Don Henley & Friends — including Jackson Browne, who’d just jetted in from Spain — headlined a private concert Monday night jointly benefitting Oceana, the world’s largest ocean conservation organization, and the Walden Woods Project, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit founded by Henley and dedicated to preserving the land and legacy of American literary giant Henry David Thoreau.
The exclusive, invite-only fundraiser, held at the Los Feliz-area home of Keith Addis, founder of Industry Entertainment Partners and president of Oceana’s board of directors, drew Hollywood stars-cum-leading environmentalists such as Sam Waterston, Ed Begley Jr., Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Anjelica Huston and Bill Murray, who performed impassioned spoken-word renditions of George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein classics while accompanied by a quartet of orchestral musicians.
Addis and writer-producer Mitch Glazer co-hosted the intimate and inspirational affair, where guests dined on gourmet hors d’oeuvres and sipped specialty themed cocktails, dubbed the Walden Woods Watermelon Mule and On the Rocks Under the Stars.
“There are creatures in the ocean that deserve to continue living,” said Oceana CEO Andy Sharpless as a clarion to call to action. “The oceans have been overfished and polluted for a long time. It’s all at risk now. Every single law that protects the ocean is at direct risk from this Congress. We need your help. We need your money. We can do it. This is the battle that will matter. This is one of those moments where you get to be alive and you get to make a difference.”
“We’re not going to stand idly by while climate change is ignored,” added Begley, who called Henley his “environmental hero” for his pioneering use of solar panels.
Henley played for nearly two hours, singing a range of both Eagles and solo hits, including “One of These Nights,” “In a New York Minute,” “The End of Innocence” and “The Boys of Summer.”
“When you talk about the Lincoln-Concord-Boston area, David McCullough, the great American historian writer, said that if you put a lens down on any spot in America, that area would be the one with the most concentrated history of this country of any place in America,” said Henley of his deep-seated interest in the Walden Woods area.
“From Thoreau to Emerson to [Nathaniel] Hawthorne to the Alcotts — they basically invented American literature,” he continued. “Thoreau is important not only for that reason, but he was also the founder of the modern conservation movement. He was the first guy to talk about it and to write about it. He was the first guy to say every tow should have a park, and John Muir read him, Walt Whitman read him. They had Teddy Roosevelt’s ear. You can trace the founding of our national park system back to Thoreau. Thoreau had an influence around the globe.”
One of the night’s most endearing moments was when Henley led the audience in a spirited round of “Happy Birthday” to Thoreau, born on July 12, 1817.
“He would have turned 200,” said Henley. “The man is very important to the history of this country and you should know about him.”
Henley next reflected on the collective work of Oceana and Walden Woods Project, each doing their part to sustain and preserve the planet and its myriad natural wonders.
“It’s a nice balance — the woods and the ocean,” he said. “We need both of them.”