Unsung: The Story of Sheila E.

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but here goes – I didn’t know Sheila E., was the voice singing alongside Prince on Erotic City.

This I learned on the latest edition of TV One’s Unsung.

I have listened to that song countless times and it just never dawned on me that I should have known whose voice was saying, “If we cannot make babies, maybe we should make some time.”

Sheila E., also cleared up one often debated fact regarding Erotic City – are they saying “funk” or you know, the other “F” word?

“There were some words in the song, that I thought ‘I can’t say that.’ So I didn’t. He said it. I didn’t say it. He … made it sound like maybe you did hear it, maybe you didn’t hear it, but I didn’t say it,” she clarified.

Now, I just listened to the song a few times and honestly, it sounds like both of them are saying the curse word. I guess we have to take her at her word though.

I was in the fourth grade when Glamorous Life was released. It was the early 80s, our fashion sense was questionable, but the music wasn’t.

One thing I knew at the time – while I wasn’t living the Glamorous Life (I mean really, I wasn’t even in my teens), I sure wondered what it would be like to be in that world.

As an adult, I listen to the song’s content and think, “This song was so inappropriate for my young mind.” But I didn’t quite comprehend what she was saying:

“Boys with small talk and small minds

Really don’t impress me in bed

She said, I need a man’s man, baby, diamonds and furs

Love would only conquer my head”

The lyrics were definitely mature for my age group at the time, but all I knew at the time, was I loved the beat.

Before she transformed into Sheila E., she was Sheila Escovedo. Born into a musical family (her father is Pete Escovedo the legendary percussionist who has played with Santana), she’s been playing drums almost her entire life.

Her parents initially steered her towards the violin – “They said why don’t you try violin because then you can make money, you can play for the movies, and score and read music and all of these things he hadn’t done,” she said.

Her life changed at age 15 when she replaced the percussionist in her father’s band. The show in Bogotá, Columbia “turned my life around.”

Interesting tidbits:

  • Prince knew who she was way before they met at a club in 1978 as he had been following her career. The two would become friends, date, separate for a while and eventually reunite as friends. Prince also made her debut album happen. “He said, ‘Well, okay, I can make it happen for you if you want to do a record.’ And I said, ‘Just like that?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, “Okay, let’s do a record then,” she said.
  • Growing up in Oakland, CA Sheila E., didn’t realize she was Hispanic. In her community, there was black and white; she thought she was Black.
  • Even though her father and two brothers are musicians, the family has only recorded one album together. Now & Forever was released in 2011.
  • She used to go into record stores wherever they went to make sure the store was carrying her album. She would move hers to the front because it cost to have your CD placed there.
  • Sheila appeared in the 80s classic Krush Groove where she performed Holly Rock. “They thought I was coming in as a female rapper and I said that’s not what I am, I’m a musician, I’m an entertainer, I’m a musician, I’m not a rapper.”
  • A trip to the acupuncturist for a pinched nerve in her neck and shoulder resulted in a collapsed lung – which she walked around with for a week before realizing there was an issue. Her back went out and she was partially paralyzed for two weeks. She spent four months  learning how to walk straight. “Every single day, therapy, twice a day to walk six blocks.”

Note: Unsung is a music biography series on TV One that tells the story of some of music’s forgotten artist who are, “Uncompromised, unrecognized, unparalleled, unsung.”

In its fourth season, the show airs Mondays nights at 7 p.m. PST. Artists previously featured include DeBarge, Big Daddy Kane, Minnie Riperton, Teddy Pendergrass, Donny Hathaway and The O’Jays.

Catch Unsung: The Story of David Ruffin (of the Temptations) Monday, Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. PST.

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3 thoughts on “Unsung: The Story of Sheila E.

  1. I love her….Oakland Has always supported our hometown musicians. I loved seeing her with Prince last year. Her dad and brother opened with her and played from their new album.I like these unsung posts sine I'm missing the episodes.

  2. I love Sheila E.! This episode of Unsung was so good and enlightening!Oakland has such a wide array of musical talent. I'm living far from home, but all I have to do is put on some Sheila E., Tony, Toni, Tone, or Too Short, and I'm transported to "The Town". Great post!

  3. […] Unsung: The Story of Sheila E. | Soul Musings Corner2012. 3. 3. – Sheila E., also cleared up one often debated fact regarding Erotic City ? are … I was in the fourth grade when Glamorous Life was released. … One thing I knew at the time ? while I wasn’t living the Glamorous Life (I mean really, I wasn’t … The lyrics were definitely mature for my age group at the time, but all I …https://soulmusingscorner.wordpress.com/2012/03/03/unsung-the-story-of-sheila-e/ […]

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