Richard Leigh has had hits spanning 4 decades and 9 #1 records. He kicked off the 21st century with a top ten hit, "Cold Day In July", recorded by the Dixie Chicks. In September of 2009, his good friend, Billy Dean, recorded an entire album of Leigh’s compositions called Billy Dean Sings Richard Leigh. On November 1, 2015 SESAC presented Leigh with its Songwriter Legacy Award, “for extraordinary artistic achievement with words and music”. Crystal Gayle and Reba McEntire were on hand to help present Leigh with this prestigious award.
Leigh, who has been writing songs since he was ten years old and professionally since he was twenty-three, got his first break in 1976 when Crystal Gayle released "I’ll Get Over You", and took it to #1 on Billboard’s Country Chart. This was made all the sweeter when it garnered Leigh his first, of now seven, Song Of The Year nominations, this one from the Country Music Association (CMA).
Two years later, in 1978, Leigh was back at the CMA’s, this time to take home the Song Of The Year award for "Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" which itself has had a phenomenal career: this Leigh composition reached the #1 position on both Pop and County charts and remained on the charts for more than six months. It was nominated at the 20th Grammy Awards in both the Pop and Country Best Song categories (a feat not repeated again until 1993). It won a Grammy Award for Best Country Song and became a million selling single, and was named one of the ten most performed Country Songs Of The Century at the 1999 ASCAP Awards. In addition to his own three Grammy Nominations, five of Leigh’s songs have become vehicles to the Grammy Awards for other artists in the Best Performance, Record of the year, and Vocal Event categories.
To date, Leigh has made fourteen trips to the Top Ten and has written or co-written nine #1 singles: the hauntingly beautiful "Somewhere In My Broken Heart" (written with Billy Dean), voted 1991 Song Of The Year by the Nashville Songwriter’s Association (NSAI), and also by the Academy Of Country Music (ACM); "Only Here For A Little While", (written with Wayland Holyfield); "The Greatest Man I Never Knew" (written with Layng Martine, Jr.), nominated at the 1993 Grammy Awards for Best Country Song); "Come From The Heart" (written with Susanna Clark and recorded by Kathy Mattea); Don Williams’ "Thats The Thing About Love" (written with Gary Nicholson); Steve Wariner’s "Life’s Highway" (written with Roger Murrah); Mickey Giley’s "Put Your Dreams Away" (written with Wayland Holyfield), and the aforementioned “I’ll Get Over You” and “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue”, both written solely by Leigh and recorded by Crystal Gayle.
In 1978, then Nashville Mayor, Richard Fulton, presented Leigh with The Key To The City. In 1988, he was honored with a space on the NARAS Starwalk. However, he received one of his greatest honors in 1994, twenty years and one month after arriving in Nashville, when his peers elected him into the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame.
Other artists who have recorded Leigh’s songs include: Anne Murray, Martina McBride, George Jones, K.T. Oslin, Ronnie Milsap, B.J. Thomas, Bill Medley, Perry Como, Connie Francis, Debbie Boone, Conway Twitty, Alabama, Shenandoah, Tammy Wynette, The Bellamy Brothers, Suzy Boguss, Guy Clark, Ricky Scaggs, Lorrie Morgan, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Marie Osmond, Jerry Jeff Walker, Kitty Wells, Bobby Bare, the great Ray Charles, and many more.
Born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Virginia, Leigh is a graduate of Virginia Highlands Community College and Virginia Commonwealth University. On April 11, 2011, Leigh was one, of only four, chosen nationally from the American Community College System to be awarded 2011 AACC Outstanding Alumni Award for excellence in ones chosen field, and for service to ones community.