Brian Francis Johnson (born October 5, 1947) is an English singer and songwriter. In 1980, after the death of Bon Scott, he became the third lead singer of the Australian rock band AC/DC. He and the rest of the band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. In March 2016, he stepped down from touring on the Rock or Bust World Tour due to hearing problems. He stated in an interview that he “had a pretty good run” in AC/DC and implied that he might not be returning. On September 30, 2020, AC/DC officially confirmed that Johnson along with fellow band mates Phil Rudd and Cliff Williams would be returning to the band.
Johnson was one of the founder members of the rock band Geordie formed in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1971. After a few hit singles, including UK Top 10 “All Because of You” (1973), the band split up in 1978. Following the death of Scott on 19 February 1980, Johnson was asked to audition for AC/DC. Lead guitarist and co-founder Angus Young recalled, “I remember Bon playing me Little Richard, and then telling me the story of when he saw Brian singing [with Geordie]. […] There’s this guy up there screaming at the top of his lungs and then the next thing you know he hits the deck. He’s on the floor, rolling around and screaming. I thought it was great, and then to top it off—you couldn’t get a better encore—they came in and wheeled the guy off!” Johnson was diagnosed with appendicitis later that night, which was the cause of his writhing around on stage. The band agreed immediately that Johnson’s performing style fit AC/DC’s music. His first album with AC/DC, Back in Black, became the second best-selling album of all time according to most estimates. The Guardian ranked the successful transition to Johnson at No. 36 on their list of 50 key events in rock music history.
Johnson is known for his distinctive singing voice and strong Geordie accent. In July 2014, he was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Music by Northumbria University in the city of Newcastle in recognition of his significant contribution to the music industry.
AC/DC have sold more than 200 million records worldwide, including 71.5 million albums in the United States, making them the tenth highest-selling artist in the United States and the 14th best selling artist worldwide. Back in Black has sold an estimated 50 million units worldwide, making it the third highest-selling album by any artist, and the highest-selling album by any band. The album has sold 22 million units in the US, where it is the sixth-highest-selling album of all time. AC/DC ranked fourth on VH1’s list of the “100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock” and were named the seventh “Greatest Heavy Metal Band of All Time” by MTV. In 2004, AC/DC ranked No. 72 on the Rolling Stone list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”. Producer Rick Rubin, who wrote an essay on the band for the Rolling Stone list, referred to AC/DC as “the greatest rock and roll band of all time”. In 2010, VH1 ranked AC/DC number 23 in its list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”.