By Josh Simpkins
Special to the Sun
I woke up on this brisk Fall morn to quite the shock. It pains me greatly to say this, but Heaven’s Hell of a Band just added one awesome rocker to its ranks. That’s right, dear friends and neighbors, sadly, I must report that Malcolm Young, guitarist, songwriter and visionary co-founder of one of the greatest bands in the history of Rock, AC/DC, passed away on Saturday, November 18, 2017, at his home, surrounded by his family, after a three-year long battle with dementia—an illness that forced his retirement from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-inducted band. He was 64.
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 ‘60s. 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.
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, including their debut High Voltage in 1975. Malcolm played rhythm guitar to Angus’ lead, and his driving riffs and mop-top hair were signatures of the band’s sound and image for decades.
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 globally one of the biggest bands in music. As rhythm guitarist for the legendary rock band, Malcolm served as an indispensable foil to Angus Young’s arena-stuffing riffs. 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. Actually, the Young brothers are credited as co-writers on every song the band recorded from High Voltage through 2014’s Rock or Bust. However, Malcolm’s time in AC/DC was not without strife.
A heavy drinker, Malcolm 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. Sobriety paid off in a big way as the Young brothers and AC/DC were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003, which described the band’s sound as “scorched-earth, metallic hard rock.” With over 110 million albums sold—70 million albums in the U.S. alone—AC/DC is also the best-selling Australian act of all time. Regretfully, Young left AC/DC in 2014 after the band said he had been struggling with an undisclosed ailment, later revealed to be dementia. He was replaced by his nephew, Stevie Young, for the band’s world tour in 2015. Respect for keeping it in the family, boys.
All happy thoughts and condolences to the Young family during this difficult time. AC/DC plans to create a memorial website at which fans can send messages to Malcolm Young’s survivors, including his wife, Linda; children, Cara and Ross; son-in-law, Josh; three grandchildren; and his sister and brother. The family has also asked that in lieu of flowers, fans donate to The Salvation Army. Rest in Paradise, Malcolm Mitchell Young—you shook us, brother.