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Pegi Young breaks out with ‘Raw’

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On her new album, Pegi Young addresses her divorce with Neil Young, her husband of more than three decades. (Courtesy Jay Blakesberg)
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Until her divorce from rock star Neil Young three years ago, Pegi Young was content to stay in the shadows, quietly organizing the couple’s annual Bridge School Benefit as its executive director, and serving on the boards of organizations benefiting the severely disabled, and occasionally releasing an unsung solo record. Now, with her Spooner Oldham-led backing band The Survivors, the gravelly R&B singer is stepping into the spotlight with the aptly-titled “Raw,” a dissection of the breakup with brutally frank tracks “Why,” “Too Little Too Late” and “Gave My Best to You.” She’s also working on an autobiography, she says, “Because I had an interesting life before I married an interesting person.”

In the early 1970s, you hitchhiked across the country alone. Isn’t that how every great horror
film from that decade began?

Ha! Yeah, I hitchhiked across Canada when I was 20, went up the coast to Vancouver, then made my way across Canada. My ultimate destination was Vermont, to visit my brother. But I took a very circuitous route. And it’s not something I recommend my daughter do. But it was a different time, and up in Canada, hitchhiking was an alternative means of getting around,

Any creepy moments?

Well, you get in a car with somebody, and sometimes they’re just not somebody you want to stay in the car with very long. So I got dropped off in a couple of in a couple of spots that were a little awkward, but better to be back out of the car than in the car. But I was with my dog, so I wasn’t completely alone. He was a real comfort to me.

And you wound up living in a $200 California tepee. Where do you buy a tepee?

Tepees R Us? This one was actually quite deluxe by 1971-ish standards. It was built on a platform and 18 feet tall, with plenty of living space for me, my dog, and my six cats that I’d acquired by then. It had a little propane stove, and a wood-burning stove, as well. I think it might have involved some illegal activity, raising the money for that tepee — maybe a marijuana-related incident.

So when you met Neil Young then, it was a “your place or yours?” situation?

I’d moved out of the tepee a couple of months before I met him. I met Neil at our local bar, Alex’s, in 1974. And neither one of us was looking for any kind of long-term-ish situation. So we just developed a friendship, and eventually that friendship led to marriage, and the rest is history. Although I wasn’t quite sure the history book was going to end the way it did. ….

IF YOU GO

Pegi Young & The Survivors
Where: Chapel, 777 Valencia St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. April 9
Tickets: $18 to $20
Contact: (415) 551-5157, www.ticketfly.com

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