Rolling Stone keyboardist Chuck Leavell performs at Captain Planet Foundation's Annual Benefit Gala at Flourish Atlanta on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Atlanta. (Photo by John Amis/Invision for Captain Planet Foundation/AP Images)

Julian Lennon performs with Chuck Leavell, Collective Soul at Captain Planet Foundation gala

Event marked Lennon’s first public performance in more than a decade

More than 25 years after Julian Lennon recorded his environmental plea, “Saltwater,” he was able to sing it for an organization dedicated to helping the environment.

On Saturday night, Lennon, backed by members of Collective Soul and renowned guitarist Peter Stroud, performed at the Captain Planet Foundation Gala in Buckhead, an annual event for the Atlanta-based charity co-founded by Ted Turner that funds environmental education projects for schools and non-profits.

Turner was in attendance, as well as daughter Laura Turner Seydel, the chair of the Captain Planet Foundation. 

Julian Lennon, left, Ted Turner, and musician Chuck Leavell, right, gather at Captain Planet Foundation's Annual Benefit Gala at Flourish Atlanta on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Atlanta. (Photo by John Amis/Invision for Captain Planet Foundation/AP Images)

As if witnessing Lennon singing on a public stage for the first time in at least a decade – by his own account – weren’t starry enough, the event also honored Chuck Leavell with the Superhero for the Earth for his dedication to forest conservation.

The longtime Rolling Stones keyboardist (and former player with The Allman Brothers Band) is the co-founder of the Mother Nature Network and a tree farmer/conservationist with a 2,900-acre property outside of Macon dubbed Charlane Plantation. 

Before the event started, Leavell chatted about why this particular award is so special to him.

“It comes from an amazing man and an amazing family that I admire and respect so much. Ted Turner is my hero. What he has done with his land – being one of the largest landowners – the way that he manages it, bringing back the bison, putting most of it in conservation easements which is a bold thing to do…and then of course starting this incredible cartoon (‘Captain Planet and the Planeteers’) to teach children how to better treat the environment. Captain Planet itself is an amazing project. This is very flattering, and a wonderful honor,” Leavell said.

E Roland, of Collective Soul, and Atlanta Hawks part owner Rutherford Seydel dance at Captain Planet Foundation's Annual Benefit Gala at Flourish Atlanta on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Atlanta. (Photo by John Amis/Invision for Captain Planet Foundation/AP Images)

Before receiving his notice during the gala, Leavell slid behind an upright piano to belt “Georgia on My Mind,” infusing it with grit and soul. 

He later led Collective Soul’s Jesse Triplett, Johnny Rabb and Will Turpin, along with Stroud, through a fun “Tumblin’ Dice” and an impressive rendition of The Allman Brothers’ tricky “Jessica.”

>>RELATED: Collective Soul’s Ed Roland talks about playing with Julian Lennon and Chuck Leavell

Leavell then handed keyboard duties to Collective Soul singer Ed Roland, who offered a heartfelt introduction of Lennon.

“This man stands on his own merit,” Roland said, as the low-key Lennon, who is also the founder of the environmental and humanitarian-focused White Feather Foundation, walked onstage and thanked Collective Soul “for making me feel a little less nervous.”

Julian Lennon finishes performing at Captain Planet Foundation's Annual Benefit Gala at Flourish Atlanta on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Atlanta. (Photo by John Amis/Invision for Captain Planet Foundation/AP Images)

His lovely, emotion-soaked “Saltwater” was followed by a full-throated singalong of “Stand By Me,” with Leavell back on the keys, Roland grooving with a tambourine and the room of attendees swaying and clapping along. 

For more information about the Captain Planet Foundation, visit https://captainplanetfoundation.org/.

Julian Lennon, backed by Collective Soul, performs at Captain Planet Foundation Gala in Atlanta on Nov. 16, 2019.

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About the Author

Melissa Ruggieri
Melissa Ruggieri
Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers music and entertainment news for the AJC. She remembers when MTV was awesome.  
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