How Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell became an environmental activist

The Rolling Stones historic concert in Havana
The Rolling Stones historic concert in Havana


    The Rolling Stones historic concert in Havana


The Rolling Stones historic concert in Havana 00:53

Story highlights

  • Leavell has been touring, recording with the Stones since 1982
  • He says Democrats "have the edge" on protecting the environment

Washington (CNN)Chuck Leavell is a forester, an environmental activist and a rocker.

As a musical director and keyboardist for The Rolling Stones, Leavell has been recording and touring with the legendary British band since 1982. He is also a former member of The Allman Brothers Band for which he received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy award in 2012.
Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell, Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood of "The Rolling Stones" perform during The Rolling Stones North American "ZIP CODE" Tour in Nashville, Tennessee on June 17, 2015.
    Leavell, who is a member of the Global Restoration Council, told CNN that the cultural revolution of the 60s influenced him and awakened in him a passion for environmentalism that became parallel to his passion for rock and roll.
    "I was a child of the 60s, okay? So, the cultural revolution that went on at that time — the environment was certainly a big part of it and a lot of us were concerned with the pollution that was rampant throughout that time in our country," Leavell said.
    Leavell's interest in environmental activism escalated in 1981 when his wife, Rose-Lane, inherited about 1,000 acres from her grandmother near Macon, Georgia.
    "Her family, for generations, have been connected to the land," Leavell said. "It became our responsibility to carry on that heritage of stewardship."
    Leavell got to work and even while on tour, he began educating himself and studying various options of what to do with the land.
    "After spending a lot of time looking at the options and knowing that I wanted to follow my musical career, forestry really fit the bill," Leavell said. "It wasn't so much day-to-day work."
    Leavell continued educating himself about forestry by reading books and received an Honorary Ranger award from the U.S. Forest Service. He and his wife have now grown the Charlane Plantation to about 2,900 acres.
    And last week, as the co-founder of the Mother Nature Network, Leavell hosted the White House Correspondent's Jam in Washington, along with R.E.M.'s Mike Mills, Widespread Panic's John Bell and the Marshall Tucker Band's Paul Riddle, to raise awareness about environmental issues.
    Asked about the presidential election, Leavell said that the environment has only been a focus on "one side" of the aisle.
    Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, tweeted in 2012 that "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."
    The Rolling Stones are the latest band to ask Trump to stop playing their music during his campaign events and rallies.
    "The Rolling Stones have never given permission to the Trump campaign to use their songs and have requested that they cease all use immediately," the British band's publicist, Fran Curtis, told CNN in a statement Thursday.
    Leavell declined to comment on the reason for this request but on 2016 and environmental policies he said, "The fact is the environment doesn't care about party affiliation, whether Republican, Democrat or otherwise."
    "My personal opinion is that in general, the Democratic party has the edge on better policies for the environment," Leavell added. "But it will take all parties in cooperation to get it right."