Neil Young’s Ex-Wife, Former Backup Singer, Dies at 66

Screenshot: Farout Magazine

Noted advocate for cerebral palsy patients 

| Farout – Pegi Young, 66, former wife of Neil Young, has died.

“With great sadness, we confirm that on January 1st, after a yearlong battle with cancer, Pegi Young – mother, grandmother, sister, auntie, musician, activist – passed away,” a statement read.

Young, who once sang backup on Neil Young’s tours, released her debut solo record in 2007. Inspired by their son Ben who was born with cerebral palsy,  the couple founded the ‘ Bridge School’ in 1986 to help children with physical and speech impairments. Source.

Pegi Young

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  • Pegi Morton Young
  • Birthname: Margaret Morton
  • Born: December 1, 1952, San Mateo, California, U.S.
  • Died: January 1, 2019 (aged 66), California, U.S.
  • Genres: Folk rock | country music | jazz
  • Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, educator
  • Instruments: Vocals, guitar, vibes
  • Years active 2000–2019
  • Labels Vapor/Warner Bros.
  • Associated acts: Neil Young, The Survivors
  • Website:

Margaret “Pegi” Young[1] (née Morton; December 1, 1952 – January 1, 2019) was a gifted singer-songwriter, environmentalist, educator, and philanthropist.

Her debut as a singer came in 1983 when she was a member of The Pinkettes, the backing vocalists of Neil Young’s Rock-a-Billy Shocking Pinks tour.

In 1994 she made her first nationwide TV appearance at the Academy Awards, singing backup on the song “Philadelphia”, composed by her husband Canadian folk-rock musician Neil Young.

Music career

In 2000, the San Mateo, California-born Young joined her then-husband on tour as a backup singer.

In 2007, after recording songs in her home studio at the Broken Arrow Ranch, she released her self-titled debut album. After that, she created two additional albums, Foul Deeds (2010), and Bracing for Impact (2011).

She toured and performed with her band The Survivors, which includes Spooner Oldham on piano, Rick Rosas on bass, Kelvin Holly on guitar and drummer Phil Jones.


In 1986, Pegi Young founded the Bridge School, an educational program aimed at serving the needs of children with severe physical and speech impairments.

Young was inspired to create the school based on her experiences with her son Ben, who was born with cerebral palsy, a congenital condition (though researchers have discovered that hereditary factors can predispose an individual to Cerebral Palsy) which, for Ben, resulted in severe speech difficulties and motor impairment.

Pegi and her ex-husband said they searched for educational institutions tailored for children with physical and learning impairments like Ben but were frustrated to find that none really existed.

Young founded the school with additional help from Jim Forderer, a fellow parent of a child with specialized educational needs, and Dr. Marilyn Buzolich.

Pegi and Neil raised awareness for their newly founded school with their Bridge School Benefit Concert, which ran annually from 1986 until 2016, bringing in musicians such as Arcade Fire, Mumford & Sons, Tony Bennett, Lucinda Williams, Jack White, and Metallica.

Since 1986, The Bridge School has continued to grow and evolve organically into an internationally recognized organization.

Graduates from The Bridge School have often returned to their home school districts and continued their education once their rudimentary educational needs were met in the Bridge School’s more specialized setting.

She served in the capacity of Executive Director of the Bridge School for seven years, and as President of the Board of Directors since its inception in 1986 until her death.

She also continued to organize and host the Bridge School Benefit concert every year since its 1986 debut.

Educational outreach

Young served on the board of A.R.T. (Artistic Realization Technologies), an organization dedicated to bringing avenues for creative expression through art into the lives of individuals with severe disabilities. She was on the Advisory Board of the “virtual” AAC-RERC and on the Advisory Council for Lemelson Assistive Technology and Design Center on the campus of Hampshire College.

Young served for four years on the board of the Alliance for Technology Access, a grassroots organization of 43 community-based centers around the country serving individuals with disabilities, aimed at increasing their independence through the use of technology.


Young performed at and hosted Farm Aid with her then-husband Neil in 2007 and in 2012,[18][19] and, in 2013, began serving on the board of directors of Rainforest Connection, an organization aimed at preventing deforestation by using real-time data collection to maximize the effectiveness of ground enforcement.[20][21]

Personal life and death

Young met future husband Neil Young in 1974 when she was working as a waitress at a diner near his ranch, a story he tells in the 1992 song “Unknown Legend”. They married in August 1978 and had two children, Ben and Amber, in addition to her becoming stepmother to his first child, Zeke. Both Ben and Zeke are diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and Amber with epilepsy.

In July 2014, Neil filed for divorce in California. Pegi Young died of cancer on January 1, 2019, aged 66.


What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of permanent movement disorders that appear in early childhood. Signs and symptoms vary among people. Often, symptoms include poor coordination, stiff muscles, weak muscles, and tremors.

There may be problems with sensation, vision, hearing, swallowing, and speaking.

Often, babies with cerebral palsy do not roll over, sit, crawl or walk as early as other children of their age. Other symptoms include seizures and problems with thinking or reasoning, which each occur in about one-third of people with CP.

While symptoms may get more noticeable over the first few years of life, underlying problems do not worsen over time.

Cerebral palsy is caused by abnormal development or damage to the parts of the brain that control movement, balance, and posture. Most often, the problems occur during pregnancy; however, they may also occur during childbirth or shortly after birth. Often, the cause is unknown.

Risk factors include preterm birth, being a twin, certain infections during pregnancy such as toxoplasmosis or rubella, exposure to methylmercury during pregnancy, a difficult delivery, and head trauma during the first few years of life, among others.

About 2% of cases are believed to be due to an inherited genetic cause. A number of sub-types are classified based on the specific problems present.

For example, those with stiff muscles have spastic cerebral palsy, those with poor coordination have ataxic cerebral palsy and those with writhing movements have athetoid cerebral palsy. Diagnosis is based on the child’s development over time. Blood tests and medical imaging may be used to rule out other possible causes.

CP is partly preventable through immunization of the mother and efforts to prevent head injuries in children such as through improved safety.

There is no cure for CP; however, supportive treatments, medications, and surgery may help many individuals.

This may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Medications such as diazepam, baclofen and botulinum toxin may help relax stiff muscles. Surgery may include lengthening muscles and cutting overly active nerves.

Often, external braces and other assistive technology are helpful. Some affected children can achieve near normal adult lives with appropriate treatment. While alternative medicines are frequently used, there is no evidence to support their use.

Cerebral palsy is the most common movement disorder in children. It occurs in about 2.1 per 1,000 live births.

Cerebral palsy has been documented throughout history, with the first known descriptions occurring in the work of Hippocrates in the 5th century BCE. Extensive study of the condition began in the 19th century by William John Little, after whom spastic diplegia was called “Little’s disease”.

William Osler first named it “cerebral palsy” from the German zerebrale Kinderlähmung (cerebral child-paralysis). A number of potential treatments are being examined, including stem cell therapy. However, more research is required to determine if it is effective and safe.