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Music / Sheila E.

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"She wants to lead the glamorous life
Without love, it ain't much."
Sheila E., "The Glamorous Life"

Sheila Escovedo (b. Dec. 12, 1957) is a drummer and singer best known for her work with Prince. Drumming runs pretty big in her family: her father Pete is a famous percussionist, her uncle Alejandro drummed for various punk bands before starting a solo career, her other uncle Coke played with Santana, her other other uncle Javier founded the seminal punk band The Zeros, and Tito Puente was her godfather.

It's little surprise then that Sheila took up drumming and quickly became really good at it, playing with such luminaries as George Duke, Marvin Gaye, Alphonso Johnson, Herbie Hancock and Lionel Richie before her early twenties.

Prince first met Sheila when attending a concert where she was playing with her dad. He quickly brought her into her entourage, where she contributed drums and percussion in the studio and provided vocals to "Let's Go Crazy"'s famous B-side, "Erotic City" (and some other vocals here and there, like the "transmississippirap" on "It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night"). She secured herself the position of drummer for Prince after The Revolution disbanded, but left Prince in 1989 as their romantic relationship ended. This split has notably been free of the really bad blood that other splits engendered, and the two collaborated occasionally for many years afterwards.

While Sheila did attract attention for her vocals on "Erotic City", she quickly proved she was her own person: while Prince did produce her first two solo albums, she got some co-writing credits and added her drumming all over the place. Most notably, Sheila at first broke from the very explicit "personas" that had been assumed by Prince's previous Girl Groups: her lyrics were decidedly PG-rated, dealing with love (not Intercourse with You, at least not yet) and sung in a pleasant, girl-next-door voice. In fact, many of the funk-pop songs existed solely for the sake of lots and lots of percussion solos. These two albums, The Glamorous Life and Romance 1600, were well-received and spawned two hits, "The Glamorous Life" and a duet with Prince entitled "A Love Bazaar". Sheila also starred As Herself in Krush Groove (1985), a fictionalized retelling of the founding of Def Jam Recordings, in which she performed "A Love Bazaar" and "Holly Rock." Prince was noticeably less involved with the Self-Titled Album Sheila E., letting David Z. produce the album and writing only a few songs.

Sheila's solo albums after leaving Prince's organization were New Sound Albums somewhat, introducing Latin and jazz influences into her upbeat pop-funk. She took a long break from her solo career after Sex Cymbal, after she suffered a collapsed lung and other health problems, and played with various other musicians (including being part of three versions of Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band).

In The New '10s she founded her own record label, Stilletoflats, and released two more albums on it.


  • The Glamorous Life (1984)
  • Romance 1600 (1985)
  • Sheila E. (1987)
  • Sex Cymbal (1991)
  • Writes of Passage (2000)
  • Heaven (2001)
  • Icon (2013)
  • Iconic: Message 4 America (2017)

Sheila E. provides examples of:

  • Epic Rocking: "The Glamorous Life" and "A Love Bizarre" are less than four minutes long in their single versions, but on the albums the jamming goes on past 9 minutes and 12 minutes respectively.
  • Foil: She played this role in Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band concerts, especially during the solos where Ringo would comically fail to keep up with her.
  • The Minneapolis Sound: Like many of his associates, her work with Prince was drenched in his sound. Unlike most, however, Shelia largely did her own live drumming, instead of using the Linn drum machines Prince typically used on his productions at the time.
  • Piss-Take Rap: Averted - her Motor Mouth reading of Edward Lear's "The Table and the Chair" on "It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night" is actually good. (The liner notes credit it as "transmississippirap" since Prince recorded her doing it over the phone from, well, the other side of the Mississippi River.)
  • Pretty Boy: "The Belle of St. Mark" is about a 17-year-old boy who's attractive in a feminine way, which is why he's called a belle.
  • Pun-Based Title: Sex Cymbal, so bad it hurts.
  • Self-Titled Album: Interestingly, done for the third album.
  • Spoken Word in Music: "Toy Box". It sounds like a normal funk song at first, and then right at the end Sheila blind-sides you with a long, shouty rant that makes you wonder who spiked her coffee and with what.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "Dear Michaelangelo", "Toy Box", "Romance 1600" and "Bedtime Story" have a special ability to make you scratch your head and go "huh?".
  • Word Salad Title: "Merci for the Speed of a Mad Clown in the Summer"... what?