Malcolm Young: The show must go on

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Malcolm Young in 2010 (Image by Pandemonium73 via Wikimedia Commons)

Malcolm Young, the legendary rhythm guitarist and one of the driving forces behind AC/DC, has died at 64.

He was born Malcolm Mitchell Young on 6 January 1953 in Glasgow, Scotland. In 1963, he emigrated to Australia with his older brother, George, who went on to produce many of AC/DC's iconic albums, and a lively and talented younger brother called Angus.

Young founded AC/DC in November 1973 after the demise of an earlier Newcastle band called the Velvet Underground (no relation to Lou Reed's famous band). He asked Angus to join AC/DC when they were 20 and 18 respectively.

Older brother George famously said AC/DC couldn't be considered a band until they had performed "at least 200 gigs". Malcolm and Angus took George at his word and embarked on a heavy session of touring from 1974 onwards.

Young also supported George and Harry Vanda, George's long time musical collaborator, by playing guitar on Stevie Wright's 'Evie Part 1, 2, 3' in 1974.

With incendiary lead singer Bon Scott in command of the mike, AC/DC was soon tearing up the charts, with songs like 'Jailbreak':

'Let There Be Rock':

and 'It's A Long Way To The Top':

Initially, AC/DC's success was confined to Australia, where their ball-breaking rock anthems captured the imaginations of scores of rebellious teens. However, their 1979 album "Highway To Hell" reached the top 20 in the United States on the strength of the title track.

AC/DC seemed poised on the edge of world domination when Scott collapsed and died on 19 February 1980 after a bout of heavy drinking in London.

Young briefly considered disbanding AC/DC but, with the agreement of the rest of the band, recruited glam rock star Brian Johnson from the group Geordie. AC/DC's subsequent album, Back In Black, was released five months later as a tribute to Scott. It went on to become the second best-selling album in history.

Despite AC/DC's phenomenal success, the 1980s were not kind to Young. He developed a drinking problem and missed the majority of AC/DC's Blow Up Your Video World Tour in 1988, while receiving treatment for his alcoholism. During his absence, Young was replaced by his nephew, Stevie Young. Apparently, the resemblance between the two men was uncanny so the band was able to continue seamlessly.

Young eventually became sober and returned to AC/DC, continuing their usual heavy schedule of recording and touring.

According to his brother Angus, Young started battling symptoms of dementia in 2008 before AC/DC made their album Black Ice. Although he had to relearn many of his famous riffs on his last tour with the band between 2008 and 2010, while he was receiving treatment for his condition, Young still presented as supremely bold and capable.

Angus remembers:

"I said to him 'Do you want to go through with what we're doing?' and he said 'Shit, yeah!' He was always a confident guy, and he made it work."

In April 2014, Young became seriously ill and was unable to continue performing. In an attempt to preserve privacy, Johnson reported that Young was in hospital receiving treatment for an unspecified condition. AC/DC arranged for Stevie Young to replace his uncle for touring and studio sessions, apparently with Young's blessing. Young always wanted the show to go on.

However, Young's family later revealed that the rhythm guitarist was in a nursing home and had suffered a complete loss of short-term memory. In addition, Young had been diagnosed with lung cancer and an unspecified heart problem requiring a pacemaker.

Young eventually died on 18 November 2017, just weeks after the death of his older brother, George.

Malcolm Young's death, like that of his brother, prompted a flood of tributes.

AC/DC said on its website

'As a guitarist and visionary, he was a perfectionist and a unique man. He always stuck to his guns and did exactly what he wanted.'

Angus Young said he was close to his older brother 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 as unique and very special. He leaves behind an enormous legacy that will live on forever.'

Fellow guitarist Tom Morello described Young as the 

'... #1 greatest rhythm guitarist in the entire history of rock and roll.'

Legendary guitarist Eddie Van Halen tweeted:

"Mal always wanted the music to go on," Brian Johnson told Rolling Stone once. "And I am not going to say no." 

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