Too Much of Nothing

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"Too Much of Nothing"
Single by Peter, Paul and Mary
Released November 1967
Format 7" 45rpm
Writer(s) Bob Dylan

Too Much of Nothing is a song written by Bob Dylan in 1967,[1] first released by him on the album The Basement Tapes (1975).


Dylan – vocal, guitar; Robbie Robertson – electric guitar; Garth Hudson – organ; Richard Manuel – piano, backing vocal; Rick Danko – bass, backing vocal. Overdubbed 1975: Hudson – additional keyboards; Helm – (possibly) drums, backing vocal.

Themes and history of song[edit]

One of the most haunting themes of The Basement Tapes is an apprehension of the void.[2][3] Shelton hears in this song an echo of the bald statement that Lear makes to his daughter Cordelia, "Nothing will come of nothing" (act I, scene 1).[3] Marcus asserts that this was one of the songs recorded at the end of "the basement summer" in August or September 1967. He writes that these songs "are taken slowly, with crying voices. Dylan’s voice is high and constantly bending, carried forward not by rhythm or by melody but by the discovery of the true terrain of the songs as they’re sung. Richard Manuel’s and Rick Danko’s voices are higher still, more exposed."[4]

Cover versions[edit]

By November 1967, this song was a Top 40 hit for Peter, Paul and Mary.[1] In Dylan's original, the chorus addresses two ladies—"Say hello to Valerie/Say hello to Vivien/Send them all my salary/On the waters of oblivion"—but Peter, Paul and Mary changed the second name to "Marion," displeasing Dylan. According to the trio's Paul Stookey, Dylan consequently became disenchanted with the group: "We just became other hacks that were doing his tunes."[5] Patrick Humphries notes that, whether by accident or design, the two women originally named share the names of the two wives of the major 20th-century poet T. S. Eliot.[6][a 1] Lachlan MacKinnon [7] writes that the lines do refer to Eliot's wives and are "remarkably shrewd", suggesting the poet's "strange combination of self-distancing and financial propriety".

This song also appeared on Spooky Tooth's debut album It's All About, and on Fotheringay's debut album, as well as Albert Lee's Black Claw & Country Fever sessions. All three versions substituted "Marion" for "Vivien".


  1. ^ Eliot married Vivienne Haigh-Wood in 1915; they separated in 1933. Critics consider their marriage central to his writing The Waste Land (Gordon 2000, pp. 147–192). Eliot married Valerie Fletcher in January 1957, near the end of his life (Gordon 2000, pp. 496–536).


  1. ^ a b Gilliland 1969, show 54, track 4.
  2. ^ Marcus 1975
  3. ^ a b Shelton 1986, p. 385
  4. ^ Marcus 1997, p. 192
  5. ^ Sounes 2001, p. 225
  6. ^ Humphries 1991, p. 69
  7. ^ Mackinnon, Lachlan, "T.S.Eliot's carelessness towards John Hayward", Times Literary Supplement , London, 12 March 2014

External links[edit]