Richard Marx is enjoying his first hit single in 14 years -- with a song he didn't even want to record.
Thanks to radio stations switching to all holiday playlists each fall, "Little Drummer Boy" from Marx's new "Christmas Spirit" album, has become his first Top 10 Adult Contemporary hit since 1998, joining the likes of "Don't Mean Nothing," "Should've Known Better," "Hold On to the Nights," "Satisfied" and "Right Here Waiting." It's certainly made Marx happy he included the song -- which he calls "one of my least favorite Christmas carols ever" -- on the collection.
"The album was essentially finished," recalls Marx, 49, who began recording Christmas songs with his sons as holiday presents for his wife, actress Cynthia Rhodes. The family then began sharing them with friends, resulting in an EP last year and the album this year. "Then my manger reminded me that, 'Dude, we need bonus tracks, a couple of extra tracks so that different retailers can have their own version of the record."
Marx still resisted doing "Little Drummer Boy," but then came up with an idea. "I thought, 'What would happen if U2 was forced to do 'LIttle Drummer Boy?' I thought, 'What would The Edge play?' and I came up with this guitar part, totally ripping off the best of The Edge, and I basically borrowed the drum groove from 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking for.'
"So I tried to approach it like 'Little Drummer Boy' circa 'Joshua Tree'-era U2, and I wrote a bridge section for it and I walked out of the studio thinking, 'This is one of my favorite things on the record.' I was surprised but also thrilled that was the go-to track, but it made all the hard work worth it."
Marx spends most of his time these days writing and producing for other artists -- including the No. 1 country hit "Long Hot Summer" for Keith Urban in 2011. But having a full album of Christmas songs hasn't gotten him off the hook with his wife this year.
"I actually said to her last month, 'You're not expecting another song this year, are you?' and she went, 'Oh yeah I am!' " Marx recalls with a laugh. "I looked at my boys the other day and said, 'Y'know, we have to go in and cut another freaking Christmas song for your mom.'
"So, yeah, I don't get any slack."
Richard Marx performs a solo acoustic show at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center, 15801 Michigan Ave., Dearborn. Tickets are $31.50 in advance, $34 days of show. Call 313-943-2354 or www.dearbornfordcenter.com.
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