The Sad Story Behind Neil And Pegi Young's Marriage

Rocker Neil Young met Margaret "Pegi" Morton in 1974 while she was working as a waitress at a restaurant near his California ranch, per The New York Times. She had been living in a tent with her dog at the time. Young was so smitten with the young waitress that he "used to order just to watch her float across the floor," as he later sang in the song "Unknown Legend," per Rolling Stone.

By the time the two got together, Neil Young was already a father to a son named Zeke from his relationship with actress Carrie Snodgress. Young and Snodgress broke up in 1975 (via the Los Angeles Times). The former couple's son had a mild form of cerebral palsy, and Snodgress largely stepped back from her career to focus on raising their son. Young and Morton married in 1978, and that same year, they welcomed their son Ben. Later, they had their daughter Amber Jean.

The Youngs helped create a school for their son

The Youngs seemed like an ideal couple and devoted parents. Their son Ben was born with cerebral palsy, and they became frustrated with the educational options available for him, per Rolling Stone. The pair helped organize a special concert in 1986 to fund a new school in California that would support kids with physical impairments and speech issues, and Neil enlisted an array of his famous friends to join him on stage. Performers included Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Don Henley (via The Bridge School).

The Bridge School opened the following year, and the Youngs are credited with helping to establish this special learning environment. And to keep this institution afloat financially, the Youngs worked on an annual fundraising concert each year until 2016 (per The Bridge School). Over the years, a veritable who's who in the music world, such as Willie Nelson, Elton John, and Simon & Garfunkel, heeded the Youngs' call for support. Neil also got his old bandmates from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young to make several appearances as well.

The Youngs appeared to be a great team musically

Neil and Pegi Young also seemed to be an impressive duo on the road. She sometimes sang backup for him, and they often brought their son Ben, who is quadriplegic and unable to talk because of his cerebral palsy, along with them on tour. As Neil explained to The New York Times in 2012, "We take him everywhere, and he's like a measuring stick for what's going on." Pegi was also with Neil when he performed at 1994 Academy Awards (via Rolling Stone).

Pegi eventually started to develop her own music, releasing her first solo self-titled album in 2007, per AllMusic. The record featured several of her own compositions, and her husband also lent some of his own musical expertise to the project. She went on to put out two more albums — "Foul Deeds" (2010) and "Bracing for Impact" (2011) — during her marriage to Neil Young. By the time Pegi released "Lonely in a Crowded Room" in 2014, the famed couple was headed for splitsville.

Neil Young filed for divorce after 36 years

In August 2014, the news broke that Neil Young was divorcing his wife Pegi after 36 years together, according to Rolling Stone magazine. The paperwork had been filed late that July in San Mateo, California, where the couple had lived. More details surrounding the breakup soon surfaced, with People magazine reporting that Neil had been dating actress Daryl Hannah (shown above) for months before the divorce filing. Apparently, Hannah and Young met while working on a documentary about the environmental group Greenpeace. Pegi Young later told Rolling Stone that the end of her marriage was very difficult for her and their children, especially because of all of the media attention. "Everybody knew what was going on in my family. ... It was just kind of awful to have it be all over, everywhere," she said.

Still, many in the rock world were shocked by the Youngs' breakup, and not everyone was excited by Neil's new relationship. His former bandmate David Crosby publicly criticized Young for ending his marriage and for getting involved with Hannah. Around this same time, Pegi Young released her third solo album, "Lonely in a Crowded Room." With tracks like "I Be Weary" and "Feel Just Like a Memory," American Songwriter noted that the record had a sad edge to it. But her pain over the divorce didn't fully surface musically until her next effort.

Pegi Young found solace in her own music

Before the release of her last album "Raw," Pegi Young opened up about her 2014 divorce. She explained to Rolling Stone magazine that she and Neil were having a difficult time. "But I never would've thought in a million years we would be getting divorced," she said. Neil's decision to end their marriage caught Pegi by surprise, and the songs featured on the album take the listener on a journey through Pegi's feelings. "I kind of look at it as a soundtrack to the seven stages of grief," she said.

In the divorce, Pegi got to keep Broken Arrow Ranch, which is where she and her ex-husband lived throughout their marriage. The former couple largely had no contact with each other after the split, except for the occasional run-in. Pegi Young saw Neil at a charity event for The Bridge School in 2016, and their interaction was cordial. "Take the high road, that's my approach," Pegi told Rolling Stone. Their daughter Amber Jean tried to remain neutral, refusing to listen to post-breakup music from either of her parents.

Pegi Young died a few years after the divorce

Sometime in 2018, Neil Young wed Daryl Hannah (via Us Weekly). The two collaborated on the film "Paradox," released that same year, which Hannah wrote and directed while Neil wrote the soundtrack. While Neil seemed to be thriving, his ex-wife was dealing with a health crisis. Pegi Young was diagnosed with cancer, and after battling the disease for a year, she died of her illness in January 2019, per Rolling Stone magazine.

According to Pegi Young's Instagram, she died on January 1 with her family and friends by her side. Neil responded to his ex-wife's passing by quoting some of the lyrics from the song "Such a Woman," which he wrote about her, on his official website (via People). In a separate post, Young praised his ex. "Pegi was a wonderful person and a great mother who touched many," he wrote. Her daughter Amber Jean, an artist, later created a special exhibition in tribute to her late mother, calling it "Pegi's Garden," according to Almanac News.