Making Marx

R&B crooner Lionel Richie invited the then-unknown singer-songwriter Richard Marx to perform backup vocals when he was just 17 years old.

Richard Marx penned the melodramatic megahit “Right Here Waiting” in about 15 minutes one afternoon. But he says he initially had no intention of recording the eventual hit because he felt the song was too personal to share with the world.

The raspy tenor was feeling the pain of being separated – by distance – from the person he was in love with at the time. To this day, it remains the fastest he ever wrote a song.

Aside from sporting a fabulous mullet, the singer-songwriter-producer has become best known for the 1989 ballad. The tune helped propel Marx’s sophomore record, Repeat Offender, to No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Charts.

Meanwhile, around the same time he wrote the piano-centric tune, Barbra Streisand reached out to Marx to write a song for her. He sent the legendary songstress “Right Here Waiting.” Streisand commended him on the beautifully written song, however turned down the piece after explaining that she’d never wait for anyone.

Marx says he’s forever grateful to Streisand for rejecting the song, which has become his signature work.

While Marx acknowledges that lyrics are a crucial element to a song, he believes it’s a melody that truly drives a song to a level of greatness.

Lyrically speaking, Marx’s focus is usually emotional and relationship-driven – the subject matters center on love, heartbreak, passion and lust, which the musician has often labeled as endless wells of material.

Marx has drawn from other wells of inspiration too. Repeat Offender produced an additional quadruple-platinum No. 1 single with “Satisfied.” The pop-rock tune is definitely more Springsteen-esque than Marx’s go-to love ballad formula. It’s a song dedicated to the working person grinding it out day after day, who celebrates a small amount of free time left after clocking out.

The Grammy Award-winning artist has sold more than 30 million records worldwide and has written chart-topping hits in four different decades. He’s also made an influential mark as a songwriter, with the list of musicians who’ve recorded songs Marx has written all over the map, including The Tubes, Josh Groban, Keith Urban, Luther Vandross and NSYNC. He says writing such a vast array of musical styles keeps him interested and challenged, but he feels the bottom line remains the same in all music: The more personal and confessional his songs are, the more universal the appeal.

A SOLO ACOUSTIC EVENING WITH RICHARD MARX 8pm Saturday, July 13. Golden State Theatre, 417 Alvarado St., Monterey. $40-$79. 649-1070, goldenstatetheatre.com
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