Nothing From Nothing

Album: Kids And Me (1974)
Charted: 1
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • Preston started writing this one night in the dressing room of an Atlanta nightclub where he was performing. He wanted to write a song based on the saying, "Nothing from nothing leaves nothing."

    "The saloon piano gave it character," Preston explained, "and I had a feeling it would be a hit because it was a sing-a-long kind of thing."
  • Bruce Fisher, who was Preston's songwriting partner (he co-wrote his previous American chart topper, "Will It Go Round In Circles"), added a second verse.
  • The B-side of the single was another song Preston wrote with Fisher: "You Are So Beautiful," which was later a hit for Joe Cocker.
  • Preston started off at the age of 10 playing keyboards for gospel legend Mahalia Jackson. Later he joined Ray Charles' touring band before recording with The Beatles on several of their tracks including "Get Back" and "Let It Be" (The Beatles considered him to be the fifth Beatle). He also played on a number of Sly & The Family Stone recordings and went on to have a successful solo career with five Top 10 US hits. In 1997 he was sent to prison on drug charges; he died in 2006 at age 59.
  • Preston did a lot of work with George Harrison, and appeared at his 1971 Concert For Bangladesh. When Harrison toured in 1974, he brought Preston along as a backing musician but also had him play three of his own songs: "Nothing From Nothing," "Will It Go Round In Circles" and "Outa-Space."
  • In the US, this was used in a TV commercial for Fidelity Investments. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • Preston performed this song on the very first episode of Saturday Night Live. He and Janis Ian were the musical guests on the October 11, 1975 debut.
  • This was used in several movies, including the 1995 thriller To Die For, starring Nicole Kidman, the 2003 comedy Elf, starring Will Ferrell, the 2008 comedy Be Kind Rewind, starring Jack Black and Mos Def, and the 2011 comedy Bad Teacher, starring Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake.

Comments: 12

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 10, 1974, Billy Preston performed "Nothing From Nothing"" on the Dick Clark ABC-TV Saturday-afternoon program 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time the song was at #31 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart, ten weeks later it would peak at #1 {for 1 week} and it spent 18 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #8 on Billboard's Hot R&B Singles chart...
    Between 1969 and 1982 he had fourteen records on the Top 100 chart, five made the Top 10 with two* reaching #1, besides "Nothing From Nothing", his other #1 record was "Will It Go Round In Circles", for two weeks on July 1st, 1973...
    William Everett Preston passed away at the young age of 59 on June 6th, 2006...
    May he R.I.P.
    *He just missed having a third #1 record when "Outa-Space" peaked at #2 {for 1 week} on July 2nd, 1972; the week it was at #2, the #1 record for that week was " Lean On Me" by Bill Withers...
    Additional note: "Nothing From Nothing" and "Then Came You" by Dionne Warwick & the Spinners share the record for the biggest drop from the top spot on the Top 100 chart, the week after being at #1 both records dropped down to #15.
  • Eli from Toronto, OnIn 1973, George Harrison arrived in Boston at the end of his American tour, and his voice was almost completely gone by the time he reached Boston,
    but Billy Preston came on stage and saved the show as far as I'm concerned -
    so much energy! such happy music! he was really amazing!
  • Paul from Detroit, MiCorrection: 1974 and 1975 both hold the record for most #1 songs with 35 each. 1974 was quite a year for music trivia. Not only did this song tumble to #15 the week after reaching #1, as did Then Came You, but 12 others also fell out of the top 10 the following week after reaching #1. A typical #1 song stays in the top 3 after leaving the top spot.

    Another odd chart occurence was these three song titles were #1 consecutively: *Nothing* From Nothing, You Aint Seen *Nothing* Yet, and You Haven't Done *Nothin*'".
  • Paul from Detroit, MiThis song set a Billboard chart record in 1974 by dropping from the #1 position all the way down to #15 the following week. It was replaced by "Then Came You" which also stayed at #1 for a week before tumbling to #15. That feat has never been accompluished again and probably never will. Also, 1974 holds the record for most #1 songs with a total of 31.
  • Paul from Columbus, OhI remember when I was working back in 1974 and singing and dancing this song while I worked. The employees thought I was nuts, but it has stuck with me for 34 years and I still love the song. Thank you Billy.
  • Si from Ocala, FlBilly Preston, William Everet Preston, sometimes known as Willie or Wild Bill, besides scary talented, was a very kind a trusting man. He was taken advantage of because of that kindness by promoters, managers and other show business pros. The lyrics to Will it go Round in Circles really was "Willie Go Round in Circles" because of what his business manager had done to him.
  • Jeff from Austin, TxNuthin from Nuthin leave nuthing...gotta do sumthin..Muthaf***a punch ya in da mowwwwth. - Vernon Murphy
  • Tom from Miami, FlAT THE END OF THIS SONG, BILLY SAYS MY FIRST AND LAST NAME. I KNOW THERE'S A MUSICIAN NAMED TOM SHAD. WONDER IF HE PLAYED WITH BILLY PRESTON.
  • Nikki from Shasta, CaQuestion!!! Any one know the meaning of Prestons song "Will it go 'Round in Circles?" Nikki, shasta, ca.
  • Joey from Nowhere Land, Cawhy must all the talented ones die??!
  • Jim from Dayton, OhMr. Preston passed on today due to kidney failure. We lost a talented one.
  • Phil from San Jose, CaBilly has played with everyone (Beatles, Stones, The Band, so many more). I think he was a child prodigy. If I am correct 10-15 years ago he was accused of something to do with a minor?
    He was touring with the Band (till he got arrested).
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Kip Winger

Kip WingerSongwriter Interviews

The Winger frontman reveals the Led Zeppelin song he cribbed for "Seventeen," and explains how his passion for orchestra music informs his songwriting.

Arrested For Your Art - The Story Of 2 Live Crew's "Obscene" Album

Arrested For Your Art - The Story Of 2 Live Crew's "Obscene" AlbumSong Writing

In the summer of 1990, you could get arrested for selling a 2 Live Crew album or performing their songs in Southern Florida. And that's exactly what happened.

Narada Michael Walden - "Freeway of Love"

Narada Michael Walden - "Freeway of Love"They're Playing My Song

As a songwriter and producer, Narada had hits with Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Starship. But what song does he feel had the greatest impact on his career?

Concert Disasters

Concert DisastersFact or Fiction

Ozzy biting a dove? Alice Cooper causing mayhem with a chicken? Creed so bad they were sued? See if you can spot the real concert mishaps.

Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum

Dave Pirner of Soul AsylumSongwriter Interviews

Dave explains how the video appropriated the meaning of "Runaway Train," and what he thought of getting parodied by Weird Al.

Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde

Johnette Napolitano of Concrete BlondeSongwriter Interviews

The singer/bassist for Concrete Blonde talks about how her songs come from clairvoyance, and takes us through the making of their hit "Joey."