Perhaps the reason people no longer buy albums is that they’re waiting for the book to come out instead. A bumper crop of melodious memoirs were published in 2019, including one (by the late Prince) that wasn’t even finished. The following summaries of the books by musicians serve as a guide to the year in autobiographies written by the sex, drugs and rock 'n’ roll people.
Me, by Elton John
Henry Holt and Co., 384 pages, $38.50
“I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind, that I put down in words…” The Your Song singer and pop-music icon delivers a cocaine-dusted memoir to complement the 2019 biopic Rocketman.
Starts with: “It was my mum who introduced me to Elvis Presley. "
Ends with: “Pretending I was 22 was going to do what drugs and alcohol and cancer had failed to achieve, and kill me. And I wasn’t ready to die yet.”
High School, by Sara Quin and Tegan Quin
Simon & Shuster, 384 pages, $32
A story of first loves, first songs and first drugs, written in alternating chapters by identical twins Tegan and Sara of the Canadian indie-pop duo that bears their names.
Starts with: "I have no visual memory of Tegan before we were four years old… What I can summon is the feeling of her. As if she she existed everywhere, and in everything.
Ends with: “I’m gay. It was the very first time I had allowed myself to say the words I had been desperately afraid of. From that night forward, I carried the words in my mouth, tempted to tell everyone and no one.”
Year of the Monkey, by Patti Smith
Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 172 pages, $29.95
Following a run of New Year’s concerts at San Francisco’s Fillmore, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer hits the California coast for a year of solitary wandering.
Starts with: “It was well past midnight when we pulled up in front of the Dream Motel.”
Ends with: “Papa was a Rolling Stone was playing on the radio, which was brown tweed, sort of forties-looking, And I thought, as he reached down to brush the hair from my eyes, the trouble with dreaming is that we eventually wake up.”
Face It, by Debbie Harry (with Sylvie Simmons)
Dey St., 354 pages, $40.50
The pop-punk Blondie singer dryly writes about rape, heroin and a David Bowie flashing incident, but remains a mysterious figure herself.
Starts with: “One visit, when I was a baby, my doctor gave me a lingering look. And then he turned in his white coat, grinned at my parents, and said, ‘Watch out for that one, she has bedroom eyes.’"
Ends with: “I still have so much to tell but being such a private person, I might not tell everything. It’s always best to leave the audience wanting more…”
Then It Fell Apart, by Moby
Faber & Faber, 395 pages, $37.50
What happened to the DJ and musician after the success of his blockbuster 1999 album Play? The title of his memoir, a hedonistic follow-up to 2016′s Porcelain, is a clue.
Starts with: “I wanted to die. But how?"
Ends with: “I’m Moby, and I’m an alcoholic."
Horror Stories, by Liz Phair
Random House, 260 pages, $37
According to the Exile in Guyville singer-songwriter, her autobiography concerns the “the small indignities we all suffer daily, the silent insults to our system, the callous gestures that we make toward one another.”
Starts with: “We left her there. That’s the part that haunts me. We saw her need, and we ignored it."
Ends with: “I will miss everything I can never have back again, like my youthful obliviousness. From now on I will feel the movement of time on a grander scale.”
The Beautiful Ones, by Prince
Spiegel & Grau, 288 pages, $40
The victim of an accidental fentanyl overdose, Prince died before he could finish this book. The memoir element of The Beautiful Ones runs just 40 pages, with editor/co-writer Dan Piepenbring adding scrapbook items, cobbled-together quotes and personal insight into the Purple One’s world.
Starts with: “My mother’s eyes. That’s the 1st thing I can remember.”
Ends with: “What happens when 2 lovers stare at one another without speaking so long the separation between them disappears & they become one. One what?”
Time is Tight, by Booker T. Jones
Little, Brown and Co., 352 pages, $38
Bob Dylan says the long-awaited memoir of the leader of Booker T & the MG’s is as "joyful to read as Booker’s music is to listen to.” Anyone who has heard 1962′s Green Onions knows that is a ringing endorsement.
Starts with: “Al Jackson sauntered into the studio. Big Grin. Eyes sparkling. Peering directly at me. ‘Whatchu got, Jones?’"
Ends with: “These next generations of young people are going to be the ones that protect, defend and enrich the future of humankind.”
Touched by the Sun: My Friendship With Jackie, by Carly Simon
Farrar, Straus And Giroux, 256 pages, $36.50
Carly Simon is so not vain that her latest memoir – she released Boys in the Trees in 2015 – is not even about her. The singer writes about her relationship with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
Starts with: “By the late 1980s, the Upper West Side of Manhattan had lost some of the crucial part of its innocence.”
Ends with: "If she, Jackie, was touched by the sun – and she was – we, her friends who loved her, were touched by that sun, too.
Blood, by Allison Moorer
Hachette, 320 pages, $34
Thirty-three years ago, the father of Southern singer-songwriters Allison Moorer and Shelby Lynne shot his estranged wife to death before turning the rifle on himself while the teenage daughters hid. Moorer’s new book, a companion to an album of the same, shares the story of a shocking act of violence.
Starts with: “I first saw the briefcase on a shelf in the closet to the right of the fireplace in the Frankville[, Ala.] house. I always wondered what was in it when I was a little girl, but I never got it down and opened it. "
Ends with: “The brown cowboy hat still hangs on my closet door, I still study my hands that hold the memory of my mama’s, I drink coffee out of her coffee cups every afternoon and sometimes have imaginary conversations with her, I still collect magazines, and Daddy’s briefcase is still on the top shelf of the briefcase to the right of my desk.”
Hard to Handle, by Steve Gorman (with Steven Hyden)
Da Capo, 369 pages, $37
With a book subtitled “The Life and Death of the Black Crowes,” the band’s former drummer spins a story of greed, greasy rock and roll and unbrotherly love.
Starts with: “My band the Black Crowes had a hell of a run. But, man, it was weird."
Ends with: “Our rejection was nonnegotiable, as were their terms. They demanded an answer, and they got one. Game over.”
Expand your mind and build your reading list with the Books newsletter. Sign up today.
Build your personal news feed
- Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
- Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.