The tunesmith, who penned hits for stars including Neil Diamond, Mel MCDaniel and Hank Williams, Jr., passed away in hospice care in Nashville, Tennessee on Friday (05Aug16) after a battle with liver cancer, according to editors at The Tennessean newspaper.

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Richard was discovered by his publishing partner and longtime friend Tom Oteri after he served in the U.S. army in Vietnam and spent a spell living on the streets of the city.

Tom sent recordings of the musician's songs to record producers, which led to Neil Diamond's producer Bob Gaudio tracking the songwriter down to arrange for Neil to record one track.

The song, titled The Good Lord Loves You, appeared on Neil's 1979 September Morn, and made it into America's Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Richard relocated to Nashville in 1986, and two years later had his first top ten hit in the U.S. Billboard country chart with the song Americana, recorded by Moe Bandy. Americana was also made famous by U.S. President George H. W. Bush, who used the track as a theme song for his 1988 presidential campaign.

Richard's friendship with his publishing partner was struck by tragedy in 2008 when the pair, who were both on prescription drugs, engaged in a brawl in the home they shared in Nashville. Tom was found dead the next morning and Richard, who had already been arrested for drink driving, was charged with murder as he had stabbed his friend with a pocket knife.

After Tom's family came to his defence, Richard served seven months in rehabilitation, and was cleared of murder in 2009 after it was discovered the music publisher had died of a heart attack rather than the knife wound.

Richard is survived by his wife, Rose Fagan.