SMITHSONIAN OF SONGWRITING
Want to own a piece of music history?

MANUSCRIPT ORIGINALS, founded by singer Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, sells limited editions of song lyrics handwritten, illustrated, and signed by the songwriters. For prices ranging from $450 to $27,000, music lovers can purchase manuscripts of hits by stars such as Carole King (“I Feel the Earth Move”) and Peter Yarrow (“Puff, the Magic Dragon”).

But Michael J. Jackson, president of the privately held company, says he’s selling much more than celebrity. “We view the song as the star,” says Jackson, who once produced acts such as Kiss, Pablo Cruise, and Paul Williams. “It’s really about the emotional currency between the song and people’s lives.”

Many of the artists are not billboard names, but they penned “lasting songs that trigger emotions and memories of better times,” Jackson says. The roster includes Merle Kilgore, who wrote “Ring of Fire” with June Carter, and George David Weiss, whose “What A Wonderful World” became Louis Armstrong’s posthumous theme song.

The manuscripts are available at Neiman Marcus stores and via the company’s website, www.manuscriptoriginals.com. Twenty-five are collected in Off The Record: Songwriters on Songwriting, along with photos and interviews with the writers. More books and lower-cost reproductions are in the works, but Jackson promises no coffee mugs or shopping-mall T-shirts. “Our goal is to present their work in the most dignified way possible,” Jackson says. “We want to be the Smithsonian of songwriting.”