rolodex. But he did know my work and we became buddies and he asked me to write with him. We’ve written about four or five songs over the years. We socialize and have dinner together and talk on the phone. Every time he leaves me a voice mail, whomever I’m with I go, ‘Check this out.’ I can be with Ringo and at times I can forget he’s ‘that guy.’ Then we’ll be at dinner talking and he’ll say something about, ‘when we played Shea Stadium.’ ‘Oh right, you’re the Beatle, I forgot for a second.’ I love him.”
Another collaboration dear to his heart was the time he spent with legendary singer Luther Vandross. Their collaborations included “Every Year Every Christmas” and the hit “Dance with My Father,” which earned Vandross and Marx a Grammy for Song of the Year, and Vandross a Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. Marx accepted the award on behalf of the singer, who was unable to attend due to failing health.
“Luther and I were really close friends,” he explains. “I really miss him. I feel supremely privileged I got to make music with him. ‘Dance with My Father’ was so successful and so exciting, and so painful and bittersweet all at once. He was so excited about that song. He called me the day he recorded it and said, ‘Richard I’ve got to thank you. This is my ‘Piano Man,’ this is my ‘Hotel California,’ this is the most important song of my career.’ I was so thrilled he felt that way. Less than two weeks later he had a stroke. I do ‘Dance with My Father’ in my show and talk about him. He was a cherished friend.”
Marx has to thank Lionel Richie for his first big break. One of Marx’s friends got a tape of his songs to Richie, who called him up and suggested a move from Chicago to L.A.
Working first as a background singer, his early recording credits included albums by Madonna, Richie, Chicago, George Benson, and Whitney Houston’s debut. He sang and played guitar on Houston’s iconic songs “Saving All My Love For You” and “Greatest Love Of All.”
“She was a brand new artist,” he remembers. “She wasn’t there. I just worked with her producer. Then years later I was walking down a studio hallway and I hear this beautiful voice call out my name. She came running down the hallway and hugged me and said, ‘I’ve been waiting 11 years to meet you and thank you for singing on my first record.’ She couldn’t have been more charming and gracious. We sat and talked and she said, ‘nobody knows this but I’m pregnant.’ She was pregnant with Bobbi Kristina. She asked, ‘what’s it like to be a parent and a performer?’
“I did so many sessions back then that, unless the artist was there, it doesn’t really stand out much. When I worked with Madonna she was there. I loved working with her.”
In later years he was most excited to work with Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire fame. White sang on one of the funkiest tracks on his “Flesh and Bone” album.
Marx credits the power of intention with contributing to some of his favorite career highlights like working with White.
“I’m a believer that like-attracts- like and you can will things into your life,” he explains. “I wasn’t aware of it for most of my life. I’ve come to understand it in the last few years, that everything you think is what will be. If you think I’m never going to meet that person you won’t. From the time I was young, my attitude was I’m going to work with Maurice White. There are probably 25 examples of people I willed into my life like Luther Vandross. Maurice White’s voice, arrangements and musical vision for Earth, Wind and Fire was the most important music when I was young. I worshipped him. I got in touch with him and said I’ve written a song, which is a complete rip-off of what you do. You can sing backing vocals on it or threaten to sue me. He said, ‘it’s cool, I want to sing on it.’ “
On his most recent album, “Beautiful Goodbye,” the Grammy winner collaborated with his wife, Daisy Fuentes, co-writing the title track. They have subsequently composed more songs together.
“It was the first song Daisy ever wrote,” he says. “She really embraced it. We’ve written four songs since then and one will be out before the end of the year.”
Late last year Marx hit the headlines after helping restrain an air- rage passenger who began attacking flight attendants on a Korean Air flight from Hanoi to Seoul.
“No big ‘hero’ move at all,” he posted afterwards on Twitter.
So are airlines really happy now to see him board their planes?
“Dave Grohl texted me, hey Superman, everything OK,” he responds laughing. “It was actually very frightening, and yet the aftermath is that Korean Air changed their training policies and the government created much tougher laws for air-rage incidents. The guy was screaming in Korean and other guys jumped up with me. We restrained him, but I wasn’t Liam Neeson.”
He still sounds as strong as ever in concert, so one wonders what’s his secret?
“Crystal meth will do it,” he says laughing. “That’s my secret, tons of crystal meth.”
And do women still swoon at his shows?
“I still get underwear thrown on stage, but now it’s Depends,” he jokes. “I still get my fair share of attention, but I always had a healthy perspective about it. If Quasimodo sang ‘Right Here Waiting,’ he’d be getting laid left and right. It’s not me, it’s the music.”
For his Maui concert on Tuesday, Marx will perform acoustic with a trio.
“It’s my favorite way to perform,” he says. “I can’t stress enough it’s not one of those serious singer/songwriter shows where I sit and talk about the craft and how I was feeling. Nobody cares. It’s a really fun, intimate party. It’s like you came over to my house and I grabbed a guitar and, ‘Hey, remember this song?’ It’s anything but a serious night out.”
Legendary promoter Tom Moffatt, who brought many great shows to Maui, is being honored posthumously with the renaming of an Oahu concert landmark to the Tom Moffatt Waikiki Shell. It’s a shame though that Blaisdell Arena, where he presented most of his shows, was not renamed instead.
The 16th annual Richard Ho’opi’i Leo Ki’eki’e Falsetto Contest will be held at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel. The competition will showcase Maui’s finest amateur male falsetto performers.
Maui is currently the only island with a falsetto contest. The 2017 theme is “Aloha ka Ho’i a ka Holokahiki” (“Beloved is the sailors’ return home”). Previous winners include Gregory Kahikina Maxwell Juan and Kamalei Kawa’a.
The $60 admission includes a buffet dinner, Aloha Festivals ribbon and entertainment. For tickets and information, call 280-8098.