George Young, Legendary Australian Songwriter, Musician and Producer, Dies at 70

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AC/DC circa 1970.

George Young, a pioneer of Australia’s rock ‘n’ roll scene who, with Harry Vanda, shaped the sound and songs of The Easybeats and many bands that followed, died Sunday (Oct. 22) at the age of 70.  

Born in Scotland, Young emigrated to Australia as a teen. He flourished in his new home, both as a musician and producer. In the early 1960s, the young guitarist met with Harry Vanda and Stevie Wright at Villawood Migrant hostel and formed the Easybeats. He's credited as a co-writer of the rock band's international hit "Friday on My Mind," which was covered by the likes of David Bowie and Gary Moore, and John Paul Young’s "Love Is in the Air,” which was introduced to a new generation of fans when an updated mix appeared prominently in Baz Luhrmann’s 1992 feature film Strictly Ballroom. In 2001 when APRA published its Top 30 Australian Songs, "Friday On My Mind" was declared No. 1 by a panel of 100 Australian writers, musicians and critics. The song reached No. 6 in the U.K. and No. 16 in the U.S.

After touring with bands like The Rolling Stones in the late ‘60s, the Easybeats broke up. But Young was just getting started. He took his skills behind the desk to the next level when, in 1973, he and Vanda formed Albert Productions in Sydney with Ted Albert. With Vanda and Young serving as inhouse writer-producers, the label emerged as an indie powerhouse. Young co-produced records for the likes of ARIA Hall of Famers Rose Tattoo, The Angels, John Paul Young and AC/DC, formed by his younger brothers Malcolm and Angus Young.  

In 1988 he was inducted, along with Vanda, into the inaugural class of the ARIA Hall of Fame, and again as a member of the Easybeats in 2005. Alberts and APRA AMCOS’ annual Vanda & Young Songwriting Competition is named after the legendary songwriting partnership.

Without Young, AC/DC would not exist, the band said in a statement issued Monday. “It is with pain in our heart that we have to announce the passing of our beloved brother and mentor George Young. Without his help and guidance there would not have been an AC/DC. As a musician, songwriter, producer, advisor and much, much more, you could not ask for a more dedicated and professional man. As a brother, you could not ask for a finer brother. For all he did and gave to us throughout his life, we will always remember him with gratitude and hold him close to our hearts."

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Vanda also joined the chorus of industry professionals, organizations and fans who remembered the trailblazer and all-rounder. “Rest in Peace my dear friend,” he wrote.

“It is with great sadness that Alberts acknowledge the passing of George Young,” writes Alberts CEO David Albert. “A consummate songwriter, trailblazing producer, artist, mentor and extraordinary musician, George was above all else a gentleman who was unfailingly modest, charming, intelligent and loyal, a man with a wonderful sense of humor.” He adds,   
“George was a pioneer who, with close friends Harry Vanda and Ted Albert, created a new sound for the Australian music industry.”

Young “was an innovative songwriter whose songs topped the charts not only in Australia, but resonated with audiences around the world,” notes APRA, which counted Young as a member since 1966.

Easybeats frontman Stevie Wright died in 2015 at the age of 68.