Malcolm Young, Whose Guitar Riffs Helped Propel AC/DC to Fame, Dies at 64

Malcolm Young, Whose Guitar Riffs Helped Propel AC/DC to Fame, Dies at 64

“You need to entertain” during a live performance, Malcolm Young said in an interview posted on YouTube, so the audience always knows that “something’s going to happen on that stage tonight.”

The band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.

“AC/DC’s music and approach had a worn-in, scruffy vibe that stood in stark contrast to the pretentiousness suffusing much rock music at the time,” the Hall of Fame website said.

AC/DC has sold more than 72 million albums in the United States, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. In 2016, the band was still packing arenas full of fans wearing devil horns for the “Rock or Bust” world tour, and belting out hits like “Hells Bells” and “Highway to Hell.” Angus Young was the only original member of AC/DC still performing that year.


From left, members of AC/DC: Malcolm Young, Bon Scott, Cliff Williams, Angus Young and Phil Rudd.

Fin Costello/Redferns

Malcolm Young’s last performance with the band was in 2010 in Bilbao, Spain. At the time he was having cognitive problems but decided to keep performing during the tour, oftentimes having to relearn guitar parts that he had written, Rolling Stone reported. Mr. Young’s nephew, Stevie Young, replaced his uncle in 2014.

AC/DC BILBAO, Spain For Those About To Rock – 2 CAM MIX HD Video by AC/DC Italia |

In the 1980s, Malcolm Young struggled with alcoholism, and his nephew stepped in to substitute for him while he addressed his drinking problem. “I wasn’t brain dead, but I was just physically and mentally screwed by the alcohol,” Mr. Young said in an interview posted on YouTube.

On Saturday, musicians and fans shared their memories of Malcolm Young on social media.

“I had some of the best times of my life with him on our 1984 European tour,” the guitarist Eddie Van Halen wrote on Twitter.

Ben Jolliffe of the English rock band Young Guns, wrote: “Absolutely broken to hear of Malcolm Young passing. Grew up with the family and he was like a second dad to me.”

The band spoke with The New York Times in 2008, on the cusp of the release of “Black Ice,” which would eventually receive a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album.

“People say it’s juvenile music, but pardon me — I thought rock ’n’ roll was supposed to be juvenile,” Angus Young said. “You sing what you know. What am I going to write about — Rembrandt?”

The band won its first Grammy in 2010, when it won for best hard rock performance for the song “War Machine.” Its influential album “Back In Black” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2013.

Mr. Young was born on Jan. 6, 1953, in Glasgow, Scotland. His parents later emigrated to Sydney, Australia.

His survivors include his wife, O’Linda; two children, Cara and Ross; Angus Young, and a sister; and three grandchildren, according to a statement on the band’s website. Mr. Young’s brother George, one of the band’s producers and songwriters, died last month.

The band posted a tribute to Mr. Young on its website and social media, calling him “the driving force” behind its success.

“As a guitarist, songwriter and visionary he was a perfectionist and a unique man,” the statement said. “He always stuck to his guns and did and said exactly what he wanted.”

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