At nearly a quarter of a million Twitter followers, ‘80s soft-rock icon Richard Marx’s social following is remarkable to say the least. And he makes good use of it, too. On a typical quarantine day, the “Right Here Waiting” singer has tweeted gifs, memes, and articles that show his extreme displeasure at how Donald Trump is handling — or not, as the case may be — the Federal response to COVID-19.
“Hey Stable Genius: Antibiotics are scientifically proven to be ineffective against viruses. It’s a thing. For years,” Marx tweeted on 4/10 when Trump claimed in a press briefing that the coronavirus had become too sophisticated for antibiotics. “Also, you’re a stupid fuck who’s getting more people killed every four minutes. Also, you said you’d date your own daughter.”
Naturally, being a politically outspoken public figure on social media has its downsides. For Marx, that mostly comes in the form being called “snowflake” (among other right-wing clapbacks) by MAGA hat-wearers. In fact, last month, after tweeting about the racist undertones of Trump’s dubbing the coronavirus “the Chinese Virus,” Marx actually managed to draw social media ire from nu-metal one-hitters Trapt, who accused him of “kissing left wing main stream media’s ass.”
Below, Marx opens up a little more about his vocal use of social media, how he and wife Daisy Fuentes are faring being quarantined together, and how his kids had to tell him who Trapt were.
STEREOGUM: Have you always been pretty plugged into politics?
RICHARD MARX: I think up until maybe the last eight or 10 years, I was much less aware. I was much less interested in the minutia or getting to the bottom of issues and stories and opinions. I think the first time I got particularly focused was the Gore/Bush election. I don’t know how old you are, but–
STEREOGUM: Old enough to remember that.
MARX: Yeah. It was such an incompetent election, in terms of the actual physical voting and what’s called the something chads.
STEREOGUM: The hanging chads?
MARX: The hanging chads. And the fact that the person who won the election lost the popular vote. And it was sort of the first time. And I was no huge Al Gore fan. I definitely was a fan of the Clinton presidency, though not of Clinton. There’s a lot of things I can be critical about with him. [But] I felt that that was a pretty good eight years for the country. I remember admiring Ron Reagan when I was young.
I’ve always registered as an independent. I’ve never voted for party. I’ve always voted for a person. And in some cases, sadly as I think we all have, I’ve voted many times against someone. So it’s not that I’m particularly for the candidate that I’m voting for, but I have to vote for them to try to keep the other person out. Which was really the case in the last election.
I can’t remember the last time that there’s been a candidate who I was really excited about. I just sort of had this overall disdain for politicians in general, from both parties. So I think the long-winded answer to your question is, it’s really been a function of my level of outrage. I was pretty vocal post-9/11 and the Iraq war and the “where are the weapons of mass destruction” and the fact that Cheney was profiting from that war. And all of a sudden it was really the wake-up call for me to go, “This is bullshit. Americans are dying for this shit and it’s not okay.”
STEREOGUM: We recently learned that Biden will be the presumptive Democratic nominee. Do you anticipate voting against Trump — and not exactly for Biden?
MARX: Yes and no. There was a time years ago when I think I probably would have very enthusiastically voted for Joe Biden. Over time, I’ve become less enchanted with him as a politician. But at the end of the day, I mean, I can’t imagine a scenario where I wouldn’t vote for someone over Trump. I mean, next to maybe if Jeffrey Dahmer came back to life.
But I will say this, in terms of Biden: I will vote for Biden, not just because I’m voting against Trump. Although I have issues with Biden, I do think from what I can tell — and again I don’t know Donald Trump and I don’t know Joe Biden — from what I’ve learned in my life, my instincts tell me that Joe Biden is a decent, good, loving, compassionate man. And my instincts tell me that Donald Trump is an awful, cold, hateful, asshole. So, I’ve got to go with my instincts.
All you’re doing is kissing left wing main stream media’s ass… very SAFE career move for you! Such a rebel, Dick! Fact is the “Chinese” virus came from… wouldn’t you know it, Wuhan China! Just like China calls “African” swine flu that decimated China’s pig pop. #virtuesignal
— TRAPT (@TRAPTOFFICIAL) March 18, 2020
STEREOGUM: When you were going back and forth on Twitter last month, and the band Trapt replied to you, did you even know who they were?
MARX: Yeah, I did. My kids were into them for a second when they were younger, but I was not really aware of them. And that whole back and forth was such a momentary thing. I had forgotten all about it by the next day.
STEREOGUM: Yeah. I mean, I’m sure your kids told you, but that band kind of represents a very aggressive white male archetype. They also keep repeating how they have 2.6 million Pandora streams.
MARX: Yeah, I mean if you’ve got to go there…
STEREOGUM: When it comes to engaging with Twitter users in general though, have you ever had any productive back and forths with someone who didn’t agree with you? Or do you think trying to convince someone of your point of view on social media is a futile exercise?
MARX: I would say it’s 99 percent futile. What’s more interesting is, the times that I had a respectful discourse with someone on Twitter who sent me an article or a link that was not grossly partisan, where when I did the research and I looked it up, it was like, “Oh, I didn’t know that.” And I responded by saying, “Hey, you’re right about that. I didn’t realize that.” My main point may have still been the same, but it was more information. Maybe there was a part of what I was saying that was factually incorrect.
I always want to be as factually correct as I can be. So, if somebody points something out to me and says, “Hey, that didn’t happen in 2009″ or “That was not an Obama policy.” Right? I want to be accurate.
I’m the same on social media as I am in my life, which is I don’t surround myself with people who say exactly the same things that I do about everything, because I don’t think you really learn from that. I have people in my life, as long as it’s all respectful and as long as they are people whose intellect I respect, I can learn a lot from talking to people who disagree with me about things.
Politics is a tricky one though because it’s so rare to have an objective overview of whatever the political climate may be. It’s really difficult to not slip into a partisan ideology or a partisan rhetoric. And I try to avoid that. And I always find it laughable and just classic myopia when anybody who criticizes Trump is now a lib. Or, these people that attack me and say, “You left-wing Hollywood elitist.” If they scanned my feed, [they’d see that] every so often I’ll blast people on the left as well. Right now I feel we need to just keep calling out the lies. And the lies that are coming from the Trump administration and Mitch McConnell and this current GOP are killing people.
STEREOGUM: That’s interesting about people flinging the term “Hollywood elitist” at you. I think everyone forced to live in quarantine has opened up a really fascinating conversation around how public figures choose to conduct themselves and how that looks to the general public. I’m thinking, of course, about Gal Gadot’s “Imagine” video.
MARX: Being tone deaf, you mean.
STEREOGUM: Yeah. Do you have any thoughts around how public personalities can be a little more mindful at this time?
MARX: I think there are a couple of ways. One is to be acutely aware and grateful if your circumstances are particularly good. And, mine are particularly good. And I’m not somebody who’s ever apologized for success. No one ever handed me anything. No one ever did my work for me. I was not a trust fund kid. I earned everything I made. I am completely unapologetic about my success and my wealth. And that said, I think it’s fine for public people to publicize their charitable contributions. It’s just not for me. It’s not something that I feel comfortable doing. It feels disingenuous to me.
So that’s a tricky thing because there are times, especially in this age of social media where you want to defend yourself and there’s a part of you that feels like you want to whip out the receipts and say “Really? Yeah, well beat this.” I’m not going to defend myself in that way because I don’t need to. So, if you are fortunate, and if you have the ability to help other people and it feels right to you, do it. If it doesn’t feel right to you, that’s fine. That’s your choice.
And then the last thing is — and I don’t know how big a factor this is — but something as simple as last night, I tweeted “How are you guys doing?” And my responses were flooded with people who — it sounded like they wanted somebody to ask them that. And if for no other reason to just have a dialogue with people, complete strangers, to hear how they’re managing it and to maybe offer some words of encouragement or connect, “Here’s a phone number” or “Maybe think about it this way” or maybe it’s as simple as somebody who likes what I do hearing back from me saying, “I wish you well. I hope everything works out for you.” I think, all of us in the public eye can do that if we choose to.
STEREOGUM: I agree. I think it’s always a much better look to engage in a discourse with your fanbase instead of, I don’t know, echo-chambering with famous friends who’ve decamped to second homes.
MARX: Yeah, I totally agree. And look, I think most of us who are reasonable, no matter what our level of success or wealth or any of that, we can still see when somebody’s being tone deaf. You can still see when somebody is being condescending, or just completely out of touch. And seeing us, whether it’s a celebrity or a business person or anyone makes a public statement, which is any of those things, they need to be open to the blow back. Maybe they’ll learn from it. You know? I think we’ve all learned from things we’ve said in whether it’s conversations or publicly or whatever, you go, “Yeah, that was maybe not the coolest thing I could have said or done in that situation.”
STEREOGUM: Well, hopefully that this will be a learning experience for people who’ve handled the situation little bit less elegantly. I do have to say, though, the at-home Q&As you’ve been doing with your wife, Daisy Fuentes, are really cute. On a lighter note, how has your partnership been affected by quarantine?
MARX: Well, that’s very sweet of you to say. Again, at the risk of sounding tone deaf, these circumstances that we find ourselves in are actually really good for us. We love each other’s company and, in the five or six years we’ve been together, we are constantly looking for time to be alone and withdraw from everything else and just be with each other. Because, we missed out on each other for 40-something years. Or in my case, 50 years of my life, I didn’t get to have Daisy in my life.
We’re savoring every minute we can be together. We really love being alone. And, as much fun as we’ve been having, we’re still learning to know each other. There’s still so much about her I want to know and so many conversations I want to have with her. To have this period of time with no end in sight right now, one of the positives for us is that there doesn’t feel this need or rush for anything. We can just really take our time, just enjoy the fact that we’ve got yet another day to just be together and talk and hang out. And it’s been a beautiful time for us in that way.
STEREOGUM: Well, speaking of romance: I’d love to talk a little bit about your classic single “Right Here Waiting.” Stereogum’s The Number Ones series reviews every #1 in Billboard Hot 100 history so we’ll get to your three chart-topping songs eventually. If you had to look back at “Right Here Waiting” how would you rate it?
MARX: Well, I feel very differently about that one compared to “Satisfied,” for example, which was also a #1 single for me. “Satisfied” is a really fun song for me to play live. If I listen to the record of it, which I maybe have a couple of times in the last couple of years, I can hear every minute of 1989 in it. But there’s parts of the production and the arrangement that I’m really still proud of. And it’s just fun. But I also hear the things about it that seemed dated. And “I wouldn’t have written that line” or whatever.
But with “Right Here Waiting,” I don’t feel that way at all. One of the things that I’m accidentally proud of about that song is that I wrote it in the key of C, and literally any four-year-old can play that song. It’s so simple, and it’s so direct, and it’s so economical. And it was not trying to be anything but what it was. I think that’s one of the reasons that it still gets played all the time. It’s still a song that people in their teens and 20s know and sing in karaoke. It’s just one of those songs that has, 30-something years later, is still viable and still reaches people. I’m actually terribly proud of that. I think it’s a really well-written song, if I do say so myself.
Richard Marx’s new album, Limitless is out now via BMG.