Rock legend Neil Young announced he’s no longer sponsoring the Bridge School Benefit Concert in California, a legendary annual event that has featured some of the biggest names in music for three decades.
Young, 71, said he is dropping the concert for “personal reasons,” and did not elaborate. This year’s concert, which usually takes place in October, has been canceled. It’s unclear if it might return in the future.
The Bridge School, located in Hillsborough, teaches children with serious speech and physical disabilities. Young’s sons, Ben, with ex-wife Pegi Young, and Zeke, with the late actress Carrie Snodgress, both have cerebral palsy. Pegi Young co-founded the school to help Ben and other children, and she and Neil Young launched the annual concerts in 1986 to raise funds to keep it operating.
Young split with his wife in 2014 after 36 years of marriage, after he began a relationship with actress and activist Daryl Hannah. The upheaval immediately sparked speculation about the future of the concert.
Young also may have health concerns. He backed out of inducting Pearl Jam into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year due to an undisclosed illness. He said in December that he wasn’t going to tour in 2017, but will perform at the annual Farm Aid benefit in September.
Young said he’ll continue to raise funds for the school. “For personal reasons beginning this year I will no longer be hosting The Bridge School Concert,” he said in a statement on the school’s website.
“Of course, I love the students most of all because the light in their eyes tells me we have been doing the right thing. We have earned millions of dollars and the school is stable financially.”
He thanked the artists, who have “been so generous with their time and great performances.” He thanked his ex-wife for “coming up with the idea and pursuing it with such great dedication, working for the kids like our child Ben, young children with disabilities who needed more than our education system offered.” He thanked the Bridge School Community and those who attend the concerts, “bringing their love.”
Finally, he thanked “my incredible son Ben Young for being there at my side throughout these many Bridge School years. I love you. buddy.”
The two-day all-acoustic concerts have featured some of modern history’s best musicians.
Headliners have included Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, Tom Petty, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, Brian Wilson, the Cowboy Junkies, Patti Smith, Guns N’ Roses, The WHO, Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder, Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Jack White, Nora Jones, Steve Martin, and Tom Waits. All but one of the concerts were held at Shoreline Ampitheatre in Mountain View.
Children from the school always sat along the back of the stage during the performances, and several musicians, especially Young, would often turn to sing to them.
Here’s Young full statement:
After thirty years of hosting the Bridge School Concerts, I would like to say thanks to everyone involved. Of course, I love the students most of all because the light in their eyes tells me we have been doing the right thing for the last thirty years. We have earned millions of dollars and the school is stable financially, able to go forward although we still need an endowment and would welcome one.
Thanks to Pegi Young for coming up with the idea and pursuing it with such great dedication, working for the kids like our child Ben, young children with disabilities who needed more than our education system offered. Our heartfelt thanks and appreciation go to the artists who have been so generous with their time and great performances. Certainly, my love and appreciation go to Executive Director Vicki Casella, who has given 100% to skillfully support and guide the school over the years. Thank you to our wonderful staff, made up of the finest educators I have ever known. I would also like to thank the Board of Directors for their dedicated efforts on behalf of our students and Bridge School mission.
My long-time friends, manager Elliot Roberts and agent Marsha Vlasic have been putting these concerts together and gathering the incredible artist line ups year after year. Thanks to you both and to Frank Gironda for all the work you’ve put into the event. I would also like to thank Tim Foster and the crews he has ably led while handling production of the concerts and making everything so easy for us. Great job Tim.
The Bridge School Concerts would never have been possible without Bill Graham and BGP, as well as Another Planet Productions. Thanks to Jerry Pompili and all the people who worked for these production organizations and made our wonderful concerts so easy for everyone.
To the Bridge School Community, the folks who attend the concerts year after year bringing their wonderful enthusiasm and love, I say thanks and lots of love to every one of you. You are the soul that kept everything happening for all these years. I know the concerts have become part of the Bay Area Landscape and we were all there together. I appreciate being part of it.
Although I will continue in fund raising efforts, for personal reasons beginning this year I will no longer be hosting The Bridge School Concert. I wish everyone the best as the school heads into the future. My heart is with each and every child we have had the honor to serve and those we will continue to serve, and your parents, siblings, and extended families. Thanks to you all for the honor of serving such a great mission. Thanks to my incredible son Ben Young for being there at my side throughout these many Bridge School years. I love you buddy. The Bridge School would not have been possible without you.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled the surnames of Eddie Vedder and Tom Waits, and incorrectly implied that Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses had performed at the benefit solo.