The sad news came down this month that the Neil and Pegi Young’s annual Bridge School Benefit won’t be held this year, and quite possibly never again. “Although I will continue in fund raising efforts, for personal reasons beginning this year I will no longer be hosting The Bridge School Concert,” Neil Young wrote in a letter. “I wish everyone the best as the school heads into the future.” Pegi’s own letter gave fans slight hope it might come back in some shape or form in the future. “[It] will not be held in 2017,” she wrote. “We want to express our sincere and profound thanks to all of you for your love and support, demonstrated by way of your attendance at 30 years of Bridge School Benefit Concerts.”
The news wasn’t all that shocking considering that Neil and Pegi divorced in 2014 after three decades of marriage. The Bridge School Benefit was the only place where they continued to appear together in public, though earlier this year Pegi told Rolling Stone the situation was endurable. “That was fine,” she said. “I don’t want awkward. Take the high road, that’s my approach. The concert is about the kids and the preschool, and that’s so much more important than the Neil and Pegi drama.”
At this point we don’t know what exact “personal reasons” Neil is citing for calling the shows off (though it probably rhymes with shma-vorce), but let’s take this moment to remember all the amazing moments from Bridge Schools of the past. Year after year they managed to unite some of the biggest names in music for completely acoustic sets, practically inventing MTV Unplugged in the process. It’s the only place that could put Neil Young, the Who, Pearl Jam, Green Day, the Smashing Pumpkins, Brian Wilson, Green Day and Tom Waits on a single stage, and that was just the bill in 1999. The highlights from other years are too numerous to mention, but Buffalo Springfield’s 2010 reunion 42 years after their last show definitely stands out along with once-in-a-lifetime unplugged sets by David Bowie, Roger Waters, Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses and Brian Wilson. Pearl Jam also played the show nine times, while Eddie Vedder did it three times without the band. None of these people were paid a dime for their efforts.
It all started on October 13th 1986 when Neil and Pegi got Don Henley, Tom Petty, Robin Williams, Nils Lofgren, Bruce Springsteen and a reunited CSNY to gather at the Shoreline Ampitheater in Mountain View, California to raise money for the new school. It was an amazing night, and a near-impossible ticket since Bruce Springsteen was at the pinnacle of his fame and in the middle of an off year. Springsteen played a stripped-down set that night with Nils Lofgren and Danny Federici, bringing out CSNY for “Hungry Heart,” which you can watch right here. The night wrapped up with everybody singing “Teach Your Children.” That song would conclude many Bridge School Benefits, including the 2013 one which could wind up being the last that time CSNY ever play together. Here’s hoping that the Bridge School is just taking a year off and will continue on in 2018, though that’s probably wishful thinking at this point.