Debbie Harry. Ozzy Osbourne. Robbie Robertson. It seems that anyone who’s ever picked up a guitar or microphone has been setting pen to paper to tell all (or some, at any rate). Some of their memoirs ring flat, but some are genuine hits, and deservedly so. Here are some of our favorites of recent years.

The late, great Prince had an energy that few mortals possess. It’s said that there’s enough music in his archive to release an album a year for the next century. It’s no surprise that he also kept extensive diaries, journals, and notebooks, all assembled as a fan’s-delight scrapbook in his recently released The Beautiful Ones (Spiegel & Grau). “Many artists fall down the rabbit holes of their imagination & never return,” he writes. “There are many who decry this as self-destruction, but I prefer the term FREE WILL. Life is better lived.” The “I” in that sentence, naturally, is a rebus, one idiosyncrasy in a life lived on Prince’s own terms.

Things get weirder still in George Clinton’s 2014 memoir Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You? (Atria). Following his “introduction to three important letters: L-S-D,” Clinton took the funk of James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone, mixed it up with the “heaviosity” of Blue Cheer and Vanilla Fudge, put a manic beat to it, and launched the whole thing into outer space, accompanied by Eddie Hazel and Bootsy Collins. Clinton is a streetwise philosopher with an expansive view of the world, as when he writes that whether gay or straight or between or beyond is not his concern—the larger question is, “Can he drum?”

A one-man rhythm section with a penchant for mayhem, Flea, born Michael Peter Balzary in Australia in 1962, might just have landed on this planet outside his time. As he writes in his lively new memoir, Acid for the Children (Grand Central), he dug Vonnegut and jazz in a time when his contemporaries were filling their hours with vandalism and moping. Oh, he dropped, too, which gives rise to the title of the book, but much of his youth was spent exploring art, literature, and music, the last of which led to his joining a band that used to come out onstage dressed only in socks—and not on their feet. You’ll need to read to the end to get to the bare beginning of that story, which gives hope for a sequel that takes in the whole of his tenure with the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

There were days when Carly Simon wore scarcely more clothing than Flea did, and to compelling effect. Given her lightweight, radio friendly catalog, good looks, and high-society reputation, she wasn’t taken terribly seriously. She reveals her depths as a thinker and writer in her 2015 memoir Boys in the Trees (Flatiron Books), a catalogue of self-awareness as she overcomes stage fright, panic attacks, a stammer, and “trying to pass as normal.” There’s not much vanity in view, “You’re So Vain” notwithstanding, at least not on her part—though a few figures from her past, notably James Taylor, surely don’t behave as well as they might have. Nor is any vanity to be found in Linda Ronstadt’s Simple Dreams (Simon & Schuster), published in 2013, which recounts her determined efforts to keep moving forward, away from complacency and stagnation toward whatever interested her, from country rock to show tunes, light opera, Mexican norteño ballads, and the Great American Songbook. Go see the new documentary Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice if there’s any doubt.

Less well known than Simon or Ronstadt, Viv Albertine played a ratcheting, rancorous guitar for the all-girl punk group The Slits back in the day. When the last curtain fell, she married. Domestic life was unsatisfying, motherhood difficult, and cancer turned things upside down. She recounts all that and more in Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys (Dunne/St. Martin’s), published in 2014, a primary document of an explosive time in British music and British culture. The same is true, this side of the pond, of Patti Smith’s Just Kids (Ecco/HarperCollins), the first of three Smith memoirs, to date. This one, published in 2010, focuses on the 1960s and early ’70s, when the punky godmother was just beginning to find her own way as an artist, writer, and musician. It was a hardscrabble life, but great things ensued.

So they did, too, for John Lydon, who endured debilitating illness in childhood to become the fiery, frothing lead singer of the Sex Pistols in 1975, his nom-de-rock Johnny Rotten commemorating teeth, breath, and attitude. There’s a lot going on in Lydon’s mind, as his 2015 memoir, Anger Is an Energy (Dey Street/HarperCollins), reveals: He takes time to snipe at politicians, his former manager, and, well, Ozzy Osbourne, whom he calls a “senile delinquent,” but he also ponders the human condition and finds our species wanting, capable of horrible things. For all that, he adds, “because we are also capable of analyzing that, that is exactly why we’re better.” Bonus points come here for reading Richard Hell’s I Dreamed I Was Very Clean Tramp (Ecco/HarperCollins), published in 2013, in which the punk pioneer writes of Lydon’s bandmate Sid Vicious, “he saw that there was a crazy opening into fame and money that required only that he relax into full loutish negativity.”

You can’t get more influential than Bob Dylan, whose 2004 memoir Chronicles, Volume One (Simon & Schuster) has so far not seen its promised sequel, though Dylan has said that “he’s always working on it.” One thing’s clear from his wily book: He was always working, always reading and writing and hustling. And sometimes borrowing as well, as sharp-eyed readers and listeners have long noted, more in the way of a joker than a thief. The memoir is a marvel of evasion, shape-shifting, and putting-on.

In Born to Run (Simon & Schuster), one of the best books, period, of 2016, Bruce Springsteen is more direct in reckoning with his past, recounting that he writes of it “in order to free myself of its most damaging influences, its malevolent forces, to celebrate and honor its beauty, its power, and to be able to tell it well to my friends, my family and to you.” The author of anthemic songs such as “Thunder Road” and “The River” proves a masterful storyteller in prose as well. The same is true of The Who singer Roger Daltrey, whose 2018 memoir Thanks a Lot Mr. Kibblewhite (Henry Holt) sticks a thumb in the eye of a teacher who assured him he’d amount to nothing. Daltrey, instead, became the original golden god, though perhaps by accident—as he writes, “I started twirling my microphone not because of my ego but because I didn’t know what to do with my hands during the solos.”

Published just a few weeks ago, Elton John’s Me (Henry Holt) is full of tortures: a disapproving father, a dangerous mother, a tough reckoning with matters of sexuality, addiction, depression, and all the rest of life. His more-than-honest book gives specific weight to his tunes. On that note, Keith Richards’s candid 2010 memoir Life (Little, Brown) must have sent Mick Jagger into fits for its casually contemptuous reflections on the hyperactive singer. Richards writes with the same easygoing charm that he exhibits in interviews—although there’s always menace lurking in the wings, as when he warns a fellow bandmate that no one quits the Rolling Stones: “You can leave in a coffin or with dispensations for long service, but otherwise you can’t.” It’s a stitch.

Gregory McNamee is a contributing editor.

IMAGE CREDITS (clockwise from top left): George Clinton (Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images); Bob Dylan (Fiona Adams/Redferns); Ozzy Osborne (Niels van Iperen/Getty Images); Carly Simon (Michael Putland/Getty Images); Elton John (D. Morrison/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images); Prince (Frank Micelotta/Getty Images; Keith Richards (George Rose/Getty Images); John Lydon (Niels van Iperen/Getty Images); Flea (Mauro Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images); Debbie Harry (Paul Natkin/Getty Images)