Sheila, E.

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Sheila E.

Singer, songwriter, drummer

For the Record

Selected discography


Sheila E. is probably the hottest female drummer in the business, asserted Lynn Norment in Ebony. First coming to the musical spotlight in the early 1980s as funk/pop superstar Princes duet partner on the hit single Erotic City, Sheila E. soon struck solo success with her debut album Glamorous Life. The title song proved popular enough to help earn the young drummer-vocalist a gold album, and her second long-playing effort, 1985s Romance 1600, also turned gold. As Pamela Bloom pointed out in High Fidelity, Sheila demonstrates on Romance 1600 how equally at home she is in fusion, funk, pop, and salsa, as well as in the traditional r & b dance mix. The critic concluded: Hers is an innate musicality that refuses to be waylaid and is propelled by an insatiable physical energy always on the prowl.

Sheila E. was born Sheila Escovedo in the late 1950s in Oakland, California. She arrived in the midst of a musical familyher father, Pete Escovedo, was famed for his drum work with the rock group Santana and, later, the Latin band Azteca. Her brothers also became drummers. By the time Sheila was three, she became devoted to watching Pete Escovedo with his conga drums. She recalled for Bloom: When my father practiced, Id sit in front of him and copy him, mirror style. I was just mocking then, but later Id come back and play by myself. Because of this mirroring, Sheila developed what Bloom labeled a left-handed style on the drums, which allows her to beat them faster and harder than most drummers.

Despite Sheila E.s early enthusiasm for percussion, her father hoped instead that she would become a symphony performer, and began sending her to violin lessons when she was ten. A competent student, she nevertheless quit five years later because, as she confided to Bloom, my friends thought it was square and so did I. Meanwhile, Sheila picked up the skills of playing other instruments, including guitar and keyboards, as well as traps and timbales. She also widened her musical tastes, and, as she revealed to Bloom, she and her siblings used to blast different music from every room in the house. Thats probably why I can write [any type of music] I want. Yet she realized from an early age that female drummers were practically unheard of in the professional music business, and in her adolescence she believed she had a greater chance of becoming an Olympic athlete than a successful musician. Thus Sheila focused on sports; playing football with boys, and constantly challenging her peers to foot races.

Sheila continued to stick with drumming, however, and began to land professional gigs while still in her teens. Though her father was grateful for the extra financial

For the Record

Full name Sheila Escovedo; born c 1958 in Oakland, California; daughter of Pete (a drummer) and Juanita Escovedo.

Drummer, vocalist; played with father, Pete Escovedo, in group Azteca, beginning c 1973; also did studio work with artists including Herbie Hancock, Lionel Richie, Diana Ross, and Marvin Gaye; began working with Prince, c 1984; solo recording artist and concert performer, 1985. Appeared in film, Krush Groove, 1985.

Awards: At least two gold albums.

Addresses: 11355 W. Olympic Blvd., #555, Los Angeles, CA 90064.

help her talent brought him, he gently scoffed at her ability, telling her she was too young to be a drummer. But eventually Pete Escovedo let Sheila replace an ailing percussionist in his band. She soloed in her first appearance with her father, and met with an overwhelming response from the audience. Sheila told Bloom: When I heard that ovation, I had this feeling I had never had in my whole lifeit felt like the ultimate. Soon after, she quit high school to concentrate on her musical career.

In addition to touring Europe and Asia with her fathers band, Azteca, and cutting two albums as part of that group, Sheila E. also got work as a studio musician for artists including Herbie Hancock, Lionel Richie, Diana Ross, and the late Marvin Gaye. In 1978 she was touring the United States with George Duke when she met the man who has perhaps had the biggest impact on her career, Prince. He had just released his first album, and, as Sheila recalled for Bloom, I heard about this kid who was writing and producing his own stuff, and I was impressed. When I first saw him, I just thought he was this cute guy standing against the wall. But when we met, he was impressed, too, because he had heard about me. Weve been friends ever since.

But Sheila E. did not work with Prince until 1984, when she sang duet with him on the hit single Erotic City. As Bloom explained, Sheilas viscous vocal timbre shadows Princes pungent baritonean odd combination that works. Sheila also worked for Prince on Apollonias album, Apollonia 6, and it was during this project that Prince advised her to go solo. He also taught her how to compose songs faster than she had been doing. The result was Sheilas debut solo album, The Glamorous Life, and its title-track hit single. Prince helped her gain even more exposure by having her provide the opening act for his Purple Rain tour. But despite rumors that the musical pair were lovers, Sheila told Norment that they were just very good friends. She further added that she enjoys working with Prince because he can get the best out of yousometimes he will suggest things and it will be like the icing on the cake.

Sheila E.s subsequent albums have met with mi) ed success. Her second album, Romance 1600, include d another duet with Prince, Love Bizarre, which shot up the charts. Critical reaction to the tune ranged from that of Bloom, who called it tedious and the discs most ironic disappointment, to Davitt Sigerson reviewing in Rolling Stone, who claimed it made Romance 1600 worth purchasing. As for the rest of the album, it led Bloom to acclaim Sheila E.s mastery of studio technique, by which she turns everything in sightincluding her own barks, snorts, and trillsinto a percussion instrument. Both Bloom and Sigerson singled out Bedtime Story as being pretty, and, although Sigerson claimed that the instrumental Merci for the Speed of a Mad Clown in Summer was marred by the interpolation of circus music, Bloom hailed it as a [modern classical composer] Charles Ives delight. On the percussionists third album, simply titled Sheila E., her father, mother, brothers, and sister sing or play on many of the songs. Though this effort did not yield any hits, Soul Salsa was singled out for praise by a People magazine reviewer, who concluded that Sheila is a hot property as a performer.

Selected discography

The Glamorous Life (includes The Glamorous Life), 1984.

Romance 1600 (includes Romance 1600, Dear Michaelangelo, Love Bizarre, Toy Box, Merci for the Speed of a Mad Clown in Summer, and Bedtime Story), 1985.

Sheila E. (includes Soul Salsa), 1987.


Ebony November 1987.

High Fidelity, January 1986.

People, April 13, 1987.

Rolling Stone, November 21, 1985.

Elizabeth Thomas