Biography

Sheila E. and Her Steadfast Inner Rhythm

A world-class drummer, percussionist, singer, songwriter, entertainer, author, humanitarian, mentor, actress—Sheila E. is a dynamic public figure who has been driven by a steadfast inner rhythm since the day she was born. “Before I had language, I had rhythm,” she writes in her recently-published memoir, The Beat Of My Own Drum. “I learned it before I learned my mother tongue.”

When Sheila gave her first public performance at the age of 5, there was no doubt in her mind that she was going to be a percussionist. Music, rhythm, and a passion for connecting with others were in her blood, after all. “I wasn’t just born into an environment with music; I was of music,” she writes. Fifty years later, Sheila is still sharing her passion with others through her newest album, Icon.

Growing up in the Bay Area, Sheila was surrounded by all types of music since birth—introduced to Latin jazz, Motown, R&B, pop, and funk by her musical family members and family friends. Her early influences include percussionist dad Pete Escovedo; musical uncles Santana member/Azteca founder Coke Escovedo, recording artist Alejandro Escovedo, The Dragons frontman Mario Escovedo, and The Zeroes member Javier Escovedo; as well as godfather, Latin star Tito Puente.

Becoming the Iconic Sheila E.

Born Sheila Cecelia Escovedo in 1957 in Oakland, California, Sheila wasn’t always the glamorous superstar we know today. From an early age, though, she knew one thing: she loved music. This love fueled her childhood and adolescent endeavors—from performing with her dad at the age of 5, to playing percussion in a local band in high school, to touring with Azteca in Colombia as a teen.

It didn’t occur to Sheila during this time to make a living off of something she was so passionate about. In her memoir, she recalls a conversation with her dad about compensation for performing. “Why would I accept money to do something I love?” she asked. To which, he replied: “If you are serious about choosing music as your career, you deserve to get paid, and you need to get paid. Never feel ashamed of being paid for doing something you love.”

Early in her career, Sheila met Prince backstage at a show—who helped light a fire that led to the launch of her solo career. At the age of 25, Sheila began writing songs and experimenting with different types of music. Playing the drums and keyboard and singing her own vocals, Sheila taught herself how to record a demo using equipment she’d purchased herself.

After lending her vocals on Prince’s hit “Erotic City”, the two worked together to produce her first album, The Glamorous Life. Unlike any other ’80s artist, Sheila combined her Latin, jazz, R&B, pop, and rock influences to create her own unique style for the album. The album’s title track made the U.S. top 10, with the entire album reaching number 28 on the U.S. Billboard 200.

It was during this time that Sheila Escovedo officially became the iconic Sheila E. we know today. What was once a childhood nickname—due to her peers having trouble pronouncing or spelling her last name—became her stage name, revealed on her debut album.

A Dynamic, Decades-Long Career

Over the years, Sheila E. became a household name: as a singer-songwriter, entertainer, and icon. She became not just one of the best female drummers, but one of the best drummers of all time. For Sheila, her career has never been about making money or becoming famous. It’s been about passion—about the butterflies she feels every time she picks up a drumstick or steps in front of a microphone. “I realized that the day the butterflies are gone is the day I’ll stop playing,” Sheila writes in her memoir.

A musical powerhouse, Sheila has worked with some of the most influential musical acts over the past five decades: Ringo Starr, Marvin Gaye, Prince, Beyoncé, Herbie Hancock, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Gloria Estefan, George Duke, and more. She’s recorded 7 solo albums, acted in several films, and pursued philanthropic projects that are near to her heart. These include co-founding the Elevate Hope Foundation and Elevate Oakland.

With such an exciting and trailblazing career spanning five decades (and showing no signs of slowing down), it’s impossible to put Sheila E. in a box. The iconic artist has a passion for music, for inspiring others, for evoking change—and enjoys incorporating these into her life and career by any means possible. Whether it’s pouring her heart into a live performance, putting her inner thoughts into song or book form, creating a foundation to support others in need, or sharing her story with people of all ages across the globe, Sheila seeks a personal connection with each audience.

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Sheila E.’s Recent Projects

Sheila’s most recent projects include a powerful music album Icon and her autobiography, The Beat Of My Own Drum. Each project explores Sheila’s life journey, focusing on the highs and lows that have shaped her into who she is today.

“The idea to record another solo album was actually spawned while I was writing the autobiography,” recalls Sheila E. “I realized that some of the experiences I was writing about should be songs. That’s when I also began looking back at songs I’d written several years earlier and forgotten about, but whose themes needed to be talked about in the book. Both fed each other.”

Sheila E Project Photo Shoot - projects side image (1)

In The Beat Of My Own Drum, Sheila addresses the unfathomable abuse she endured as a young girl, the hardships she experienced growing up, and how music became not just the love of her life, but something to heal the wounds she carried for so long. She explains the start of her healing process in her book: “Music helped me to move beyond the events of that night and to no longer allow them to define who I am.” Throughout the pages, Sheila offers a heartbreaking, inspiring, and poignant look into her early life and the evolution of her career over the years.

Reiterating her passion for music and its profound effect on her life, Sheila describes her motivation behind her latest project: “I just did it because I loved it. And that’s what Icon represents. I started all this as Sheila Escovedo then became this persona named Sheila E. Now Sheila E. and Sheila Escovedo are the same person, still making music that comes from the heart.”

Highlights of the Life and Career of Sheila E.

 

December 12, 1957

Born Sheila Cecelia Escovedo in Oakland, CA

1962

Performed a drum solo at the age of 5 in Oakland, CA

1972

Toured with Azteca in Bogotá, Colombia

1984

Provided vocals on Prince’s song, “Erotic City”

1984

Released debut album, The Glamorous Life

1984-1988

World tours with Prince

1985

“The Glamorous Life” won MTV’s Best Video award

1985

“A Love Bizarre” became a worldwide top hit

1985

Performed “The Glamorous Life” at the American Music Awards

1994

Performed at the 35th Annual Academy Awards with Placido Domingo

1994

Performed at The Concert of The Americas

1996

Performed at the closing celebration of the XXVI Olympics in Atlanta with Gloria Estefan, Tito Puente, and others

1998

First female Late Night television Music Director for “The Magic Hour”, starring Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Wrote and produced the theme song.

1998-1999

Segment Producer for the WOW Awards, 1998 & 1999 ALMA Awards, 1998 American Express Annual Corporate Celebration (Puerto Rico), 1998 Gospel Music Association’s annual event

2000

Developed Sheila E. Player’s Series percussion line for children and a Custom Series Class E, in conjunction and association with TOCA and Kaman Music.

2001

Co-founded The Elevate Hope Foundation

2001, 2003, 2006

Toured with Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band

December 2003

Presented the Family Jamm! benefit concert with The Elevate Hope Foundation

April 2004

Performed “The Glamorous Life” at the 7th Annual VH1 Divas in Las Vegas benefit concert for the VH1 Save the Music Foundation

2005

Performed in the Sisters In The Spirit Gospel Tour, featuring Yolanda Adams, Martha Munizzi, Kelly Price, Juanita Bynum, and RiZen

2009

Grand Prize Winner on CMT’s Gone Country

 

Season 3

May 2011

Performed alongside Marc Anthony on the 10th season finale of American Idol

June 2011

Performed on the Late Show with David Letterman as part of the show’s first “Drum Solo Week”

February 2012

Performed at the 2012 Academy Awards alongside Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer, playing the intro and out of commercial segments

April 2012

Performed with “Macy’s Stars of Dance” on Dancing with the Stars results show

2012

 Performed with Dave Koz on his 2012 Christmas Tour

2012

 Released Sheila E. Live DVD on StilettoFlats, Music

2013

Performed at the Kennedy Center Honors

2013

Released Pete Escovedo Live at Stern Grove on StilettoFlats, Music

November 7, 2013

Released Icon album

December 31, 2013

Rang in the New Year with Sergio Mendes at Disney Hall

2014

Released memoir, The Beat Of My Own Drum