Friday, June 6, 1997

Burt Bacharach on Investing
by Selena Maranjian (TMF Selena)

Can Foolish lessons be drawn from just about anything in this vast world of ours? I suspect they can. To prove the point, I humbly offer this Fribble.

It may surprise some people to learn that there's a wealth of investing truths and advice hidden in the titles of Burt Bacharach's pop songs. (True, Burt wasn't the lyricist, but without his music, we would likely not remember. For the unfortunate few who don't already know who Burt Bacharach is, he's the incomparable melody writer and arranger, whose songs have resided on top-ten charts for more decades than I've been alive.)

For starters, there's "Do You Know the Way to San Jose," made popular by Dionne Warwick in 1968. It was rather prescient of Burt and lyricist Hal David to realize that California and Silicon Valley would be productive places to park your investing dollars in the years to come. (Come to think of it, Dionne's psychic friends should have known this, as well.)

"Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," taken to #1 by B. J. Thomas in 1969, encourages investors not to be dismayed by occasional raindrops falling on portfolios. The song reminds us that although the value of our investments won't always rise in a straight line, we should keep our Foolish wits about us and focus on long-term gains.

Another successful 1969 song was "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," which drives home an important message -- that it's never good to fall in love with a stock. When you do, you only get "pain and sorrow." Other song titles allude to this message, such as Herb Alpert's 1968 #1 hit, "This Guy's In Love With You," and Dusty Springfield's 1967 hit, "The Look of Love."

For those who invest un-Foolishly and live a life of anxiety, worrying about daily market moves and paying unfortunate prices for stocks recklessly purchased, there are a host of other song titles: "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," "I Say a Little Prayer," "Promises, Promises," "How Many Days of Sadness," "I Wake Up Crying," "Wishin' and Hopin'."

When Burt teamed up with lyricist Carole Bayer Sager, more Foolishly-titled songs followed. In 1986, Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald took "On My Own" to number one on the pop charts. Fools can rejoice that we are now unfettered from dependence on Wall Street professionals, empowered to take control of our own financial futures. In a very real sense, we're on our own. But on the other hand, we're also very much not alone. In Fooldom, we have a community of fellow individual investors to turn to for ideas, for information-sharing, and for support. As Dionne and her non-psychic friends (Gladys Knight, Elton John and Stevie Wonder) pointed out eleven years ago, "That's What Friends Are For." And as if we hadn't gotten the message, the song "The April Fools" pays homage to the intergalactic Foolish holiday. (Dionne only managed to take this song to #37 on the Top 40, but perhaps when the Spice Girls remake it, it'll get the attention it deserves.)

Finally, Burt's 1970 song "Everybody's Out of Town" makes us realize just how amazing Fooldom is. Consider that much of this incredible community has been built by people who have never met each other. Fools now populate all 50 states and many countries. Even though almost all of us are from out of town, we can still hang out together and talk investing.

Perhaps one of the best Bacharach songs to sum up the value of Foolishness is Jerry Butler's 1962 hit, "Make it Easy on Yourself." That pretty much says it all. Thanks, Burt!

[Note: I regret that I was unable to fit all of Burt's songs into this Fribble. I'd like to blame the sheer enormity of his work, but I must admit that I had a hard time with the theme from "The Blob."]

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