Tributes led by brother Angus as the music world mourns the loss of the world's most influential and greatest guitar players
Liz Aubrey
16:00 18th November 2017

Malcolm Young, the legendary guitarist and co-founder of Australian rock band, AC/DC, has died at the age of 64 after a long battle with dementia.

Young was forced to retire from AC/DC in 2014 following the onset of the illness, although his brother Angus previously reported that his symptoms had started years earlier in 2008.

Despite these early symptoms, Young finished recording their Black Ice album and went on tour with the band – something typical of the dedication and commitment that characterised his long, successful career.   

“It was hard work for him,” Angus told The Guardian in an interview in 2014. “He was relearning a lot of those songs that he knew backwards; the ones we were playing that night he’d be relearning.” 

He added: “He was not well when we went to do Black Ice: his symptoms of dementia were starting then, and he got through it. I had said to him, even before we did the album: ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ …He was the one who said ‘Yes! We’ve really go to do it.’ It was [typical] of his drive…”

Young’s passing comes just weeks after the death of his 70-year-old brother George, a guitarist with The Easybeats and a producer for AC/DC.

Today’s tributes were led by the band in a statement on their Facebook page. “It is with deep heartfelt sadness that AC/DC has to announce the passing of Malcolm Young. 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.”

They added, “As a guitarist, songwriter and visionary he was a perfectionist and a unique man. He always stuck to his guns and did exactly what he wanted. He took great pride in all that he endeavoured. His loyalty to the fans was unsurpassed.”

His brother Angus said: “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.”

Young’s family also released a statement: “It is with deepest sorrow that we inform you of the death of Malcolm Young, beloved husband, father, grandfather and brother. Malcolm had been suffering from Dementia for several years and passed away peacefully with his family by his bedside.”

They continued: “Renowned for his musical prowess Malcolm was a songwriter, guitarist, performer, producer and visionary who inspired many. 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.”

Born on 6th January 1953 in Glasgow, Young was just ten years old when he and his family emigrated to Australia. Young's first introduction to fame came early on via his older brother, George, as his band The Easybeats were dubbed "the Australian Beatles" in 1965 after their hit, ‘Friday On My Mind.’ 

After being given a Jet Firebird guitar by another Merseybeat guitarist, Harry Vanda, Malcolm started to develop his distinctive rhythm guitar style. He later adapted the guitar so he could produce a louder, more metallic sound. 

In 1973, Angus and Malcolm formed AC/DC. Releasing their first album, High Voltage and T.N.T just two years later in 1975, a period of non-stop touring followed. 

Famously covering Chuck Berry’s ‘School Days’ on T.N.T, the song revealed the brothers' love of the classic rock-n-roll and blues which underpinned their early sound and lyrics before being replaced with their idiosyncratic heavy metal style. It was 1979’s Highway to Hell which brought AC/DC international acclaim.

Just one year after the release of Highway to Hell, tragedy struck as their original frontman, Ben Scott, died suddenly. The band re-grouped and continued, replacing Scott with with Brian Johnson shortly after and recording Back in Black. It became one of the greatest selling albums of all time.

Both Angus and Malcolm are credited with writing every song from their 1975 debut up until Young's retirement in 2014 following the recording of Rock or Bust after the worsening of his dementia symptoms.

Widely regarded as the driving force behind the band, Young was well known for his powerful, innovative rhythm guitar which gave the band their unique sound.

Selling over 200 million records worldwide, the band were inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. The organisers said of the band: “AC/DC have carved out a niche somewhere between hard rock and heavy metal that’s been an inspiration to aspiring musicians.”

Known for their hard rock, head-banging riffs, the band’s thunderous sound became synonymous with heavy metal, being imitated by many who wanted to emulate their unique style.

When Young became too unwell to tour, he was replaced with Angus’ nephew, Stevie. Similar in appearance and playing style to Young, he was considered a fitting replacement due to these similarities and his desire to honour Young's legacy faithfully.

Young will be remembered as the innovator behind some of the groups biggest hits including ‘Highway to Hell’, ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ and ‘Back in Black.’

Thousands of tributes for the popular, well-loved guitarist have poured in on social media this afternoon.

On Twitter, Ryan Adams wrote: “RIP Malcolm Young Legend. He was the founding member of AC/DC & the engine that roared behind the most powerful band in the world. He wrote Back In Black, Highway to Hell, You Shook Me All Night Long…so many songs... Travel safely to the stars, Malcolm. Legend.”

Mike Portnoy tweeted: “Wow...just got off stage here in Brisbane Australia (of all places) to the shocking news of Malcolm Young's passing. So sad...one of the great rhythm guitar players of all time.”

Young’s family also added: “While thanking all for their overwhelming support and heartfelt condolences, the family ask that you respect their privacy during this time of heartbreak and grief."

"For those wishing to send messages to the family please visit the Sydney Morning Herald Malcolm Young Memorial website which will be available next week. The family have asked instead of flowers to send donations to The Salvation Army.”

Young is survived by his wife Linda, children Cara and Ross, son-in-law Josh, three grandchildren and a sister and brother.

Malcolm Young: 6 January 1953 – 18 November 2017

You can donate to the Salvation Army here.

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