One day in Oakland, California, a precocious three-year-old called Sheila Escovedo picked up the drumsticks and started making music. By five, she was onto conga drums, encouraged and influenced by her famed percussionist father Pete Escovedo, her godfather, the late great Latin legend Tito Puente, and the advice of her uncle singer Alejandro Escovedo. By ten, it was the violin; by 15, she’d been offered three musical scholarships. Sheila E was already on the way to establishing herself as one of the most talented percussionist/drummers and performers in the world.
Before the age of 20, she was a top west coast session and touring musician, performing and/or recording with George Duke, Herbie Hancock, Billy Cobham, Con Funk Shun, Marvin Gaye (on his final world tour), Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Gloria Estefan, Patti LaBelle, and Steve Nicks among others.
In 1978, when Sheila E was performing in concert with her father, she was seen by an up-and-coming artist called Prince. After the show, he met her and vowed that one day she would join his band. The two would eventually join forces during the Purple Rain recording sessions. She provided vocals on Erotic City, the B-side to Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy hit, in 1984. Under his wing and often performing on his records and tours, she burst onto the pop and R&B scene as a hugely successful artist in her own right.
In 1984 she scored hits with The Glamorous Life (#7 on the Billboard Hot 100), The Belle of St. Mark (an NME ’Single of the Week’ which then hit the UK top 20) and A Love Bizarre, a US #11 pop hit (and #2 R&B) which featured Prince on backing vocals. Sheila E. recorded three albums during the ’80s, The Glamorous Life, Romance 1600 (both gold sellers in the US) and Sheila E, appeared in films such as Krush Groove (with Run-D.M.C., LL Cool J and Blair Underwood in 1985), Prince’s concert film, Sign “O” the Times in 1987 and The Adventures of Ford Fairlane .
During the Sign “O” the Times, Black Album, and Lovesexy periods of Prince’s career (including the Lovesexy World Tour), Sheila E. served as his drummer and musical director in his backup band, dubbed The New Power Generation not long after her departure. That era also produced her single Koo Koo from her 3rd album Sheila E., which had Sign “O” the Times member Cat as a backup dancer in the accompanying video. Sheila served as a writer and musician on many of Prince’s records, as well as on the albums of his Paisley Park protégés such as Madhouse.
After leaving the Prince organization in 1989, Sheila E. recorded the further albums, Sex Cymbal, Writes of Passage, and Heaven. Throughout the years, she has appeared at various live performances with Prince such as the BRIT awards in 2006 (alongside Wendy & Lisa, aka Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman) as well as the Coachella Music Festival in 2008.
Particularly proud moments during this period include her participation in the 1985 We Are The World session, Grammy, American Music Awards and MTV nominations, worldwide sold-out performances, and the memorable performance on the Oscars awards show with tenor virtuoso Placido Domingo.
Sheila E’s TV engagements would include being a celebrity judge on Fox’s “The Next Great American Band” in 2007-2008, and being chosen as the winner of “Gone Country 3” in 2009, on CMT. In recognition of drumming and percussion, Sheila designed the “ClassE” Custom Series for adults, and the “Sheila E’s Player Series” for children, with the renowned Toca Percussions, distributed by Kaman Music.
In recent years, Sheila has served as drummer for Ringo Starr’s All Star Band, been musical director for the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé Knowles (on 2002’s Work It Out), and Prince. Her producing, arranging, and performance talents have been showcased on the Latin Grammy Awards, Summer Olympics, WOW Awards, the ALMAs, The Image Awards and the 2012 Academy Awards.
In 2010, she was nominated for an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Music Direction” in recognition for her leadership as musical director for President Obama’s Performance at The White House: Fiesta Latina. Her recent projects, The E Family, Pete Escovedo Live at Stern Grove Festival with her father Pete Escovedo, and brothers Juan and Peter Michael Escovedo, Sheila E Live from Lugano, Switzerland along with Silk Road from the Japanese group Heavenese, have been very well received and received widespread airplay and appreciation.
Despite Sheila’s commitment to, and the demands of making music, she maintains a heavy involvement in charitable endeavours as a philanthropist, as co-founder and chair of the Elevate Hope Foundation; which focuses on the needs of victims of child abuse by promoting music and the arts as an alternative form of therapy.
As Sheila unveils Icon, her first new studio album since 2001, her packed schedule includes being CEO of her Entertainment Company StilettoFlats Inc., a biography to be published in 2014, ventures in TV production and content development, worldwide ministry, and motivational speaking. Sheila E. continues to inspire, and looks forward to all that the future has to offer.