Rock journalist Charles M. Young, who joined Rolling Stone magazine in 1976 and championed New York's CBGB punk scene at its inception, died of cancer on Monday, Aug. 18. Young's passing follows a year-and-a-half battle with with a stage four brain tumor, he was 63.
At Rolling Stone, the magazine reports, Young wrote its first major pieces on The Ramones, Patti Smith and Television, among others, bringing an individual sense of humor to its pages. Writing under the byline "The Rev. Charles M. Young," a reference to his Wisconsin Presbyterian-minister father, Young contributed memorable cover stories on Carly Simon, Kiss, Ted Nugent, Emerson Lake and Palmer and the Sex Pistols in Rolling Stone's first punk rock cover story. (All of Young's Rolling Stone stories are available here.)
In Young's writing, an aware comedic irreverence shrined through. For instance, in the first sentence of his review of the Ramones’ Road to Ruin in 1978: "I've been working at this magazine for two years now and every album I've endorsed has gone over like a fart in the elevator."
Or, 1976 profile on the Ramones: "The Ramones (not their real surname) were born in 1952 (Johnny in 1951) and grew up in Forest Hills, Queens, where they went to high school together and got dumped on by girls. 'They always wanted to go with guys who had Corvettes,' says Johnny, 'so we had nothing to do but climb on rooftops and sniff glue. Musicians never have girlfriends in the beginning – they get a guitar instead.'"
And his 1977 Sex Pistols cover story: "Sid Vicious is about as close as rock & roll is going to come to Huckleberry Finn in this decade. I hope he can light out for the territories before he turns into just another ego. I can't dislike Malcolm McLaren for figuring out that reporters are vampires, lurking in the night, ready to suck out every last corpuscle of titillation, leaving the victim to spend eternity as a Media Zombie. If he were merely a manipulator, he wouldn't have chosen such genuine fuckups for the band. If he were merely a greedhead, he could have found an easier way to run the Sex Pistols for number one group in the world. As it is, he chose not the politics of boredom, but the politics of division, Richard Nixon's way: amputate the wanking Sixties liberals from their working-class support. Kids destroyed schools to the tune of $600 million in the U.S. last year. That's a lot of anger that the Southern-California-Cocaine-And-Unrequited-Love Axis isn't capable of tapping."
Young left Rolling Stone in 1980, later joining the staff of Musician magazine in the early 1990s and writing regular record reviews for Playboy. Later on, politics and activism took hold of his focus, contributing stories on Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky to Rolling Stone, as well as profiles on Beavis and Butt-head and Jerry Lee Lewis. In 2010 Young joined forces with his friends and journalistic colleagues Dave Lindorff, John Grant and Linn Washington, Jr. to assemble the collectively-owned and collectively-run news site, This Can't Be Happening!. There, he excitedly covered the Occupy Wall Street movement, long before it became a movement at all, showing up to report at Zuccotti Park on evening one.
He wrote then, "I think that the corporate press has a difficult time understanding Occupy Wall Street because, like 99% of Americans, they have no experience with democracy. They spend most of their time enslaved by large totalitarian collectives known as “corporations” and have never once decided anything for themselves as a group of equal workers. Instead they follow orders and write about elections, which are big puppet shows financed and scripted by Wall Street."
Last year, Young was diagnosed with a stage four glioblastoma brain tumor. With chemotherapy treatment, according to Rolling Stone, he fought the cancer for a year and a half before passing away in a hospice in the Bronx, New York. He is survived by his brother John and sister Lois.