Malcolm Young of AC/DC
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AC/DC has announced that rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young will be "taking a break" from the band he co-founded 40 years ago to address an illness that lead singer Brian Johnson described earlier this week as "debilitating."

"Malcolm would like to thank the group's diehard legions of fans worldwide for their never-ending love and support," the statement on the band's Facebook page reads. "In light of this news, AC/DC asks that Malcolm and his family’s privacy be respected during this time."

The statement made sure to add that "the band will continue to make music."

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Young's absence will be felt, both on stage and in the record-making process. The 61-year-old guitarist and his younger brother Angus are the band's core songwriters, and Malcolm deserves credit for providing the riffs that are the backbone of the group's primal brand of bluesy hard rock.

In an interview with the U.K.'s Telegraph, Johnson confirmed that the band will enter a Vancouver recording studio next month to work on new songs. "We're going to pick up some guitars, have a plonk, and see if anybody has got any tunes or ideas," he said. "If anything happens, we'll record it."

Without naming Malcolm Young, Johnson said in the same interview that one of the band's members was not well. "One of the boys has a debilitating illness, but I don't want to say too much about it," he said. "He is very proud and private, a wonderful chap. We've been pals for 35 years and I look up to him very much."

Earlier this year, Johnson predicted that AC/DC would eventually launch a 40-date tour to commemorate the group's 40th anniversary. Despite Young's departure, Johnson is still hopeful they can pull it off. "That would be a wonderful way to say bye bye," he said. "We would love to do it. But it's all up in the air at the moment."

Reports surfaced Monday in the group's native Australia that the quintet was on the verge of announcing its retirement due to one band member's serious illness. But insiders told Billboard a day later that there was no truth to the rumor. The group's management and Columbia Records, its current label, declined requests for comment.