Stories to Tell by Richard Marx: A Memoir #Audiobook #BookReview

Richard Marx is one of the most accomplished singer-songwriters in the history of popular music. His self-titled 1987 album went triple platinum and made him the first male solo artist (and second solo artist overall after Whitney Houston) to have four singles from their debut crack the top three on the Billboard Hot 100. His follow-up, 1989’s Repeat Offender, was an even bigger smash, going quadruple platinum and landing two singles at number one. He has written fourteen number one songs in total, shared a Song of the Year Grammy with Luther Vandross, and collaborated with a variety of artists including NSYNC, Josh Groban, Natalie Cole, and Keith Urban. Lately, he’s also become a Twitter celebrity thanks to his outspokenness on social issues and his ability to out-troll his trolls.

In Stories to Tell, Marx uses this same engaging, straight-talking style to look back on his life and career. He writes of how Kenny Rogers changed a single line of a song he’d written for him then asked for a 50% cut—which inspired Marx to write one of his biggest hits. He tells the uncanny story of how he wound up curled up on the couch of Olivia Newton-John, his childhood crush, watching Xanadu. He shares the tribulations of working with the all-female hair metal band Vixen and appearing in their video. Yet amid these entertaining celebrity encounters, Marx offers a more sobering assessment of the music business as he’s experienced it over four decades—the challenges of navigating greedy executives and grueling tour schedules, and the rewards of connecting with thousands of fans at sold-out shows that make all the drama worthwhile. He also provides an illuminating look at his songwriting process and talks honestly about how his personal life has inspired his work, including finding love with wife Daisy Fuentes and the mystery illness that recently struck him—and that doctors haven’t been able to solve.

Stories to Tell: A Memoir (Amazon US) (Amazon UK) (Audible) (AbeBooks)

I really enjoyed Richard Marx’s music when I was in high school and beyond, but I had no idea how deep and how far-flung his musical roots went. Listening to Marx tell his story was enjoyable by his candor and ability to tell a story. I didn’t know much about the behind-the-scenes making of some of the catchiest pop tunes of my formative years.

“I’m happy, I would say that I’m one of the happiest people I know but I’ve certainly had periods of profound sadness, depression and heartache and those are the kind of things that are interesting to me to write about.” Marx is quick to point out that he had a good childhood and would never have had his story on the 1990’s and 2000’s VHI: Behind the Music. His parents were in the music business. His mom was a session singer and his dad did jingles.

When Richard was 6 years old, he was crazy for the Monkees, which endeared him to me. He would sing the ballad “I Wanna Be Free” to his classmates, and one day the band was touring through Chicago, where his family lived. Coolest dad ever brings him to the studio to meet the Monkees. By then, Peter Tork had left the group so it was just Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Davy Jones. Mike and Mickey struck up brief conversations with the little Marx, but it was Davy, his favorite, who went out of his way to talk at length to him, give him an autograph, and make a big impression on the young lad. Forty years later, Richard sees Davy in an airport in Pennsylvania, where Davy had made his home, and he got a chance to thank Davy for the positive experience with someone famous. When Jones died two years later, Richard Marx made a video of himself singing “I Wanna Be Free”. The video was used at Davy’s funeral. (See the video here:)

Another cool story that endeared Richard Marx to me was the fact that three members of the Eagles played on his debut single. Talk about a musical pedigree. I had no idea. And Richard realizes how damn lucky he was and is appreciative of the support.

Marx has written many songs that were hits for other artists, like Kenny Rogers’ “Crazy”, which was his first songwriting credit. And he’s sung backup on tons of other artists’ albums over the years. He’s got a very versatile voice that can blend in, just like another one of my favorite artists, Vince Gill. I had no idea he was so multi-talented.

If you want a musical trip down memory lane, Generation X, pick up Stories to tell, and make sure you get the audio version to hear Richard Marx tell his incredible story.

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