Richard Leigh

Induction Year: 1994

Birth Name: Richard Christopher Leigh

Birth Date: 05-26-1951

Place of Birth: Washington, D.C.

When Richard Leigh was two and a half years old, both of his parents were killed in a tragic accident. He was fostered by multiple family members until finally finding his home, at age eight and a half, with the ex-wife of his much older half-brother. When she, his adoptive mother, remarried, she legally adopted him at the age of 15.

After taking up the guitar as a boy, Leigh wrote his first song at age 10. When he graduated high school, his adoptive mother said, "Please go to college,because no woman is going to want to live with a guy who sits around on the couch and plays guitar all day and doesn't make any money."

Halfheartedly, Leigh stumbled through school, switching majors from Forestry to Liberal Arts and later on to a subject that he felt more passionate about, Theater. All the while he was writing songs and performing in coffee houses. In 1974, he moved to Nashville to make it as a singer-songwriter. "I thought, naively, that all singers wrote their own songs," he said. "I got down there and found they needed songs because singers didn't always write them. Turned out I was pretty good at making them up — better at that than singing."

Within two years, he had his first country #1, "I'll Get Over You," for Crystal Gayle. But it was the follow-up song he wrote for Gayle that changed Leigh's life. The country and pop smash "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" won Song of the Year CMA and Grammy Awards (as well as a Best Country Vocal Performance Grammy for Gayle), and became one of the most-performed country songs of the twentieth century. There began a two-decade-and-counting run of hits (including eight #1s and 14 Top 10s) for such artists as Ray Charles, Don Williams, Tammy Wynette, Ronnie Milsap, Alabama, and Kathy Mattea. One of Leigh's biggest hits was also one of his most personal songs. "The Greatest Man I Never Knew," recorded by Reba McEntire in 1992, was written after Leigh found a clipping of his dad's obituary.

In 2000, the Dixie Chicks took Leigh's "Cold Day in July" into the country Top 10, giving him hits in four successive decades. Leigh has attributed his success to an unwavering drive. "I'm just of average talent, of average intellect, nothing ever stood out about me except my strong desire," he said.

In addition to writing, these days Richard Leigh teaches acclaimed songwriting workshops and plays house concerts around the country. He and his wife live on a farm outside of Nashville.

"(Wish I Had a) Heart of Stone"

(written with Wayland Holyfield)

Baillie & the Boys1989 #4 country

"Cold Day in July"

Suzy Bogguss1992 
Joy Lynn White1992 #71 country
Dixie Chicks2000 #10 country

"Come From the Heart"

(written with Susanna Clark)

Don Williams1987 
Kathy Mattea1989 #1 country

"Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue"

Grammy for Best Country Song, CMA Song of the Year

Crystal Gayle1977 #1 country, #2 pop, #4 adult contemporary
Hargus "Pig" Robbins1978 

"I'll Get Over You"

Crystal Gayle1976 #1 country, #71 pop, #40 adult contemporary

"In No Time at All"

(written with Archie Jordan)

Ronnie Milsap1979 #6 country

"Isn't That Just Like Love"

Bobby Bare1982 

"It Ain't Gonna Worry My Mind"

Ray Charles1985 #12 country
George Jones1996 

"It's All I Can Do"

(written with Archie Jordan)

Anne Murray1981 #9 country, #14 adult contemporary

"Life's Highway"

(written with Roger Murrah)

Steve Wariner1986 #1 country

"Only Here for a Little While"

(written with Wayland Holyfield)

Billy Dean1990 #3 country

"Put Your Dreams Away"

(written with Wayland Holyfield)

Mickey Gilley1982  #1 country

"Somewhere in My Broken Heart"

(written with Billy Dean)

ACM Song of the Year, NSAI Song of the Year

Billy Dean1991 #3 country, #18 adult contemporary

"That's the Thing About Love"

(written with Gary Nicholson)

Don Williams1984 #1 country

"The Greatest Man I Never Knew"

(written with Layng Martine Jr.)

Reba McEntire1991 #3 country

"To Make That Same Mistake Again"

(written with Roger Murrah)

Razzy Bailey1985 
Reba McEntire1986 

"Who Did They Think He Was"

(written with Pat McManus)

Conway Twitty1991 #56 country

"Why Goodbye"

(written with Mark Wright)

Steve Wariner1984 #12 country

"Wrong End of the Rainbow"

(written with Milton Blackford)

Ronnie Milsap1982 
Don Williams1983 

"Your Old Cold Shoulder"

Crystal Gayle1979 #5 country

Richard Leigh

Induction Year: 1994