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Pegi Young, Bridge School Co-Founder and Neil Young’s Former Wife, Dies at 66

Variety logo Variety 1/3/2019 Erin Nyren
© Barry Brecheisen/Invision/AP/REX

Pegi Young, who co-founded the Bridge School with her former husband of 36 years Neil Young, has died after a yearlong battle with cancer. She was 66.

“With great sadness, we confirm that on January 1st, after a yearlong battle with cancer, Pegi Young – mother, grandmother, sister, auntie, musician, activist and co-founder of the Bridge School – passed away surrounded by her friends and family in her native California,” reads a statement posted to her official Instagram account. “We request that the families’ privacy be respected at this time.”

Pegi Morton, who was born in San Mateo, Calif., married Neil Young in 1978 after they met four years earlier when she was a waitress near his ranch in La Honda, Calif. The pair had two children, Ben and Amber, and for the majority of their marriage, Pegi Young was a full-time mother. The Youngs had so much difficulty finding a school that was prepared to handle the needs of their son Ben, who has cerebral palsy, that they co-founded the Bridge School, an educational program aimed at aiding children with severe speech and physical impediments, in 1986.

The school is the focus of the Bridge School Benefit Concert, which attracts some of the biggest names in music annually to raise awareness and funds for the school. Young continued to organize the concert every year since its ’86 debut.

In 2000, Young joined her husband on tour as a backup singer after making her public debut as part of his band for a performance of “Philadelphia” at the 1994 Academy Awards. In 2007, Young released a self-titled solo LP, and came out with two further records, “Foul Deeds” in 2010 and “Bracing for Impact” in 2011.

In 2014, following her divorce from Neil Young, Young released “Raw.”

“It told a story,” Young told Rolling Stone. “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?” 

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