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"Speak Low" at the Berkshire Hathaway Meeting

Kurt Weill, émigré musical genius of the Berlin stage, and Ogden Nash, wry poet of elegant Rye, New York, created the imperishable wartime Broadway song hit, “Speak Low.”


After Shakespeare’s admonition to “speak low if you speak love.”


Introduced by Mary Martin, premiere goddess of “One Touch of Venus:”




Replaced by Ava Gardner and dubbed by Eileen Wilson for Hollywood’s film adaptation:



Now a jazz standard, sung here live, with breathtaking depth and sincerity, by the inimitable Sarah Vaughan:




Based upon a line from Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Speak Low” sings of love, ephemeral and eternal:


“Time is so old and love so brief.

Love is pure gold and time a thief.”


Language so entrancing married to music so lovely, can we parse truth from rapture?


And unravel the meaning of this wondrous song, with so much to teach, of love, time and gold.


Why speak low in matters of love and money?


Because love and money are serious.


Speak low lest ye be a fool in either or both.


Mad passions and speculative manias are loud and dangerous.


Shakespeare’s impassioned lovers, Romeo and Juliet, die young.


Fast money can also prove fatal:


I shall never forget the story of a young man who reaped a first fortune from a real estate flip.


Died of a heart attack, overjoyed in newfound wealth.


I lost a friend who would not heed advice to sell skyrocketing dotcom shares before their inevitable crash.


Never so painful to hear, “You were right.”


As I wrote in my book, “Anyone Can Be Rich:”


“We only value what we earn.”


Charlie Munger recommends getting rich slowly.


Why?


Because fast money corrupts: individuals and civilizations.


Grow rich slowly through hard work:


Accumulate and compound wealth, surely and steadily.


Likewise with love:


Charlie Munger extols admiration-based love, not blind passion.


Cole Porter composed songs of unbridled passion in his youth:

“I’ve Got You Under My Skin” until it’s “Just One of Those Things.”

But with his terrible, crippling horse-riding accident, through pain and experience, Cole wrote “True Love”:


“I give to you and you give to me.

True love. True love.”


Here sung by mature Bing Crosby and young Grace Kelly, shipboard, in “High Society”:




True love is reciprocal, “pure gold.”


Mad love is fool’s gold, thus “time a thief.”


As Warren Buffett teaches, “Time is the friend of the wonderful business.”


Here are Humphrey Bogart and Tim Holt, as brash, young Dobbs and Curtin, eying “gold” in “Treasure of the Sierra Madre”:




Mature Walter Huston, “old man Howard,” knows “fool’s gold”—pyrite---when he sees it.


Lest you fall victim to the lure of latter-day pyrite, gather the mature wisdom of Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, now both in their 90s, recorded at this year’s Berkshire Hathaway Meeting, available here: