I Have Nothing

Album: The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album (1992)
Charted: 3 4
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • Whitney Houston performs "I Have Nothing" early in the movie The Bodyguard, which she stars in alongside Kevin Costner. It's a stunning performance, as we hear her rise into the chorus ("Don't make me close one more door...") and captivate the audience. Later in the film, she performs "I Will Always Love You," the first single from the soundtrack and what would become her signature song.

    "I Have Nothing" was the third single, released after "I'm Every Woman." Those first two singles were covers (originally by Dolly Parton and Chaka Khan, respectively), but "I Have Nothing" was an original song written specifically for the film.
  • The hit-maker David Foster produced this song and wrote it along with Linda Thompson. Foster also produced Houston's version of "I Will Always Love You" and another song on the soundtrack, "Run To You."

    Foster found his groove in the late '70s, co-writing "Got To Be Real" by Cheryl Lynn and "After The Love Has Gone" by Earth, Wind & Fire. Linda Thompson is best known as an actress, with roles on Fantasy Island and Beverly Hills, 90210. She and Foster were married at the time and would often collaborate on songs, with Thompson contributing lyrics. Their co-writes include "Voices That Care" and "So In Love With You" (by U.N.V.).
  • Linda Thompson dated Elvis Presley in his later years, from 1972-1976. He inspired the lyric to "I Have Nothing."

    "I knew what it was like to live with the biggest male diva of all time," she told the Daily Express. "I had to write this lyric around Whitney Houston, who was the female diva in The Bodyguard, so I took some of the happenings and some of my feelings about having lived with Elvis and wrote about it."

    Note that Thompson wrote the lyric from the perspective of Elvis, channeled through Whitney Houston's character in the film. In the song, Houston asks her man to stay, pleading that she has nothing without him. But she also says she won't change for him, leaving the guy a choice: share her life on her terms, or leave and break her heart. Seems selfish, but superstars have certain obligations and can get trapped in their bubbles. Thompson chose to leave, even though she still loved Elvis. "I wanted more for my life," she wrote in her autobiography. "I wanted to be a mother. Live a more normal life."
  • The Bodyguard soundtrack went on to sell over 18 million copies just in America. The movie was also a big earner, taking in over $400 million worldwide at the box office. It was Whitney Houston's first role; she went on to star in Waiting To Exhale and The Preacher's Wife.
  • Along with The Bodyguard song "Run To You," "I Have Nothing" earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song. The winner was "A Whole New World" from Aladdin, which also beat it for the Grammy Award in the Best Song Written For Visual Media category.
  • This is a great song to show off your vocal prowess if you can pull it off. Many American Idol contestants have tried over the years, including Katharine McPhee in 2006. She was mentored before her performance by the song's co-writer, David Foster, who produced her first single, a cover of "Over The Rainbow." They started dating in 2017 and got married in 2019 when Foster was 69 and McPhee 35.

Comments

Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

How "A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss" Became Rock's Top Proverb

How "A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss" Became Rock's Top ProverbSong Writing

How a country weeper and a blues number made "rolling stone" the most popular phrase in rock.

Booker T. Jones

Booker T. JonesSongwriter Interviews

The Stax legend on how he cooked up "Green Onions," the first time he and Otis Redding saw hippies, and if he'll ever play a digital organ.

Joe Elliott of Def Leppard

Joe Elliott of Def LeppardSongwriter Interviews

The Def Leppard frontman talks about their "lamentable" hit he never thought of as a single, and why he's juiced by his Mott The Hoople cover band.

Bob Dylan Lyric Quiz

Bob Dylan Lyric QuizMusic Quiz

Think you know your Bob Dylan lyrics? Take this quiz to find out.

Daniel Lanois

Daniel LanoisSongwriter Interviews

Daniel Lanois on his album Heavy Sun, and the inside stories of songs he produced for U2, Peter Gabriel, and Bob Dylan.

Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs

Richard Butler of The Psychedelic FursSongwriter Interviews

Psychedelic Furs lead singer Richard Butler talks about their first album since 1991 and explains what's really going on in "Pretty In Pink."