By BETH HARRIS
LOS ANGELES — Jerry Lee Lewis and John Fogerty warmed up for their upcoming collaboration on the Grammy Awards by tearing it up in celebration of music’s influence on social change over the last 50 years.
Lewis didn’t make it halfway down the red carpet at Wednesday night’s ‘‘Sounds of Change,’’ this year’s Grammy Foundation Music Preservation Project.
‘‘My back’s hurting. I’m going to go sit down,’’ the 72-year-old musician said.
But Lewis came back strong.
He sounded energetic enough to make the Wilshire Ebell Theatre audience believe it was 1957 again with a searing rendition of ‘‘Great Balls of Fire.’’ He thumped the electric piano’s keys, backed by Fogerty’s band that included drummer Kenny Aronoff and guitarist Billy Burnette.
‘‘I’m only doing this by request,’’ he said before launching into his signature hit.
The crowd responded with a standing ovation and shouts of ‘‘Killer,’’ Lewis’ nickname.
‘‘He’s a force of nature and I’m just going to stand back and enjoy it,’’ Fogerty said before the show.
In between performances by Grammy nominees Natasha Bedingfield, Chrisette Michele, Ryan Shaw and Musiq Soulchild, the event featured black-and-white newsreel footage of key cultural moments from the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and the present decade.
Images of Lewis in his younger days flashed on the screen, along with Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, the civil-rights marches, the segregated South and the Vietnam War.
Fogerty, the former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman, noted music’s influence on the political unrest of the ’60s.
‘‘I’ve long said if any one person stopped the Vietnam War, then it was Bob Dylan,’’ he said. ‘‘Millions of kids sitting around listening to his records, talking about what the words meant and feeling inspired about that. That really gave voice to a whole generation. Bob was so noticed for his lyrics and his stance and attitude. I really believe music can change the world.’’
Fogerty rocked out on several war protest songs: the old CCR hit ‘‘Fortunate Son’’ and ‘‘I Can’t Take It No More’’ from his new album.
Shaw opened the show with Sam Cooke’s ‘‘A Change Is Gonna Come.’’ A choir backed Michele on ‘‘We Shall Overcome,’’ Bedingfield did a breathy version of John Lennon’s ‘‘Imagine’’ and Musiq Soulchild sang Bob Marley’s ‘‘Redemption Song.’’ The foursome closed with Marvin Gaye’s ‘‘What’s Going On.’’
‘‘We’re in an amazing time in America right now and I think it’s reminiscent of a lot of things that happened during the time of civil rights,’’ said Michele, a 25-year-old R&B singer who has recorded with Jay-Z and Nas.
‘‘It’s an honor to be a young person and still looked at as someone who understands where they’re coming from.’’
Lewis, Fogerty and Little Richard will form a supergroup at Sunday’s Grammys. The musical pioneers will headline a ‘‘Cornerstone of Rock’’ segment during the CBS telecast from the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.
Fogerty’s new album, ‘‘Revival,’’ is nominated for rock album, a category he won in 1997.