Classics: Sheila E – The Glamorous Life (Warner Bros.)
Being in the wake of Prince had undoubtedly its advantages. Beginning with the assurance to be evolving in an environment where top quality prevailed. And most likely benefitting from his notoriety. But it also happened to be synonymous with living like in a court with the favorites varying upon his mood(s).
To that extend, I guess it won’t be unfair stating that Sheila E. somehow owes to the dismiss of Vanity 6 / Apollonia 6. This after Prince finally got sick of them. Thus makin’ her debut with a song – ‘The Glamorous Life’ – which was initially thought to be comin’ up as a part of their forthcoming album.
In other words, the singer/percussionist and drummer just happened to come up at the right time. Contributing to the recording sessions of ‘Purple Rain’. Then eventually providing vocals on ‘Erotic City’. Meanwhile Prince produced her ‘In The Glamorous Life’ album soon after. And, by that, its title track – ‘The Glamorous Life’ – which probably stands as her most famous cut along with ‘A Love Bizarre’.
Impossible to not feel Prince‘s signature in the production of the firing ‘The Glamorous Life’. With the latter comin’ up with a distinctive sax performance courtesy of Larry Williams…
A native of Oakland, CA, Sheila Cecelia Escovedo most likely belongs to a dynasty of artists. Beginning with her father, Pete Escovedo. Himself a percussionist with whom she has frequently performed. But also her Godfather, the late Tito Puente. Not to mention one of her uncles, the late Coke Escovedo. A percussionist as well who was in Santana and eventually formed the band Azteca.
With such surroundings, no wonder how the young Sheila ended up getting into percussion. Even though her dad did everything he could to discourage her. This after he’d spent so many years struggling in the business. But one night, when she was 15, she joined Azteca while they rehearsed at home. Then she managed to persuade her dad to take over at a date in San Francisco in front of 8,000 people when the group’s percussionnist went sick. An experience which pretty much hooked her on percussion and a music career for life.
Sheila made her recording debut as a session artist back in 1976. This along with Jazz bassist Alphonso Johnson on his ‘Yesterday’s Dream’ album. This would be the first in a impressive series of collaborations that would see her jamming with countless luminaries. From Lionel Richie to Herbie Hancock. But also The Crusaders, Diana Ross and The Blackbyrds. Not to mention George Duke with whom she recorded the ‘Don’t Let Go’, ‘Follow The Rainbow’, ‘Master Of The Game’ and ‘A Brazilian Love Affair’ between 1978 and 1980. This before joinin’ Marvin Gaye‘s final tour Midnight Love Tour back in 1983. In addition to this, she took up singing. This after she realized it would be difficult to meet success while only playing percussion.
Although Prince and Sheila E. first met at a concert in 1978, when she was performing with her father, they only started working together 5 years later. This during the recordings session of ‘Purple Rain’. She also came to provide vocals on ‘Erotic City’, the B-side to Prince‘s ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ in 1984. And Prince produced her debut-album, ‘In The Glamorous Life’, the same year.
The twosome worked closely from then. With Sheila comin’ up as the opening act for Prince‘s ‘Purple Rain Tour’. Then serving as his musical director during the ‘Sign ‘O’ The Times’ and ‘Lovesexy’ world tours. This being for much on his sound back then. Meanwhile Prince produced her follow-up album – ‘ In Romance 1600’ – which spanned the memorable ‘A Love Bizarre’. A third album – ‘Sheila E.’ – eventually seeing the light on Prince‘s Paisley Park label back in 1987, although he didn’t appear in the credits.
Sheila E ended up leavin’ the Prince organization in 1989. She resurfaced with a new album – ‘Sex Cymbal’ – with production work courtesy of Peter Michael. The latter being none other but his brother, Peter Michael Escovedo III.
The album spanned a couple of singles beginning with its burning title track. But it sadly suffered low sales, with Sheila unable to promote it. This because of severe health issues after her lung collapsed which left her semi-paralyzed for quite some time.
Sheila went back to record a new album – ‘Icon’ – after a 22 years hiatus. With a follow-up – ‘Iconic: Message 4 America’ – back in 2017. She didn’t remain inactive during all these years though. Eventually appearing on Beyoncé‘s ‘Work It Out’ single back in 2002. But also performing at Prince‘s One Nite Alone… Live! concert, Live at the Aladdin Las Vegas in 2003. And again with him along with Wendy and Lisa Melvoin at the 2006 BRIT Awards. Then two years after with Morris Day, Jerome Benton and Prince at the Coachella Music Festival in April 2008. This in addition to a performance at the 2012 Academy Awards alongside Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer among other things…
On June 26, 2016, Sheila and The New Power Generation led a tribute to Prince at the 2016 BET Awards, featuring a medley of his hits. And the day after, she released a new song, ‘Girl Meets Boy’, initially as free download on her website “to help with our healing process” in memory of Prince…