Marx was born to musically inclined parents; his mother was a singer and his father a jazz musician who also founded a jingle company. When Marx was only 5 years old, he made his debut in music by singing jingles for his father's company. Some of the products Marx advertised were for Nestlé Crunch and Arm & Hammer.
Marx began writing songs as a teenager. At the age of 17, he was connected to Lionel Richie, to whom Marx gave a copy of recorded songs he had written. A year later Marx moved to Los Angeles and met with Richie. After a promising start by working with Richie singing background vocals on his albums, Richard continued to sing background vocals for a number of artists including Madonna, Julio Iglesias, and Luther Vandross.
After three years of singing as a background vocalist for well-known artists, Marx got his first big break in songwriting. In 1984 two songs Marx had written, "Crazy" and "What About Me?," were recorded by Kenny Rogers. "Crazy" hit #1 on the Country chart, while "What About Me?" reached #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. Marx' career as a songwriter had taken off.
Marx received his first record contract as a singer/songwriter from EMI Records in 1987. He released his debut album, Richard Marx, and it garnered much success. The singles "Don't Mean Nothing" and "Should've Known Better" reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100; "Endless Summer Nights" peaked at #2 and "Hold on to the Nights" was Marx' first #1 hit. He was the first male singer/songwriter to have four singles to reach the Top 3 that were from a debut album. Additionally, "Don't Mean Nothing" earned him a Grammy Award nomination in 1988 for Best Rock Vocal Performance.
Marx won his first Grammy Award in 2004 for a song he wrote with the R&B star Luther Vandross. The song "Dance With My Father
," which was written in remembrance of Vandross' father, was one of the last Luther recorded. Marx and Celine Dion performed it at the Grammy Awards ceremony because Vandross was in recovery after suffering from a stroke. The song earned Marx a Grammy for Song of the Year. Vandross ultimately lost his life a year later in 2005.
Marx considers his parents his biggest musical influences, as well as recording legends Elvis Presley and Sam Cooke. His favorite singers and songwriters include Elton John, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, U2, Rod Stewart, the Eagles, Gladys Knight, Annie Lennox, and Earth, Wind & Fire. To Marx, making music is a very important aspect of his life. He has said that, "For me, being a musician is not about an image or controversy or what looks cool. It's about the music. It comes down to having the privilege of expressing yourself."
Marx married Cynthia Rhodes in 1989. Rhodes is most famous for her role as Penny Johnson in the classic '80s film Dirty Dancing. She was also a singer/actress in Flashdance and Staying Alive. The couple have three sons: Brandon, Lucas, and Jesse. The Marx's reside in Lake Bluff, Illinois.
Marx does not have a high opinion of music-based reality shows. When asked about them, he said, "I'm pretty much a hater on all of them. I've never been a fan of American Idol... But I would do it just to be a whore. I would absolutely whore myself for it. But I'm not a fan, and I don't like any of those shows." Then, in 2006 Marx was a participant on the reality music show, Celebrity Duets, produced by Simon Cowell of American Idol fame. He was teamed up with Lucy Lawless, most famous as the lead in Xena: Warrior Princess, who finished up as runner up in the contest.