AC/DC Singer Reveals How Malcolm Young’s Death Affected the Band, Shares Honest Opinion on His Playing

In a new excerpt from his memoir titled “The Lives of Brian,” AC/DC vocalist Brian Johnson looked back on the illness and death of guitarist Malcolm Young. Despite his brother Angus often taking the spotlight, Malcolm was often described as the band’s main creative force.

In the excerpt shared by Classic Rock, Brian Johnson remembered Malcolm’s dementia, his departure from the band in 2014, as well as his death in 2017. Johnson offered:

“He was just sixty-four when the dementia that he’d been battling for years finally got the better of him. A truly awful day.”

Malcolm Young can't remember AC/DC's songs anymore (2014) | 7.30

“When Malcolm left AC/DC in 2014, the heart of the band stopped beating. To this day, I miss him more than I could ever put into words. He never missed a trick, from a band member’s performance to a crew member’s well-being. I don’t know how he did it. He had his demons, but he beat them, and he beat them good.

Regarding Malcolm’s guitar playing, Brian said:

“His guitar playing was masterful. And behind that powerful sound, there was a subtlety that music critics could never understand. Standing to his right onstage, I could only ever marvel at the man.

Hells Bells - Malcolm Young Isolated - Live at Donington

“But I kept my admiration to myself for the most part because he wasn’t the kind of guy who enjoyed taking a compliment.

“It was hard to see Angus struggle with such grief. He and Malcolm weren’t twins, but they could have been.”

Although officially the band’s rhythm guitar player, Malcolm was actually the man behind AC/DC’s biggest hits. Additionally, his playing skills never got as much praise as they deserved. The groove, the impeccable sense of timing, as well as nuanced dynamics and syncopation, are something that rarely anyone can fully replicate.

Born in 1953, Malcolm Young started AC/DC with his brother Angus in 1973. The band enjoyed success with Bon Scott on vocals but later achieved massive worldwide popularity after Scott’s passing and Brian Johnson joining as the frontman.

Photos: Matt Becker (Brian Johnson), Pandemonium73 (Malcolm Young en 2010)

David Slavkovic

David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.

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