Grammy Award Winner Richard Leigh became well known to the VHCC community in the 1970s while enrolled in the Theatre Arts Program and has returned to campus often in the year’s since to share his award winning hits. He has consistently had hits over the course of his 40-year career and kicked off the 21st century with a top ten hit, “Cold Day In July”, recorded by the Dixie Chicks. Most recently his good friend Billy Dean recorded an entire album of his songs for the “Billy Dean Sings Richard Leigh” CD released September 2009.
Richard has been writing songs since he was 10 years old and professionally since he was 23. He 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 “I’ll Get Over You” garnered Leigh his first of seven Song of the Year nominations, this one from the Country Music Association (CMA).
Two years later, 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: “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” reached the #1 position on both Pop and Country charts and remained on the charts for more than six months; it was nominated for Grammy Awards in both the Pop and Country “Best Song” categories (a feat not repeated until 1993); won a Grammy Award for “Best Country Song”; was 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, Richard has made 14 trips to the Top Ten and has written or co-written eight #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); “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 William’s “That’s The Thing About Love” (written with Gary Nicholson); Steve Wariner’s “Life’s Highway” (written with Roger Murrah); Mickey Gilley’s “Put Your Dreams Away” (written with Wayland Holyfield), and “I’ll Get Over You” and “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” both written 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 Brother’s, 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 others.
Born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Virginia, Leigh is a graduate of VHCC and Virginia Commonwealth University. In addition to his numerous songwriting awards, Leigh was named to the American Association of Community Colleges’ Alumni Hall of Fame in 2011 for his outstanding contributions to his profession and service to his community.