A look at “I (Who Have Nothing)”

Our intern Joe McKenzie checks in with some cool history of the song “I (Who Have Nothing)”.

Recently we received a phone call from a friend saying they heard an American Idol performance that totally reminded them of us. As it turns out, Candice Glover had just performed “I (Who Have Nothing),” a song The Valdons have been performing around town with the Secret Stash Soul Revue. This is one of those songs that has been done a million times. We thought it’d be fun to share a little info about the history of this timeless tune.

“I (Who Have Nothing)” began life as “Uno Dei Tanti,” an Italian saying which means roughly “One of many.” This version was released by the Italian singer Joe Sentieri in 1961. In 1963 the songwriting duo of Leiber & Stoller wrote new lyrics over the original music, which became the song “I (Who Have Nothing)”. This updated version was sung by Ben E. King, which became a top 40 hit in 1963.

Tom Jones scored a top 20 hit with the song in 1970. This version features lush strings, reverb-drenched guitar, and the signature vocal acrobatics of the Welsh wonder himself.

Gladys Knight did her own version in 1979. Knight adds real bite to the delivery, along with the addition of prominent background vocals and a flute that has 70s written all over it.

The song has also been performed twice on American Idol, once by Jordin Sparks in 2007 and again by Candice Glover this year. Sparks stays mostly true to the Ben E. King original, with a few modern R&B updates from Glover.


The song was also heavily sampled by Jedi Mind Tricks, with added drums and new verses.

Hometown heroes The Valdons cut a killer version in ’71. They bring tangible energy to the song, adding a new intro, powerful organ and auxiliary percussion.

Finally, here are the Valdons performing the song with the Secret Stash Soul Revue to a sold out First Avenue at the Current’s 8th Birthday Party, January 2013.