Pegi Young, the ex-wife of music legend Neil Young and co-founder of the Bridge School, has died. Pegi, an accomplished guitarist and singer-songwriter in her own right, died surrounded by friends and family after a yearlong battle with cancer, according to Rolling Stone. She was 66-years-old.
Pegi Morton was working as a waitress at a diner near Neil Young’s ranch when they met in 1974. Young referenced his love for Pegi in many songs over the years, including “Unknown Legend,” “Such a Woman,” and “Once an Angel.”
After marrying Neil Young in 1978, Pegi Young spent time raising the couple’s daughter Amber and their son Ben, who was born with cerebral palsy. Pegi Young also co-founded the Bridge School with her husband in 1986. The institution’s educational program focused on kids with severe speech and physical impairments and became known for its annual Bridge School Benefit show in Mountain View, California. The annual charity event attracted big-name musicians including Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Pearl Jam, and Metallica.
As the Young kids grew older, Pegi joined her husband on stage to sing background vocals, most notably at the 1994 Academy Awards when she joined him for the song “Philadelphia.” Pegi was by Neil’s side on the Friends and Relatives tour in 2000 and became a regular in her man’s band for the next decade.
In a 2013 interview with Speakers In Code, Pegi Young touched on her relationship with her rocker husband.
“We’re really normal,” Pegi said at the time. “I’m in my garden. He’s playing with his model trains. You know, I cook dinner. We live a very normal life, really, with very extraordinary moments mixed in.”
But in 2014, Neil Young filed for divorce from Pegi after 36 years of marriage. The mom of two admitted she was stunned.
“We were having a rough patch,” Pegi told Rolling Stone. “But I never would’ve thought in a million years we would be getting divorced. So, yeah, there was a bit of a shock value there.”
As part of the divorce settlement, Neil Young told Rolling Stone he gave his ex-wife Broken Arrow Ranch, a lavish property in Redwood City, California, that he had owned since 1970.
“I got a divorce, and I gave my wife the ranch,” Young said.
At the time, People reported that the rock legend had already been in a relationship with actress Daryl Hannah for “months” before he filed for divorce from his wife and longtime musical collaborator. Young’s former Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young partner, David Crosby, pointed a finger at the Splash actress for contributing to the end of Young’s decades-long marriage.
“I happen to know that [Young] is hanging out with somebody that’s a purely poisonous predator now,” Crosby said in an interview with Idaho Statesman. “And that’s karma. He’s gonna get hurt. But I understand why it happened. I’m just sad about it. I’m always sad when I see love tossed in the gutter.”
Pegi Young detailed her heartbreak in a series of songs on her final album, 2016’s Raw. The album included songs with titles like “Too Little Too Late,” “A Thousand Tears,” and “Lonely.”
“It told a story,” Pegi said of her album. “I kind of look at it as a soundtrack to the seven stages of grief. You’ve got anger, then shock and disbelief. As we go through the album, the later songs show my growth and … I can’t say total acceptance, but I think the last song, that wonderful Don Henley song [“The Heart of the Matter”], talks about forgiveness. That’s really where it’s at, you know.”
Pegi Young told the Los Angeles Times that her life was a “roller coaster” after Neil decided to end their marriage in 2014, and she turned to her music as an outlet.
“In the immediate aftermath of the separation, I just wrote and wrote and wrote,” Pegi Young said. “My life had been turned upside down. I didn’t want to mince words.”
Pegi Young said she hoped that the songs could help others who have gone through loss, who has gone through heartbreak — be it divorce, death or other forms of loss.
“I’m not the only one to go through late-in-life divorce,” Pegi Young said. “I’m not the only one to suffer a major heartbreak. And I won’t be the last.”
Sadly, the annual Bridge School benefit ended not long after the Youngs’ marriage did. The last Bridge School benefit show was in 2016, and the following year Neil Young officially bowed out of hosting duties for the beloved Bay Area event.