Malcolm Young, Legendary Rock Guitarist And AC/DC Co-Founder, Dies At 63
Malcolm Young, the legendary rock guitarist who co-founded the Australian rock band AC/DC along with his brother Angus in the early 1970s, has died at the age of 64:
Music royalty Malcolm Young, the Australian guitarist and AC/DC co-founder, has died aged 64.
Known for the powerhouse riffs and rhythm guitar that propelled the Sydney group to superstardom, Young had been suffering from dementia for at least the past three years.
He died peacefully on Saturday with his family by his bedside, a statement said.
“With enormous dedication and commitment he was the driving force behind the band,” AC/DC said on its website. “As a guitarist, songwriter and visionary he was a perfectionist and a unique man. He always stuck to his guns and did and said exactly what he wanted.”
Younger brother Angus said the pair were close until the end.
“As his brother it is hard to express in words what he has meant to me during my life, the bond we had was unique and very special,” he said. “He leaves behind an enormous legacy that will live on forever.”
According to Angus Young, Malcolm started battling symptoms of dementia before they made their 2008 album Black Ice, but he was “still capable of knowing what he wanted to do”.
“I had said to him, ‘Do you want to go through with what we’re doing?’ And he said, ‘Sh*t, yeah.'”
Malcolm started getting treatment during his last tour with the band from 2008 to 2010 and during which he had to relearn the very riffs he’d come up with.
It was strange for him, Angus told Rolling Stone, “but he was always a confident guy, and we made it work”.
“Renowned for his musical prowess, Malcolm was a songwriter, guitarist, performer, producer and visionary who inspired many,” the statement read. “From the outset, he knew what he wanted to achieve and, along with his younger brother, took to the world stage giving their all at every show. Nothing less would do for their fans.”
Young founded AC/DC in November 1973 and soon asked Angus to join when they were 20 and 18 years old respectively.
They began national touring in 1974 with singer Dave Evans
Malcolm is survived by his wife O’Linda and two children.
His death comes just weeks after his brother George Young, guitarist for the Easybeats and AC/DC producer, died at age 70.
Malcolm Young, guitarist and co-founder of AC/DC, died Saturday at the age of 64. Young had been suffering with dementia for the past three years, an illness that forced his retirement from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-inducted band he founded with his brother Angus Young in 1973.
“Today it is with deep heartfelt sadness that AC/DC has to announce the passing of Malcolm Young,” AC/DC wrote in a statement.
“Malcolm, along with Angus, was the founder and creator of AC/DC. With enormous dedication and commitment he was the driving force behind the band. As a guitarist, songwriter and visionary he was a perfectionist and a unique man. He always stuck to his guns and did and said exactly what he wanted. He took great pride in all that he endeavored. His loyalty to the fans was unsurpassed.”
Angus Young added, “As his brother it is hard to express in words what he has meant to me during my life, the bond we had was unique and very special. He leaves behind an enormous legacy that will live on forever. Malcolm, job well done.”
The Young brothers lost their older brother George Young, the Easybeats guitarist and AC/DC’s longtime producer, in October at the age of 70.
In an additional statement from Malcolm Young’s family, the band said that Malcolm Young died peacefully Saturday with his family by his side.
“Renowned for his musical prowess, Malcolm was a songwriter, guitarist, performer, producer and visionary who inspired many,” the statement said. “From the outset, he knew what he wanted to achieve and, along with his younger brother, took to the world stage giving their all at every show. Nothing less would do for their fans.”
As rhythm guitarist for the legendary rock band, Malcolm Young served as an indispensable foil to Angus Young’s arena-stuffing riffs. After forming AC/DC in 1973, the Young brothers would be credited as co-writers on every song the band recorded from their 1975 debut High Voltage through 2014’s Rock or Bust. That final album marked AC/DC’s first without Malcolm, who announced in September 2014 that he would permanently leave the band due to dementia.
“We miss Malcolm, obviously,” AC/DC singer Brian Johnson said in July 2014. “He’s a fighter. He’s in [the] hospital, but he’s a fighter. We’ve got our fingers crossed that he’ll get strong again… Stevie, Malcolm’s nephew, was magnificent, but when you’re recording with this thing hanging over you and your work mate isn’t well, it’s difficult. But I’m sure [Malcolm] was rooting for us.”
Malcolm Young last performed live with AC/DC when their tour for 2008’s Black Ice concluded in June 2010 with a concert in Bilbao, Spain.
Malcolm Young, like his older brother George and younger brother Angus, was born in Glasgow, Scotland before the whole Young family emigrated to Sydney, Australia in the early Sixties.
Malcolm and Angus’ first brush with rock stardom came courtesy of their brother George, who found global fame thanks to his band the Easybeats and their song “Friday on My Mind.” Although Malcolm’s two older brothers found success in the music industry, their father still made Malcolm work as a mechanic in a bra factory after leaving school at 15.
“I’ve never felt like a pop star – this is a nine-to-five sort of gig,” Malcolm told Rolling Stone in 2008. “It comes from working in the factories, that world. You don’t forget it.”
In 1973, Malcolm recruited Angus to form a new band, which the brothers named after the “AC/DC” electrical current marker they spotted on their sister’s sewing machine. After a few lineup changes, the Young brothers were introduced to singer Bon Scott by their brother George, who would serve as AC/DC’s producer on their early albums.
Throughout AC/DC’s tenure, Malcolm and Angus Young served as the band’s main creative force, crafting the unmistakable riffs that would make AC/DC one of the biggest bands in music. Together, the brothers would create the music for hits like “Back in Black,” “Hells Bells,” “Highway to Hell,” “Thunderstruck,” “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You),” “You Shook Me All Night Long” and dozens more rock staples.
However, Malcolm’s time in AC/DC was not without strife: A heavy drinker, he briefly left AC/DC in 1988 during the Blow Up Your Video Tour – his only absence from the band up to and until his dementia diagnosis – to go to rehab to curb his drinking problem. After a few months, Malcolm returned to the band and remained sober ever since. ”I was not surprised,” George Young said of his younger brother’s sobriety. “When Malcolm puts his mind to something, he does it.”
Eddie Van Halen wrote following Young’s death, “It is a sad day in rock and roll. Malcolm Young was my friend and the heart and soul of AC/DC. I had some of the best times of my life with him on our 1984 European tour. He will be missed and my deepest condolences to his family, bandmates and friends.”
Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, who regarded Malcolm as one of rock’s greatest rhythm guitarists, tweeted Saturday following Young’s death, “I have to go…I am losing it that Malcolm is gone. I hate this…” Kiss’ Paul Stanley added, “The driving engine of AC/DC has died. A tragic end for a sometimes unsung icon. One of the true greats. RIP.”
The Young brothers and AC/DC were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. With over 110 million albums sold, AC/DC is also the best-selling Australian act of all time.
.As noted in the obituaries, Young had largely ended his time with AC/DC in 2014 after he was diagnosed with dementia at an exceedingly young age. The band continued its tour in its absence but has not been on tour since then. His departure likely means that we’re unlikely to see the band together again in the future, although there has been no official announcement on that point.
As with many Americans I suspect, I first became aware of AC/DC with the release of the bands iconic Back In Black album in 1980, an album which included such classics as the title track and, of course, “You Shook My All Night Along.” In the years that followed, I acquired several of their albums that were released both after that and before it, and while my musical tastes have moved beyond the genre that AC/DC is known for, I still have their music in my library and often listen to it when the mood strikes me. Additionally, those ominous opening notes of Back In Black‘s title track have been standard entrance music for football teams at stadiums across the the United States at both the college and NFL level. In that sense, I suppose, AC/DC and Young have become a part of American popular culture as much as they are part of Australian popular culture.
As in so many other cases, the best way to remember Young is through the music, so here’s a few selections. Feel free to add links to others in comments if you’re so inclined.